Welcome to the first in our new series of interviews with some of the key players in the travel industry. To kick off the series, we thought we’d have a chat with Blossom Green, Acting Editor of Food And Travel magazine, to find out how the last three months have been for her, what she’s been cooking, and to find out where in the world she’ll be heading, once global travel has opened up…
Blossom hello! We know life in lockdown’s been more challenging for you than most – tell us a little bit about your own situation and where you’ve been spending the time?
Yeah, it’s been a tough few months, but hasn’t it for everyone? I’ve got Crohn’s disease and my immune system is a bit more fragile than most, so I’ve been full-on shielding at home in Crystal Palace since early March. I’m lucky in that I’m quite a home body, but the apartment wasn’t exactly set up for home working – my partner and I only moved a couple of months before all this started. We’ve been jostling for computer space on the kitchen table and having to schedule work calls around each other, so we’re not talking over each other all day. We’ve been really lucky with the weather through all this though, which has taken the edge off a little and provided a bit of respite after challenging days.
How did you get into travel journalism? Is it something you’ve always done?
Not at all! I was actually in academia, researching a PhD in American Studies. I’ve always been interested in different cultures and I’d lived abroad when I was younger, but when I did a volte-face and left my course, I made a conscious decision to try to carve out a career that would work as an extension of the things that brought me joy in my everyday life. After thumbing through a stack of city guides on my bookshelf, I decided to take a punt and get in touch with the publisher. I was lucky enough to get an internship there, then did a bit of freelance for them afterwards and it really just went from there. I feel very lucky to be able to work on content that encompasses everything I love in life.
As Acting Editor of Food and Travel we know you’ve been baking at home during lockdown! Which chefs are you inspired by and what kind of dishes have you been cooking?
At home, it’s usually about getting maximum flavour with minimum effort. Having said that, I’ve been using the time during lockdown to try out new things and up my game a bit. John Whaite’s recipes are excellent, and I did Rick Stein’s rhubarb galette recently, which was delicious, but I didn’t quite master the pink chevron look and was mad with myself for about three days! I’ve got my eye on a few of Trine Hahnemann’s Danish bakes, this coming weekend.
I’ve been getting meat delivered from the HG Walter – and a few weeks ago ordered an Ibérico pata negro pluma from them. Neither of us had cooked it before, so we text José Pizarro – the Spanish chef, whose cooking I love – for tips. There’s no faffing required, just season it and sling it on the barbecue. It gets this insane charred, crisp crust and is so tender in the middle. The quality of their meat is superb; all you need is a salad on the side and a hunk of bread. I also made a pasta dish inspired by a restaurant we go to in Brixton called Maremma – homemade ravioli with a butternut and ricotta filling, burnt sage butter and amaretti crumbs – it was a triumph.
Central London is opening up its restaurant spaces so that a giant outdoor area will be available for alfresco eating this summer. Which are your top three favourite London restaurants and why do you love them?
There are so many fantastic restaurants across the city and it’s been incredible to see the industry, both here and abroad rally with such creativity during these last few months.
My old local, Llewellyn’s in Herne Hill, is the kind of restaurant everyone wants in their neighbourhood. It’s made for sunny days with tables set out on the square and the food’s modern European – super fresh, seasonal, simple and loaded with flavour. They got a new chef at the start of the year, and I’ve not tried his menu yet, but understand he’s bringing a bit more of a Scandi edge to proceedings.
Sabor in Mayfair is great. It may have a Michelin star, but there’s no sense of stuffy formality – the vibe is easy going and the food is excellent – regional Spanish and convivial as they come. For me, the best seat in the house is at the counter, so you can watch the chefs do their thing over never-ending plates of pan con tomate, jamón Ibérico, arroz negro and croquettas. The brioche with sobrasada and tetilla cheese is insane, too.
Gunpowder’s a go-to when I’m craving a hit of spice. Again, a lot of the dishes can be shared and while it works on a ‘home-style Indian’ ethos, the balance of flavours feel far more sophisticated. The original restaurant is off Spitalfields Market and is tiny, but their newer one near Tower Bridge has a lot more space. I’m obsessed with the smoky grilled broccoli, and the Chettinad pulled duck, which comes sandwiched in an oothappam – the texture a bit like a pikelet – with loads of pickled veg.
As travel PR’s we are longing to get on a plane again. Which three places are on your holiday wishlist when we are allowed to travel again and why?
I’ve been mulling this over a lot recently and I’m torn between exploring new places and revisiting old favourites – I’ll be like a kid in a sweet shop by the time I sit down to book my first trip. Realistically, Europe will probably be the first port of call – perhaps the Balearics or the south of France. I’ve had such great experiences in both, but I’ve typically been city based, so I’d like to switch it up and soak up a bit of the countryside. With not seeing family or friends for such a long time, the idea of a villa holiday is very tempting. Having been home for so long, I don’t feel the need to go wild – being immersed in the simple pleasures of quotidian life, like pootling along to a local food market for supplies and going for long walks, a spot of tennis maybe, will do me just fine. It will just be great to be in a position where we can actually travel again.
Further flung, I love the idea of driving from Buenos Aires to the wine region around Mendoza – I’ve never done a road trip before. I think the balance of vibrant city life with some glorious rural scenery and a bit of adventure (with plenty of good food and wine along the way) would be perfect – often I’ll fling myself into a city and not stop moving until I come home, which is amazing, but it’s not exactly restful. Having said that, Beirut looks a hell of a lot of fun, too. I’ve not been before, but I’m drawn to cities with a tangible artsy side. The design hotels and the food sounds incredible, too.
If you could name one hotel worldwide which would be your favourite and what is it that makes it great?
God, there are just so many. I’m obsessed with hotels and the offering just keeps getting better and better – there’s such a diverse range of aesthetics and price points these days. It’s impossible to pick just one, but Six Senses Zighy Bay is stand out. It’s up on Oman’s Musandam Peninsula, about an hour and a half from Dubai, but it feels like a whole other world. It’s tucked into a bay backed by craggy mountains and on arrival there’s the option to paraglide down to the resort – it was such fun, I just wanted to go back and do it all again. The villas are designed in the style of Omani homes with outsized private pools surrounded by sandy walkways lined with date palms – it’s absolutely gorgeous. I’ve stayed at a few of the group’s properties and the quality of the food and the hospitality is always superlative.
What’s the best travel experience you’ve ever had? (And what’s the worst?!)
A dawn balloon ride over the Serengeti. I knew it would be good, but I underestimated quite how mesmerising it would be. The sight of the savanna emerging from the mist as the sun rose was breathtaking. When we landed we had a bush breakfast surrounded by a dazzle of about 200 zebras. It was the most memorable of days.
The worst was getting carjacked on a family holiday in Europe the middle of the night. We were on the side of a vertiginous mountain road – it was absolutely terrifying. Turns out there was a ‘cab war’ between the city and village cabbies and we were stuck in the middle – apparently the staff at the hotel we were staying at had tipped them off, so that was nice.
How do you see the future of travel this year – what travel trends are you focussing on for your readers?
With the landscape changing as rapidly as it, it’s impossible to say exactly what the rest of the year will look like, but one thing’s for sure, it’s not going to ping straight back to what it was. Certainly we’ll see people looking closer to home in the first instance, but I think that people will be more considered in their future travels, too, perhaps travelling less frequently, but travelling deeper and seeking more authentic experiences when they do. And we’ve aimed to inspire readers in this regard – be that planning their dream trip or arming them with an address book of places right on their doorstep for when things open up again.
There are many journalism students about to graduate. What’s your advice for young writers wanting to work in travel journalism as to the best way forward especially given the current situation? Any inspiring tips would be great.
Breaking into the industry can be tough – it took me a good 18 months or so to find my feet. I think the biggest thing is not to be disheartened. Keep knocking on doors and reaching out to people: avoid generic emails, find out exactly who it is you need to speak to and get their direct contact – all the while building up a body of your own writing. It doesn’t have to be published work, it could be a blog, or something creative, but editors will want to see how you write. When going for junior roles, which could have 200-odd applicants, internships showing that you’re building on your experience can mark the difference between getting an interview or not. I know a lot of journalism graduates find it quite hard starting from the bottom, having just gotten their degrees, but to get the most out of an internship, you’ve got to be prepared to pitch in and learn on the job – don’t go in expecting to be given an 8-page feature on your first day. You’d be surprised by how much you can learn that will carry you forward by absorbing what’s going on around you.
And finally…what would be your go-to lockdown desert island disco track and why. (We love our music at Authentic PR)
We’ve got a growing vinyl collection and there are three records in particular that will always remind me of this lockdown period: Queen’s A Day at the Races – the backdrop to weekend suppers; Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours – played religiously when the sun comes out; and the Chef soundtrack which is such an upbeat, feel-good album, you could almost forget the fact you’ve not left the house for four months!