Life on a plate

Rick Ast­ley: tea boy, pop star, beer hip­ster

The Observer Food Monthly - - CONTENTS - In­ter­view John Hind Pho­to­graph Phil Fisk Rick Ast­ley Singer, 52

My par­ents had another son be­fore me, called David, who passed away, and I don’t think they ever got over it. My mum moved to my gran’s house a mile away and I saw her of­ten – she’d some­times come to the school gate at lunchtime. I lived in my fa­ther’s house with their other chil­dren and we had a house­keeper, Mrs Hill, who’d come and made our break­fast and tea. The food was northern and pretty ba­sic.

My ear­li­est me­mories are of be­ing

a ter­ri­ble eater. I would eat ham sand­wiches, but not a lot else. By the time I was a teenager it was Pot Noo­dles big time. It was only when I went abroad to pro­mote my records that I got fed up with ask­ing, at best, for steak and chips, and I opened up to the pos­si­bil­i­ties of food. “Spaghetti von­gole? It looks pretty strange, but I’ll try it!” My brother Mike was a bit of a beast, a tough nut, a bit of a bruiser. If I’d man­aged to get the last piece of choco­late, he’d snatch it off me. I re­mem­ber once hav­ing a ba­nana in my hand and Mike go­ing past on a bike and grab­bing it and eat­ing it.

Mike once chal­lenged me to eat 20 Milky Bars in 20 min­utes. I got to about 15 and then re­alised it wasn’t pos­si­ble.

It’s said that I was the tea-boy at pro­ducer Pete Water­man’s stu­dio, brew­ing builder’s tea for Mel & Kim and Kylie, but I was a ju­nior tape op­er­a­tor who made ev­ery­one tea be­cause that’s the sort of guy I am. It’s also claimed that I’d hold out tea to peo­ple and then snatch it back, singing, “Never gonna give you cup”, but that was a joke, by Pete prob­a­bly.

Mikkel [Borg Bjergsø, founder of Den­mark’s Mikkeller Brew­ery] grew

up as a fan of mine. He sent me a lot of his beers, fruity and all sorts. Some of them too weird to drink. He and his team call them­selves beer geeks, be­cause that’s what they are re­ally, to be frank. And they’re quite like mu­si­cians in their dis­likes.

A cou­ple of years ago, Mikkel opened a bar in down­town LA and it’s there I first tasted the beer in­spired by me called Ast­ley’s Northern Hop. We’re cur­rently work­ing on another beer in my name and open­ing a Mikkeller bar in Shored­itch.

Lene – my wife and now man­ager – is Dan­ish. We’ve al­ways got liquorice at home – which isn’t sweet, it’s re­ally salty. We of­ten have brunede kartofler, which are sweet caramelised pota­toes and they’re lovely if you’re not due a heart at­tack.

My wife is big on fish, like most Scan­di­na­vians, and some­times she’ll make cur­ried her­rings. It sounds dodgy but if you have them done prop­erly with ap­ple and boiled egg on a good rye bread, they’re in­cred­i­ble. Friends now ar­rive at the door and say, “Where’s your her­ring?” Sig­na­ture dish I call it foot­ball pasta – penne, fresh toma­toes, moz­zarella, a bit of basil, a bit of pesto – and you cook and plate it in seven and a half min­utes.

‘I was a ju­nior tape op­er­a­tor who made ev­ery­one tea be­cause that’s the sort of guy I am’ Food I’d go for Ital­ian. You can walk off a not-even-fancy beach and you can get a good bowl of pasta al­most any­where in Italy. Drink You might or­der a bot­tle of wine and feel an an­ti­cli­max, but a G&T is hard to beat in ev­ery in­stance.

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