My life in food: comedian James Acaster on ice cream, Elvis and his most memorable meal

The comedian and co-host of the Off Menu podcast talks about his love for all things culinary, from his favourite restaurant to the global gastronomy that impresses him the most.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020,
By Farida Zeynalova
James Acaster

James Acaster is host of the BBC podcast Perfect Sounds and co-host of the Off Menu podcast.

Photograph by Edward Moore

Ice cream, throughout my life, has never let me down. I was obsessed with it as a kid, and I’m still obsessed now. My mum used to have an ice cream maker, and we’d eat it before it was frozen — just flop it straight into the bowl. Now, if I’m feeling a bit sulky, ice cream will always bring me out of it. 

My dream dinner guest on Off Menu would be Elvis. A very bog-standard answer, but he loved food to the point where he was eating on the toilet. He basically unnecessarily killed himself because of how much he loved certain foods. 

If I could only eat at one restaurant for the rest of my life, it’d be Noma in Copenhagen. It’s the most memorable meal I’ve ever had. There was a seaweed cracker with different types of seaweed on top; every bite was amazing. Dessert was deep-fried fish skin covered in white chocolate with berries on the top, which was unexpectedly delicious. We had an amazing kombucha coffee to round it all off.

My housemates made me the best cake I’ve ever had. It was a triple-layer chocolate cake with freeze-dried raspberries in the batter, salted caramel in between the layers and white chocolate ganache on the outside. I have a lot of guilt attached to eating badly, but with that cake, I didn’t care how many years I’d taken off my life.

I’d love to go to Sri Lanka, Japan and Mexico. The Sri Lankan food I’ve had in England has always been incredible, so in Sri Lanka it would be another world. And Japan — everyone I know says every meal they had was amazing. If you go to the right places, everything is like nothing you’ve ever tasted, and that’s what you want: new experiences you can’t compare to past food dishes. And I love Mexican food, so I want to go to the source.

I’m always excited to eat poppadoms. I love all the dips. There’s a restaurant in Edinburgh called Namaste Kathmandu, where, while their poppadoms are in the fryer, they fold them up into quarters, and it makes them even crispier. They’re my favourite poppadoms.

Nothing about fennel is pleasant to me. I don’t see why it has to be involved. If it’s fennel seeds, and they’re very faint, I can tolerate it, but I still pick it up. I think it’s such a shame that they’re there, fugging up the meal.

James Acaster is host of the BBC podcast Perfect Sounds and co-host of the Off Menu podcast. His book, Perfect Sound Whatever, is out now (£20, Headline).

Published in issue 9 (summer 2020) of National Geographic Traveller Food

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