Cooking up a storm: Simon Rimmer chats to You Are The Ref

Cooking up a storm: Simon Rimmer chats to You Are The Ref

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    Author: Alex Griffiths

    At the last count, Liverpool fanatic, restaurateur, celebrity chef and author Simon Rimmer had 213k Twitter followers and that’s not counting the 226k of the C4 show Sunday Brunch he has co-hosted with Tim Lovejoy since 2012, nor the numbers amassed by his noted restaurants, Greens and Earle.

    Alex Griffiths snubbed the devices and went and had a word.

    It has to be asked, Simon: do you ever get mistaken for Howard Webb?

    No, we’ve really got nothing in common, except he likes a beer and going to the races! But funnily enough he is a mate of a mate of mine and we have enjoyed each other’s company on a few nights out.

    One big weekend in Milan might have been a lot cheaper actually… there we all were, watching this Champions League semi-final between Inter and CSKA in 2010 and there he was refereeing it, to my surprise.

    I texted him after and he said he’d have been happy to get us in for free! Liverpool never won a game against Manchester United that he refereed, by the way, but then that is something we have yet to discuss…

    What changes would you implement to the professional game?

    I would step up the use of technology in a concerted attempt to stamp out all the cheating… and yes, even my own team does it. To prevent too much of a delay in coming to a decision you’d just give the fourth official all he needs and the means to override the referee.

    If I harbour any grievance about decisions gone by at all, it concerns the Andy Carroll header I thought was over the line in the 2012 Cup Final. But then again, if I’m really honest, I would never want to be a referee myself.

    I’m also well aware that if any set of fans are bad for trying to deflect the blame for a poor performance from the team onto a referee, then Liverpool fans are guilty far too often.

    I’d like to think I’ve passed on a healthy scepticism as well as my love of the game to my kids, but the way teams increasingly try to gain advantages by any means is enough to make people fall right out of love with it again.

    From the moment I set foot in Anfield for the first time as a young lad I’ve been obsessed with Liverpool and I spend more time thinking about the team than any grown man probably should, it’s part of who I am.

    My grandfather William Rimmer was a very good player and was asked to play for Everton, but he declined. As a staunch Liverpool fan he couldn’t contemplate defecting, and the same goes for my own dad. What I love most about actually going is meeting up with old schoolmates, and if it wasn’t for our devotion to Liverpool we’d probably all have lost touch by now.

    Hang on, wasn’t Tranmere Rovers your Mastermind specialist subject?

    Liverpool is my first love but, like lots of others growing up on the Wirral as I did, you’d go and see Tranmere on the Friday and then Everton or Liverpool on the Saturday, that really was very typical.

    They got themselves all the way to the very brink of the Premiership, but for me they then bottled it under [chairman] Peter Johnson; yes, there were the cup runs but that final push never came when it was needed. That era coincided with the rise of Bolton Wanderers and I still recall the rivalry so vividly.

    As the the owner of two top restaurants, Greens for 24 years and Earle since 2006, have you any regrets about going into business with footballers in the latter case?

    Not at all. Jason McAteer is still one of my best mates and it’s been an enjoyable nine years in partnership with him at Earle in Altrincham.

    He has yet to catch the cooking bug I’m afraid, in fact he regularly claims to be the best coffee maker in the place… and more recently Jason Koumas joined us as a partner in the business. It’s going really well.

    Returning to the subject of Liverpool, are you too young for the Keegan versus Dalglish debate?

    Kevin Keegan’s been in several times to Earle, actually, but to be honest one of the best moments of my life was Kenny Dalglish actually coming to my birthday party… and cooking!

    I was 14 when Kenny signed for Liverpool and I had to write this essay at school in which he was invited to my birthday party… which eventually ended up coming true two years ago.

    Not only has he worked with us on various past and future charity events, raising millions for cancer with his wife Marina, I can exclusively reveal his scallops are always done to perfection, even if he likes his steaks a little too well done… not that I would ever quibble.

    He’s also got the role of sommelier at our latest event, which is a sell-out, no need to plug it!

    Earle is quite the magnet for the Cheshire-based football community is it not?

    Yes, other visitors have included Craig Bellamy, whose meals I would cook and even physically deliver while he played for Liverpool, plus John Barnes, Bryan Robson, Steve McManaman, Joe Hart, Steve Gerrard, Adam Lallana… and Barry Ferguson even brought in the whole Rangers squad when they were staying in Manchester for the 2008 UEFA Cup Final.

    The banter between you and Tim, the creator of Soccer AM, who’s such a big Chelsea fan, seems key to the success of your TV work every Sunday. Do either of you bear each other long-standing football grudges?

    We have both long hung up our own boots so talking football and watching it is all we can do these days! I’m obviously trailing far behind purely on the trophy count and I took Tim into a private Liverpool box for that 2012 Wembley final, which we lost.

    Fortunately he was very smiley throughout, without ever quite turning into lairy! All the other games we have been to together have been draws, however.

    The 2005 Champions League semi-final probably still rankles with him, when the Czech ref Lubos Michel gave Luis Garcia’s goal, but as I always insist, if it was not a goal it was a penalty! I’ll always remember watching that special night in a pub in Glasgow.

     

    Despite the mystique that often accompanies cuisine, do you reckon anyone can cook to a high standard, including sportsmen and women, if they put their mind to it?

    Well anyone can cook, it’s a simple process. I do admire the high altar of food, such as El Bulli, Fat Duck, Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley and so on. Those guys have skills and taste buds beyond mine. But I don’t want to be them or do that.

    I worked as a freelance designer for five years, just got plain bored, and went and bought a restaurant! I love the buzz of local restaurants serving decent grub at good prices, where people go to enjoy the night, not bow down to my food.

    I also worked with Manchester City’s Academy, so it’s obvious, really… eating well is as important if not more so for those in sport as it is for everyone.