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Founder Of London Restaurant And Author Russell Norman Dies Aged 57

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Award-winning restaurateur, author, and Saturday Kitchen chef Russell Norman,57, passed away following a brief illness.

Norman, a former English teacher, cofounded Polpo and Spuntino in London and established the Italian eatery Brutto. In 2012, Polpo: a Venetian Cookbook (of Sorts), his debut cookbook, was named the first Waterstones book of the year.

He hosted the six-part primetime documentary The Restaurant Man for BBC Two in 2014. The Guild of Food Writers’ 2016 Best Food and Travel Book Award went to his second book, Spuntino: Comfort Food (New York Style).

For his third book, Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking, he claimed to have spent a year living in Italy, where he “learned to cook like a 90-year-old Venetian granny.” Brutto: a (Simple) Florentine Cookbook, his most recent book, was released this month.

Dr. Genevieve Verdigel, an art historian with expertise in the Italian Renaissance, and their three children survive Russell.

Following the release of Brutto, Norman and Verdigel were scheduled to take a celebratory trip to Venice on Tuesday. He passed away on Thursday night.

According to Verdigel, Norman had packed a bag with signed copies of his new book to give to his Italian friends because he was so excited about the trip and it.

“It was the book he was most proud of,” she said. “He’s been so happy since it came out, so full of life. That book is testimony to how much he loved Italy and its spirit, and how he and his photographer Jenny Zarins could capture that.

“He loved seeking the offbeat place; the places frequented by the locals and in which you feel like you are escaping from the conventional worldview.”

She said that Verdigel and Norman made at least one monthly trip to Italy. Particularly, Norman adored Venice.

“We would compete to see who knew the city best,” she said. “We would race each other to see who knew the fastest route – the secret, local shortcuts – to different places.”

Stefan Chomka, a friend and the editor of Restaurant magazine, spoke of Norman’s warmth. “He loved restaurants that were like him: that had lots of charm and great character,” he said.

“He had a real sense of hospitality, as well as joy, intelligence, generosity and an eye for detail. He had a magpie tendency: he would take inspiration from restaurants in Italy, New York and London and bring them all together.”

Leading the “small plates” and “no reservation” movements was Norman. “He decided not to accept any reservations at all when he opened Polpo because he realized they were having to turn people away because they were booked up,” Chomka said. “It made an impact, and other eateries soon followed suit.”

A friend, food writer, and critic named Tom Parker Bowles said that Norman was “always so much larger than life,” so his passing was a “particular shock.”

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