An evening with AA Gill, Auckland Readers & Writers Festival 13 May 2011
AA Gill, the man himself, dismantler of restaurants and sharpest dictaphone in the west strolled slowly on stage suited and booted, ready to talk.
And talk he did, about food, criticism, his mother, his father, television,travel and his previous life as a drug dealer and alcoholic. There were quotable lines galore (I arrived in Auckland. It was lashing down. I thought “I’ve arrived in Hull”). He does a pretty bang on Prince Charles impression. The question and answer session gave him a couple of set piece opportunities (The Isle of Man and being chucked out of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant), as well as a couple of bizarre, were-they-planted ramblers.
Fishing’s Al Brown was asking the questions, and looked a bit out at sea. Whenever Gill paused mid-tale, and looked to his right, where a Kim Hill or Russell Brown may have given the right rejoinder to really get the conversation cooking, he saw Brown looking at his notes. Gill couldn’t resist clawing him around a bit (“Oh, you’re a CHEF?), but let him off, mostly. Apparently Brown took him fishing on the Gulf that morning, where they both got a Kahawai (They ate it as sashimi, he told me when I had my book signed). Must have been been good.
I didn’t know what to expect from a man so clinically, hilariously scathing in print, but after an hour and a bit in his company, I thought I’d quite like to share a meal with him. A bit of a show-off, yes, but utterly charming, with a razor sharp eye for where best to take the piss from. Beneath the metaphor athletics and withering words, he just wants things to be enjoyable. Enjoyable food, enjoyable places to travel, enjoyable things to entertain us on the box. Not much to ask. Uncynical enthusiasm, and an artfully written take-down if you’re not up to scratch. I quite liked that.
TV writing from The Times – seems to have escaped the paywall
Update: Here’s a video of the session in full, courtesy Auckland readers and writers festival