There is no denying it: Dave Myers and Simon King are the freshest thing to hit the celebrity chef circuit since Jamie took his clothes off back in 1998. They are big, tough and hairy Northern bikers who happily describe themselves as eye-candy for nympho-menopausal women the world over.
The truth of it is they are fun, funny and full of adventure and they travel the globe whipping up fantastic grub from local ingredients and generally making a living out of chaos.
I chatted to Dave and Si about their BBC hit TV series the Hairy Bikers Ride Again and their Hairy Bikers Cookbook at the Good Food and Wine show at the Cape Town International Conference Centre.
Q: I’ve have heard that the two of you met on the set of a Catherine Cookson drama series. How did this turn into a successful travelling foodie series? What was the catalyst?
Dave: We thought of the idea in a pub over a curry and some poppadoms one night. We are mates and we like getting on our bikes to go looking for great food, we just realised that if we could make a living out of it, what a great life it would be. It’s taken a lot of hard work though.
Si: You would think that having connections in the production industry would make it much easier. It doesn’t. It’s a lot of hard work and at the beginning – we worked 100-hour weeks. After three years of preparation, we screened the pilot episode in Portugal.
Q: You have been to a lot of off-the-beaten-track locations on your motorbikes. Do you think this gives your recipes an edge and have you found many secret ingredients along the way?
Si: In Namibia we found the Lionberry bush. Lionberries are phenomenal cooked with lamb, pepper and oregano. They look like pomegranate seeds and were first mentioned in the Bible.
Q: Have you ever found any ancient recipes for love?
Si: In North Africa I had the wonderful opportunity to eat a loaf of bread that was made from a recipe that dates back to Jesus’ time. The bread was made from a simple recipe but was made with such love and attention. It was the best bread I have ever eaten.
Q: Apparently, this is the only country in the world that eats its own national animal – the springbok. What do you make of that?
Dave: I think it’s great, as long as it’s not extinct or heading there.
Si: We love cooking with springbok. We have a great recipe that involves springbok with dates wrapped in bacon. In Namibia, we got involved in a local sport where you spit springbok droppings that have been dipped in plum schnapps.
Q: Is there anything you don't eat?
Si: Dog. We were tricked into eating dog in Vietnam.
Dave: Si couldn’t walk past a lamppost for ages after that (laughing). I also hate tripe.
Q: You've done a series on our neighbouring country Namibia, what did you enjoy most about visiting there and what was your favourite local dish?
Si: The utter serenity of the place, that 20 minutes at dusk when the day animals are going to sleep, and the night animals have not yet woken up. Also visiting the Messum crater.
Dave: You can almost hear the earth turn there and I loved sleeping outside. Our favourite dish was whole crayfish cooked in a potjie with rock salt, star anise and coriander seeds – served with lemon butter and a soy sauce.
Q: Where is your favourite spot on earth?
Si: Cumbria in Northumberland , I have been going there since I was a kid.
Dave: I have to say we went on our bikes yesterday to Cape Point, it was very special.
Si: Yeah standing there with your legs apart and your arms in the air and a breeze from the Atlantic blowing in one armpit and a breeze from the Indian blowing in the other. Incredible!
Q: You both seem to be far removed from the shiny Michelin stars, bringing the raw and real element to TV cooking shows. Do you consider yourselves foodies?
Dave: We’re not trained chefs. We use food as a mirror to reflect the personality of a country; food is only the half of it. We like to have a giggle and make it fun, you could say – we make a living out of chaos.
Q: On final note, the public seems to love you, TV audiences and locals alike. Does this mean we can look forward to another Hairy Bikers Cookbook?
Dave: We are going to do a series based in the UK called The Hairy Bakers, obviously it’s all about baking pies, cakes, bread etc. We are going to take much the same approach as the previous Hairy Biker series and study the anthropology of baking and take a linear look at it.