Chefs may be known for handling pots, frying pans and ladles, but, the running of a restaurant actually relies rather heavily on food-splattered kitchen to-do lists, apron pocketfuls of pens and well-thumbed recipe books too. For London restaurateur Jackson Boxer, founder of acclaimed eatery Brunswick House, a fine-tipped Sharpie, black biro, and knife-chiselled pencil are always tucked between a deliciously seasoned finger and thumb – which is exactly why we asked him to spice up our stationery addict campaign.
Jackson started Brunswick House at the age of 23, choosing an antique-filled Georgian mansion on Vauxhall roundabout for its (not-so-humble) home and the young chef soon found himself in the top rack of the city's food scene. Earlier this year, the now 33-year-old brought St Leonards to the table – a calm, monastic space in Shoreditch, with a kitchen that extends into the dining room. An open cooking fire and on-show preparation areas create a warm and intimate, almost domestic, experience for diners. “We were initially curious about the idea of allowing our guests to watch the live fire cooking,” he says. “Many people remain pretty oblivious to it, far more interested in talking to their companions. Which is exactly how it should be!” It’s clear that Jackson is intimately involved in the design of his restaurants as well as every other aspect beyond the food: “Restaurants are like marvellous dolls' houses, and part of the fun is constantly tweaking all the different elements.”
Culinary achievements have long been in the Boxer family (Jackson’s grandmother is pioneering food writer Arabella Boxer while his brother is the Frank of Frank’s – Peckham’s legendary car park-topping bar and café). So it’s no wonder Jackson fell in love with food at such a young age. In fact, cooking and stationery have had a simpatico relationship in Jackson’s life since he was a small boy. He recalls his earliest stationery memory as: “my mother giving me a small notebook, at the age of about 5, to record everything I was greedily preparing and cooking alongside her in the kitchen.” His first, all-important recipe? Half a strawberry stuffed with edible flowers and chives. And the rest, well, is history. Because when it comes to pots, pans, pens, pencils and paper, Mr. Boxer was always (and forever will be) hungry for more.
What stationery do you own?
For many years my stationery was streamlined down to a fine tipped Sharpie, a black biro, and a knife-chiselled pencil, which I took everywhere. However, the arrival of children has added a kaleidoscopic spectrum of felt tip pens to my world, one or two of which can usually be found stuffed into a jacket pocket, no doubt leaking.
How does stationery have a positive impact on your day-to-day life?
I'm terribly forgetful and if I don't write down my thoughts, hopes and dreams immediately, they're lost. The impact of not having stationery is therefore incalculable.
What item of stationery could you not live without?
What’s your earliest stationery memory?
I'm left-handed, so many of my early memories are of dragging through ink as my hand followed behind, tears of frustration on smeared letters. The earliest happy memory, however, and one which I'm constantly asked to recall, is painstakingly noting down early culinary inventions in the small pages of a little notebook my mother gave me for the purpose.
What’s your stationery vibe?
I'm much more about texture than colour. Tactile paper and robust binding matter most. Though I'm a sucker for a bit of marbling.
Who’s your stationery idol?
Anyone who can fill, retain, and refer back to their notes of fascinating adventures in an organised fashion takes on heroic status for me.
Complete this sentence: ‘New stationery makes me feel…’
Anxious. I only like it when it's battered, careworn and full.
Why will the good old fashioned pen and paper never die?
Because it never runs out of batteries.
How do you feel when faced with the first blank page of a notebook?
Daunted. I always skip the first few.
Are you a doodler or a neat notetaker?
I lack the visual imagination for doodling, preferring notes in my messy scrawl, which could easily be mistaken for abstract expressionism.
What’s your go-to testing a pen sentence?
I just squiggle until it works.
What’s that To Do list item that never gets ticked off?
Oh god, how did you know?
Rubbers: deserving of their own individuality or strictly reserved for the ends of pencils?
Rubbers are to be respected and kept separate. Never found one attached to a pencil worthy of the name.
Do you own a pen pot?
Pen pots always seem to fill with so many odds and ends, after a while there's no room for the pens. Can't bear that.
That piece of stationery that you absolutely adore but have never actually used?
I have several beautiful fountain pens that I can't use due to left-handedness, which I find deeply sad.
Most sentimental piece of stationery you own?
My grandfather's headed letter paper.
How do you feel about sharing stationery?
Kitchens are cut-throat places for pen-theft. Seriously, do not even ask.
Do you like to give new stationery the scent test?
I give EVERYTHING the scent test.
Discover all the Papier Stationery Addicts here.