x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The problem with being a food critic is that no-one will cook for you

The problem with being a food writer and restaurant critic is that people are afraid to invite you to their home for dinner.

I trained in a professional kitchen and have, in the past, worked with many of today's top chefs in the UK. As part of my job for The National I eat out regularly and review restaurants on a weekly basis. This might sound like a dream, but it does have its downsides. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a "woe is me" tale and I'm not expecting sympathy. I love my job, but, it does mean that friends are reluctant to cook for me.

My fiancé is also a chef. As you can imagine, people are even less keen to invite the two of us over for a meal. In fact, this happens very rarely. We do have plenty of friends, I hasten to add, it's just that they're always far more keen to go out for dinner rather than entertain us at home.

The thing is, there's really no reason for this. I am not a fussy eater. I know what I like and in a restaurant situation can be quite opinionated about this, but there are few things that I really dislike and even fewer that I wouldn't at least try. Admittedly, I baulk at the thought of being made to eat hundred-year eggs again, nor am I mad for corned beef, but I'd have to be at a pretty adventurous and/or retro dinner party to encounter either of these.

The only thing I can remember categorically refusing to even try is horse meat. This was presented to me in sandwich form with a squeeze of ketchup, as part of a "funny" stunt on a television show. As far as I could see, this wasn't amusing, just plain wrong and I don't think anyone can blame me for opting out of that particular culinary experience.

A lot of people ask me what I cook when I'm at home. The answer varies wildly. If I'm making a meal for someone else, then I'll go all out: preserve lemons to garnish a tagine, dedicate hours to making puff pastry for a chicken pie or test my patience to the max trying to get homemade crumpets just right (my advice is to buy them; they're not worth the faff).

If I'm alone though, I don't put anywhere near as much effort in. Last week, my Wednesday night dinner of choice happened to be toasted wholewheat pita bread, spread thickly with fresh labneh and decorated with sliced jalapeños. Far from a delicacy but surprisingly tasty; something that my friends who shy away from cooking for me should certainly bear in mind.