Q&A: Tevye Markson, Reading Chronicle

Born in Hackney, Tevye Markson went to university in Coventry and The Hague to study history and international relations before embarking on a career in journalism. In between finishing his studies and going back to do a journalism postgraduate diploma, he worked as a press officer and housing advisor for two London councils, including working with the victims of Grenfell. He also gained experience at the Camden New Journal and the Sunday Times. In 2018, having completed his diploma, he joined the Reading Chronicle as Reading’s first BBC-funded Local Democracy Reporter, where he writes about all aspects of local life.

Also a music producer and DJ in his spare time, Tevye lives in East Reading and regularly plays football at Reading University SportsPark (or did, pre-Covid-19).

What have you missed most in lockdown?
Not seeing my girlfriend for more than three months was tough, as was not being able to see most of my friends and family.

How did you find yourself ending up in Reading? What were your first impressions of it?
I finished my journalism qualification a couple of years ago, and I applied for half a dozen jobs but the role as Local Democracy Reporter for Reading really stood out and luckily I got the job. I had previously been to Reading a few times for the festival as a teenager and once on a night out with a mate who is from Maidenhead, so I had only really had small glimpses of it. I guess my first impressions were of how many chain shops there are. It’s like a big shopping centre in the town centre. Part of me was concerned there would only be chains, as I like to try new things, but that hasn’t been the case.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
The one that really stands out as an experience was when I was eleven, travelling with my dad in Sicily. It was our last day and we only had a few hours before we needed to get to the airport. We were looking for one last meal and we’d read about an amazing place where you could get seven courses for less than twenty euros. We were searching all over for this place in the car but couldn’t find it.

I don’t remember how, but we ended up talking to a couple on a motorbike – they knew the place and showed us the way, but the restaurant was closed. But they said they knew another similar place, and took us there. The food was so good. We actually shared a meal, and it was easily enough food: seven courses of delicious seafood and fish dishes for about eighteen Euros with wine (and a Coca-Cola for me). Fantastic.

Where did you go for your first meal out after lockdown?
My first meal out after lockdown was in Paris, where my girlfriend lives. We went to a Vietnamese restaurant called Mémé Viet near her place. We had spring rolls to start, which you wrap in lettuce, stuff with different fresh herbs and dip in a tangy and sweet sauce. After that we each had a beef pho. I was quite limited in my cooking during lockdown, not wanting to visit big supermarkets initially, so I hadn’t eaten any east Asian food and I really fancied pho or ramen.

In a time of hyperlocal websites, blogs and real time social media, what role do you see for more traditional local media outlets?
Traditional news is as important as ever. You may hear about something first on social media, but you’ll still go to a qualified journalist to find out what really happened.

We need paid and qualified journalists spending time producing stories that are factual and legally sound. The work I do as a local democracy reporter is an example of how important local journalism is. I spend a lot of time making sure every decision the council makes is scrutinised as best as I can, making sure the people of Reading know what is going on in a way that is fair and respectful to all sides.

Hyperlocals can be great and I think there is room for both. Blogs often serve a different purpose to a traditional newspaper, focusing more closely on one subject matter (like Edible Reading) or a smaller area (like the Whitley Pump, which closed recently). Profitability and how to monetise news is a big issue, though.

What’s your earliest memory of food?
Eating muffins for breakfast at a hotel in New York when I was five. Me and my brothers finished a big bowl of them by ourselves that was supposed to be for everyone. The hotel staff told us off. 

What’s your favourite city break destination?
I’ve been to Berlin three times and it is somewhere I’d like to visit again soon. There is a great variety of food (including amazing kebabs) great clubs and so much to see, and everything is much more affordable than other big cities like London and Paris. Also, German lager is the best kind of lager.

Which writers, living or dead, do you most admire?
I read books quite sporadically. Some of my favourite authors include James Joyce, Albert Camus, George Orwell, George RR Martin, Jon Ronson and Arthur Miller. 

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
I studied history at university, focusing a lot on the Cold War. There are lots of moments that would be interesting to see, like the Cuban missile crisis or a divided Berlin. But if I were to live in this time travel fantasy, I’d like to go back to early 80s Chicago and the birth of house music.

What one restaurant do you wish you could pick up and drop in Reading?
Reading could do with a good ramen place. I like Kanada-Ya in London.

Has your job been made easier or more difficult in lockdown? How have the stories you’ve covered changed?
Coronavirus has made finding stories to write about easier as my role has expanded, although there’s always lots going on in Reading so I’m rarely short of ideas. It’s been difficult communicating, though.

What one film can you watch over and over again?
I mostly don’t watch films more than once, but Hot Fuzz is one film I continue to enjoy every time I watch it. But if I had to watch something over and over again it would probably be The Sopranos or The Wire.

What is your most unappealing habit?
When I enjoy food, I can eat very quickly and stop talking.

What’s the finest crisp (make and flavour)?
I’m a big fan of eating just salted crisps and having dips with them. Is a Dorito a crisp? I’d go for Doritos with a hint of lime, or lightly salted Tyrrell’s.

Where is your happy place?
I create music using synths, samples and my voice and my happy place is me listening to a song I’ve just made over and over. Or the same thing when I hear a song or album that feels like it has been made for me. 

I thought your piece about Sykes Capital was one of the best things I’ve read in ages. Was that always the kind of journalism you wanted to do when you started in the profession?
The best things come when you spend a long time on them and that’s what I want to do. I’m very interested in doing as much investigative journalism as possible, digging deep into important issues that might not otherwise get the attention they deserve, and hopefully making a difference to people’s lives in a positive way.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure when it comes to food?
Spicy food – because it doesn’t really agree with me, but I love it.

What’s your favourite thing about Reading?
The great independent places to eat food, the community feel and that mix of being urban but also so close to nature.

Tell us something people might not know about you.
I auditioned for Band Of Brothers when I was about six to play a Dutch kid who has never eaten chocolate before. They didn’t give you any chocolate, so that was pretty tough. I got a second audition but didn’t get the part, and they let me down gently by saying that the kid was supposed to be blonde. A few years later, the same casting director looked my family name up in the Yellow Pages to find me to audition for a film. I got to the final two but lost out to a kid who ended up being one of Ian Beale’s sons on EastEnders.  

Describe yourself in three words.
Caring, passionate and curious.

Q&A: Mohamad Skeik, Bakery House

Mohamad Skeik was born in Tripoli but moved to the U.K. at the age of 21. He got into cooking through entertaining friends, cooking traditional Libyan food, and he joined Bakery House as its manager when it opened in 2015. Over the last 5 years, Bakery House has built up a devoted following for its shawarma, falafel and my personal favourite, the boneless baby chicken. Mohamad now does much of the cooking there (“I love it: my heart was always in the kitchen and I was very hands on”). He lives in Lower Earley with his wife and three small children.

Bakery House has reopened post-lockdown, and also delivers via Deliveroo (at crazily reasonable prices).

What have you missed most in lockdown?
I’ve missed having coffee with close friends and catching up with them. Also travelling, which is one of my favourite things. 

How did you find yourself ending up in Reading? What were your first impressions of it?
Well, I arrived into London from Libya and the very first place I went was Southampton. I only stayed there two nights and I just knew it wasn’t for me. So I packed again and came to Reading, because I already had a few friends living here. I never went anywhere else after that, and I’ve never looked back. I absolutely love Reading, it’s my home. 

My first impression of Reading was that I loved the Riverside! I arrived in winter, and everything looked so nice around with the lights and the snow (which I had hardly ever seen in Libya). I just fell in love with everything about the place from day one. 

What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
It was in Istanbul last year, where I had a special feast with my best friend at a restaurant called Medeni (the chef there, Boraq, is very famous). There were several dishes I really loved, but my favourite was the flaming lamb ribs. 

What’s your earliest memory of food?
Every Friday having brunch with my family before the Friday prayer started: my dad had Fridays off.

How would you describe Libyan food to somebody who doesn’t know about it?
Libyan food is heavily influenced by Italian culture (but with an Arabian twist) because Libya was occupied by Italy in the past and that’s created some kind of fusion. So for example we have a dish called rishda which is a dough put through the pasta machine and steamed (sort of like a noodle) and then added to the traditional Libyan sauce which features in most dishes. That sauce involves tons of onions, chickpeas, usually lamb neck and some tomato puree. It’s spicy, rich and meaty and perfect for the carbs to soak up! We also do red couscous (called “couscousi”) with pumpkin, although here in the U.K. we use butternut squash.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Probably not letting go and being worried about things when it comes to work. Micromanaging, basically!

What is the worst job you’ve done?
I worked as a security guard throughout one winter. I had to sit in the car park all night on patrol.

What one film can you watch over and over again?
I love action movies and I never get bored of Denzel Washington films, so probably The Equalizer

What prompted you to move from management back into cooking, and what do you enjoy most about being in the kitchen?
Technically I’m still the manager, but I run the kitchen at the same time because I love it and I’m so passionate about the food we are giving to people. I wanted to make the change because I wanted a more hands-on role. The kitchen gives me a place to really feel at home and relaxed, because I just love what we do. 

What is your most treasured possession?
My old childhood photos – and my wedding ring, which was engraved in Palestine. 

What one restaurant do you wish you could pick up and drop in Reading?
There’s a restaurant me and my family love called Antep Kitchen in Oxford, down the Cowley Road. Either that or Diyarbakir in Green Lanes. Those are two of my absolute favourites and my job and hours make them very difficult to get to!

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Not to judge people based on first impressions. I think everyone has a problem with thinking they know people before they’ve properly given them a chance to show themselves, possibly even just based on the first few minutes. It’s better to wait and see: some people you might think are good turn out not to be, and others who make mistakes or don’t initially impress you can turn out to be the best and most trustworthy later. I’ve definitely changed a lot over the years, partly because of that life lesson!

What’s the finest crisp (make and flavour)?
I love ready salted Pringles. They just go with everything.

What’s your favourite dish on the Bakery House menu?
Definitely the chops. They’re so moreish. 

What is your favourite smell? 
Oud, the Arabian perfume. I bought some on my last holiday before lockdown. 

Where is your happy place?
Either being in Istanbul or being in the kitchen. Ideally both combined, like they were last year when I explored some Turkish kitchens!

What’s the most underrated dish you serve at Bakery House?
I would say probably the maqaneq or the batata harra. I think customers don’t expect those smoky flavours, but people who try them love them. 

What’s your guiltiest pleasure when it comes to food?
I absolutely love chocolate.

Tell us something people might not know about you.
I’m actually Palestinian, even though I was born and raised in Libya (and work in a Lebanese restaurant!)

Describe yourself in three words.
Kind, humble, adventurous.

Q&A: Adam Wells, drinks writer

Adam Wells writes about wine from nine to five, then goes home and writes about whisky and cider for an increasingly large gaggle of magazines, both printed and online. You can find most of his scribblings about drinks on Twitter, where he started out as The Whisky Pilgrim but now goes by the handle @Drinkscribbler. When not writing about alcohol he’s often to be found falling over on one of Reading’s amateur stages. He is the careful owner of one spittoon, and shares his West Reading home with several hundred bottles and one geophysicist.

What have you missed most in lockdown?
Probably the ability to just go somewhere. To just walk out of the door. Doesn’t matter what it’s to do or who it’s to see. Just the fundamental, liberating act of leaving the house for a non-essential purpose.

What’s your favourite thing about Reading?
The independent scene, especially restaurants, but specifically the way that the people in Reading who know and care about these places gather around them so tightly and champion them so fiercely. It’s something I see a lot on your Twitter and at your lunches and I think it stems from the sneers that occasionally float this way from people who don’t know Reading, who think it’s just grey and bland and a place that’s on the way to other places. There’s such a depth of pride in the independents that are here. They’re not taken for granted, and I think that’s special. If I’m allowed a least favourite thing, glass not being collected with recycling is a runaway winner.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
It was very recent, in San Sebastián. Part of their “txotx” season, when the new ciders are tasted from barrel – every cider house does it and the menu’s the same at each place. Chorizo in cider and honey, salt cod omelette, cod loin with peppers and onions, t-bone steak (half a cow, really). The food was incredible – perfect – but the occasion and the theatre of it was what lifted it to my top spot.

You write about wine professionally, you then started blogging about whisky and now you write a lot about cider, and are working on a book. If you could only drink wine, whisky or cider for the rest of your life which would it be?
Wine. It isn’t a substitute for cider or whisky, but as a whole category wine scratches more itches in more ways than the others do.

What’s your earliest memory of food?
Primary school dinners, aged about four. They were cartoonishly horrid – they defied exaggeration. The memories are all the more vivid for a vicious bully of a teacher among whose many dictatorial pleasures was not letting children get up until plates were clean. I don’t think she cared much about allergies or real, deeply-held hatreds of certain food. I remember classmates being properly, bawlingly upset, sat by these plates of utter filth for an hour a few times a week, occasionally being sick, this teacher snapping and scolding and shouting the whole way through. I think parents thought she was some wonderful, characterful old battleaxe, but she was a Trunchbull, and every kid in the class loathed her. It was an early insight into absolute power, and it put me off certain foods for life.

What is the worst job you’ve done?
Packing envelopes. It was only for two days, but I felt every second.

From your pictures on Twitter your drinks collection frequently puts most pubs to shame, but what’s your favourite Reading boozer?
The Nag’s Head. I think there’s a lot of room for their ciders to improve but I still think they do more things right than any other pub in Reading from an interesting booze point of view. They’re also my local these days, which often sways affection. If I lived the other side of town the Weather Station or the Retreat could easily be my number one.

Where will you go for your first meal out after all this?
Sapana Home. It’s our in-town staple, especially when we’ve not planned anywhere specific beforehand.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
David Mitchell’s probably a bit too old. Is there a younger equivalent?

Which writers, living or dead, do you most admire?
Shakespeare (clichéd, I know) and Martin McDonagh for plays. Terry Pratchett and Harper Lee for novels. A.A. Gill for non-fiction, although I’d put an asterisk next to “admire” in that instance, as I know you wouldn’t approve.

What is your favourite smell?
Really good, mature claret. Doubly so if someone else is paying.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I’m not sure, although I daresay my readers could give you dozens. It’s a bit niche and pretentious, but I feel I write and say “caveat” a lot. Probably precisely because it’s a bit niche and pretentious. It’s also a cheap get-out, a bit don’t-blame-me. It’s quite a cowardly word, I suppose, especially for a reviewer.

What one film can you watch over and over again?
Just one? Alright, In Bruges then.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure when it comes to food?
Salt and vinegar crisps – the Co-Op’s in particular. I resent sharing 150 gram bags, and mistrust people who take more than one sitting to see them off.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
My closest friends. There’d be no conversation otherwise; I’m appalling at talking to people I don’t know, and I can’t imagine the embarrassment of meeting all of my heroes at once and stammering awkwardly through a meal. I bumped into David Mitchell in the street once and literally ran away. I wouldn’t make it through the aperitif if there were four or five of them. In any case, if we’re talking dream dinner parties I’m more interested in the food and drink than the guest list.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Nothing and nobody lasts forever. You can’t reclaim lost time. Use it properly.

Tell us a joke.
Two cats are swimming the English channel. One’s called “One-two-three”, the other is called “Un-deux-trois”. Which won? One-two-three. Because Un-deux-troix cat sank.

It only really works aloud.

What’s the finest crisp (make and flavour)?
See my answer above, but it absolutely bears repetition.

Where is your happy place?
The Great Glen. I’d say the highlands generally, but that’s far too broad. I used to live in Inverness and getting out into the hills around Loch Ness was how I spent most of my free time. The Isle of Arran would be a close second. Our family holiday go-to, growing up.

Describe yourself in three words.
Worrier. Overthinker. Writer. 

The Lyndhurst Competition: the results!

I’m delighted to announce the results of the competition I’ve run with The Lyndhurst. As always, it was a writing competition rather than a prize draw, and I asked entrants to send me 250 words or less on their favourite food discovery of lockdown. Over the course of four months of lockdown I discovered a love of hash browns, black pudding, Cocio chocolate milk, Ascot Brewery’s magnificent imperial stout, Clay’s ambot tik, making my own coffee and countless other little gastronomic pleasures that have made virtual house arrest far more enjoyable. But what had your discoveries been?

I received a postbag full of interesting entries. From home-made flatbreads to cakes and mimosa for breakfast, from foraged wild garlic pesto to the joy of saying “fuck it” to home cooking and ordering fish and chips from Valpy Street, ER readers are an adventurous, imaginative and hungry bunch. I’m glad I didn’t have to judge this one, because that task fell to Glen Dinning of Blue Collar. Before I announce the results, I also asked Glen to tell me his food highlight of lockdown, so here it is:

When Blue Collar first started at the Madejski, one of my inspirations was The Ribman, a street food regular on Brick Lane who also pitches up outside West Ham’s London Stadium on match days. A flick through his Twitter feed shows the level of devotion he receives – he’s turned West Ham fans into street food obsessives, and made opposition fans wish their own clubs would be more imaginative.

As lockdown hit, he started offering vacuum-packed, chilled deliveries of his rib meat, along with bottles of his homemade ‘Holy Fuck’ sauce. I quickly discovered it became essential to repeatedly refresh his web page at 5pm on Saturdays in order to stand any chance when they became available.

When they arrived, it’s fair to say his instructions were to the point – eat with a soft white bap, no butter, no salad and buckets of sauce on top. A friend of mine gets as excited as I do about these sort of things and had followed the rest of the country in turning to baking, so chipped in with a couple of rolls in exchange for a few dollops of meat.

I’d vowed to ignore the hype but it was, of course, my lockdown food highlight. The meat is so tender, the sauce so beautifully spiced: the whole thing just melts in your mouth. At that moment you understand the devotion he receives, and why even the most clichéd football fan would realise how lucky they are to eat something this special.

Off the back of this glowing write-up from Glen I also ordered a kilo of ribmeat, hitting refresh again and again at 4.59pm on a Saturday afternoon. I can definitely recommend following his example, although I would also advise you that it’s far too much for two people and that you should definitely eke it out over a couple of meals rather than lapse into a meat coma with a frightening amount of it still in the saucepan.

Anyway, on to the results, only pausing for me to add a picture of some of my other favourite slow-cooked meat, the star ingredient in the Lyndhurst’s chilli nachos. I had some last weekend and – seemingly more chilli than nachos – they’re every bit as delicious as I remember.

WINNER: Poppy Rosenberg

In “normal” times I’d say that my day revolves around meals; but in lockdown I’d be forced to admit that this focus has become obsessive. During what’s been a tumultuous time (postponed wedding, job loss, career change) food has been a source of excitement and comfort. Thanks to our town, I’ve been able to indulge from my sofa in style. From the ever-incredible Kung Fu Kitchen, to reliable old Honest burger, to Soju, Thai Table and many great Indians, we are spoilt. 

Surprisingly though, my food highlight of this lockdown was a meal my fiancé cooked. It was a re-make of the first dish he made for me and, sentimentality aside, it was delicious and gave us the impetus to put screens away, stop arguing about what film to watch and attempt a proper at-home “date”. 

The dish was Jamie Oliver’s Duck Ceviche (I know, such culinary ambition!) – a fresh combination of citrus fruits, chilli, avocado and tender duck. Having something presented to me with such interesting flavours, cooked with quintessentially “special” ingredients was a treat. Eating it, I felt like the mouse from Ratatouille with flavours exploding in my mouth (rather than my usual state which is more akin to Pumba scoffing down vast quantities of something slimy yet satisfying.) It may not have been the best dish I’ve had in lockdown (sorry fiancé), but it was the one that felt refreshing, comforting and in a very lockdown way, reminded me how food forces people together. 

Glen says: They were all brilliant entries but this one in particular was written with such warmth and emotion. Even though this was a meal cooked at home, it clearly made a big impact and I think it encapsulates how many of us relied on food so much during lockdown. 

RUNNER-UP: Graham Walmsley

Whisk eggs and sugar, then gradually add heated milk. Add vanilla, then put on the heat, stirring slowly. Magically, it begins to thicken. 

Custard has got me through lockdown. At the end of the day, when I feel myself start to worry, I make custard instead. It’s simple, but takes all my attention: you gaze into the yellow liquid, watching intently for the first signs of thickening.

When it does thicken, things get tense. Do I take it off the heat now, when it’s milky like an eggnog? Or do I push it further, trying for that perfect creamy consistency, watching intently for the first signs of graininess? Both are delicious, especially with tinned fruit: we have a shelf of that, from when we stocked up four months ago, and now we’re trying to eat it all.

I’ve produced more complex meals in lockdown. There were mussels: I cooked them with white wine and cream, then kept the shells and made a velouté the next night. There was a soufflé, which tasted luxurious, and a parsley sauce, which tasted of childhood. And the Bakewell tart was a revelation, with a soft frangipane better than anything Mr Kipling had provided me with.

But it’s the custard I keep coming back to. Eggs, sugar, milk. Sometimes vanilla, sometimes orange flower water, sometimes just those three ingredients. Stir it, stare into it, lose all sense of time, watch it thicken.

Glen says: This one really made me smile – a piece on custard was always likely to get my vote and using it as a way to get through lockdown seems a shrewd move. And the Bakewell tart sounds delicious.

Many congratulations to Poppy, who wins a meal for two at the Lyndhurst, and Graham who wins a curry night for two at the Lyndhurst. Thanks too to everybody who took part!

Q&A: Salvo Toscano, photographer

Originally from Sicily, Salvo Toscano moved to the UK in 1994 “just for a couple of years.” After some time in Bristol and a couple of other places, he ended up in Reading in 2001 and been here ever since. Having spent time working in IT and telecoms and a spell as a stay at home dad, he is now a photographer who has worked alongside Jelly and regularly exhibits at the Whiteknights Studio Trail. He lives in the university area with his wife and daughter.

What have you missed most in lockdown? 
Aside from the impact on photography of course? Not being able to hop on a train to London to enjoy a nice exhibition and not being able to sit in a café for some people watching.

What’s your favourite thing about Reading? 
People who, on a variety of fronts, endeavour to provide alternative and interesting ways to live and experience life in Reading, making it a more engaging place than just another dull clone town.There are many challenges and, to a certain extent, what feels like resistance, but I feel one of the learnings from the lockdown will have to be that we look at different ways of experiencing urban life. The focus on what constitutes and contributes to a better quality of life will have to be adjusted.

What’s your earliest memory of food?
My grandmother in the country house frying arancini on a summer evening… and me eating them.

When did you discover a passion for photography, and what triggered it?
As a little kid I wanted to use my dad’s shiny camera but I was not allowed, so I made do with a little plastic toy one. Later on I got a proper one as a present. This was in the pre-internet days, so help and information was pretty limited. You had to rely on hints and tips from friends and the occasional magazine; lots of experimenting, trial and error, keeping an eye on not wasting film frames and saving money for supplies and lab costs. Not to mention people wondering what the heck I was taking photos of (this carries on to these days, albeit to a lesser extent!). In my adult years, bored with just the technical aspects, I started spending more time researching bodies of work and learning more about photography as a creative and expressive tool.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
A recent best must be at Les Apothicaires, an excellent small restaurant in Lyon. It was a superb combination of service, food, wine, atmosphere and people. For me a great meal more than just food and many different elements have to click: the whole atmosphere plays an important role. I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy many great meals, be it a Georgian feast in somebody’s home in Tbilisi or in some randomly found izakaya in Tokyo. But all of them have that same thing in common: the combination of a great convivial atmosphere and good food.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? 
The cast of Lost In Translation.

Do you think the proliferation of cameraphones, and social media, has made people better or worse photographers? 
Probably neither. We see more great photos and more bad photos: we are exposed to a flood of images everyday and arguably we have become desensitised. Also, social media’s pressure and need for instant gratification has resulted in an abundance of the same kind of images and “looks” (see for example Insta Repeat). Cameraphones are ubiquitous, convenient. They do the job. They are tools and we will use them badly or well. Ultimately, “better” and “worse” are relative concepts. Photographically speaking, there was lot of tosh well before the advent of smartphones: it was just less visible.

Where will you go for your first meal out after all this?
I’ll be lacking in originality here but it has to be Clay’s! (Nandana, if you’re reading this, can I book a table now please?)

What, to your mind, distinguishes a snapshot from a photograph?
Nothing, in my opinion: a snapshot is a photograph. I understand that many of us tend to see the snapshot as a rushed, low quality, often vernacular image. Probably many are, but there’s nothing wrong with that. However, I can also look at a “snapshot” as an immediate, visceral response to an emotion, a visual language or aesthetic that can be as or more expressive than a “proper” photograph”.

A photograph, if you mean a technically good, well composed and constructed image can be immensely boring if, in my eyes, it doesn’t draw me in. Or it can be beautifully made and so expressive that I feel completely captivated. We can play with semantics, but they’re both good and valid, people enjoy making either, they serve a purpose and it is a matter of context how you want to see or use them.

What one film can you watch over and over again? 
Spirited Away.

What is your favourite smell? 
Fig trees, possibly with the smell of the sea thrown in.

Who would play you in the film of your life? 
Andy Garcia.

If you could only shoot in colour or black and white for the rest of your life, which would you choose and why? 
Colour, even though I have used – and still use – black and white for a lot of my personal work. I’ve been shooting in colour more during the past years and I enjoy the challenge of seeing things differently. If necessary I can always convert into monochrome: is that cheating?

What’s the finest crisp (make and flavour)?
Tyrrell’s sea salt and black pepper.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
To have good people around you.

Tell us something people might not know about you.
I can make a very tasty caponata (a Sicilian dish made with aubergines).

Where is your happy place?
With my people and out shooting, although not necessarily together.

Which photographers, living or dead, do you most admire? 
It can be a very long list! It’s also a changeable one, as it reflects my thinking and mood through certain phases and moments. To put a few known names here: Todd Hido; Luigi Ghirri; Daidō Moriyama; Alec Soth; Rania Matar; Rinko Kawauchi; William Eggleston; Suda Issei; Koudelka; Stephen Shore; Letizia Battaglia; Nobuyoshi Araki; Paolo Roversi; Irving Penn; Robert Adams; Diane Arbus; Sally Mann and Nan Goldin. There are many more whose work I love, who inspire me and grace my Instagram feed.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure when it comes to food?
Granita gelsi con panna e brioche – mulberry granita with whipped cream and brioche – as breakfast when in Sicily.

Describe yourself in three words.
Obsessive, introvert, liberal elite.