When you’ve grown up in an environment in which meals were makeshift, you learn truly to appreciate the power of food.
Its power to fill empty stomachs. To rekindle memories. To create a sense of comfort and security. To please the senses.
This is something that Glynn Purnell understands perfectly.
It underpins his approach to cooking and breaths life into the innovative dishes that he creates at his Michelin-starred Birmingham restaurant Purnell’s – dishes that pay homage to his upbringing and multicultural surroundings.
The skills he uses may have been learned in some top kitchens, but his outlook on food was forged on a sprawling council estate where his mom would create a pie from potatoes, cheese and crisps.
Born and raised in Chelmsley Wood to a solidly working class family, his rise to culinary fame has been impressive but perhaps not surprising.
For here is a man who from an early age learned to enjoy and value food and, thanks to whatever quirk of genetics or nurturing, developed an ability to invent and perfect astonishing dishes.
His new book, A Purnell’s Journey: There And Back Again, charts his story from Chelmsley Wood schoolboy to Michelin-starred chef and TV presenter.
It’s a huge and beautifully-produced volume – nearly 400 pages long and weighing over 6kg.
There are fascinating anecdotes about his childhood, later life and career, the names of ordinary Brummies featuring alongside those of culinary superstars such as Heston Blumenthal and Sat Bains.
Not all the stories are of success – there’s a lovely tale about how Glynn failed a school cookery exam when he created a fantastic souffle… but neglected to list its nutritional values.
That’s the National Curriculum for you!
There are insights, too, into how some of his iconic dishes were conceived and developed.
Throughout the book is illustrated by some fantastic photography.
And at the end are more than 30 recipes that will provide inspiration to talented home cooks – or, at least, help us better understand the technique and skills that go into creating the dishes which make Purnell’s a stand-out restaurant.
This isn’t a book that’s easy to categorise.
It’s not a simple cook book nor a biography but both those things – plus a piece of social observation on working class history, values and determination.
To those of us or a certain age hailing from working class backgrounds, it resonates.
But Glynn’s engaging, quirky style and insights will be fascinating to anyone interested in food.
Just one word of warning: clear a a big space in your bookshelf because, like Glynn’s talent, it’s bloody massive.
There And Back Again is available at Purnell’s or direct from the publisher at www.awaywithmedia.com/buy-books/glynn-purnell