FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Who are you?
I’m Michael, the one that makes the breakfasts, runs the Instagram and speaks to you. Mark is the one you see in the Stories everyday but he has a day job as a menswear fashion designer.
How did you two meet?
We met in 2012 outside a bar on City Road in London. Mark came up to me and said “Hey, are you having a good evening? Whats your name?”
Why did you start making breakfasts?
When I met Mark he was working at Burberry and would work insane hours (he still does), and most days I would be on my own at home each evening. Breakfast time was the only guaranteed time we would have together. It only took a few months before I wanted to make those 30 minutes a bit more special.
How early do you need to get up in the morning?
On a weekday, normally between 6.00 and 6.30am then Mark shortly after me. At weekends I don’t set an alarm, and depending on what we have done the night before it can be as late as one in the afternoon.
Do you have a book?
Yes! Two infact! The links to order it are on the home page of my website. My first book, a cookbook is available in English, both UK and US weights and measures, in Traditional and Simplified Chinese and Spanish
My second book, Eat Like A Local: Shanghai is a delicious little pocket guide for the most populous city on the planet.
Do you dine (in the evening) like a pauper?
Sometimes we go for elaborate feasts, for sure, sometimes we just have some instant ramen.
Do you enjoy preparing the other meals of the day?
I love cooking and eating, always have. But cooking and eating are not the same thing. Sometimes you just want cheese on crackers and it can still be as glorious.
What do you cook when you are feuding?
Whatever you do, don’t go to bed without resolving an issue. I think in doing SymmetryBreakfast it has taught me as much about happiness in a relationship as it has made me a better cook. Mark and I in seven years have probably only had one major argument, and I’m certainly not going to let a fight get in the way of a good meal.
Do you eat lunch or are you so full from breakfast you wait until dinner?
We eat when we're hungry, and stop when we’re full. If that means having lunch at 3pm then that’s ok.
How much do you prep in advance?
As much as I can, within reason. It’s also a question of many other factors, like maybe we’re out in the evening and I don’t have time before going to bed. I’d rather make something that takes 10 minutes, instead of slaving over something that takes a long time.
I might also make a batch of something, like carrot juice, which will then feature 3 days in a row, or I’ll buy a glut of strawberries and freeze them before they start to go mushy
Do you have a favourite breakfast?
Impossible to say, but tea over coffee always.
Do you post everyday, or do you sometimes have a day off?
I post everyday. But think of it this way, I don’t have to look at my phone after 9am if I don’t want to, and I don't feel in any way obliged to take a photo of my dinner.
Where do you get your inspiration from for your international breakfasts?
Have you ever looked at a map and wondered what they eat in that corner or on that island?
What about what they eat in the next city, or what they ate there 100, 300, 1000 years ago?
That country, that culture, that displaced minority, that crazy fad diet from the 70s; that fruit, that vegetable, that terrible dinner out, that amazing dinner in with a friend, the unexpected, the sadly disappointing.
The shape of a bowl, the colour of a plate. A smell, delicious or revolting.
It’s all inspiration.
Are you a chef by profession?
Not at all. I’m actually an art teacher by profession.
Why did you move to Shanghai?
It was for Mark's job. We had both visited before, separately and together and my grandfather is a native Shanghainese gent. The move wasn't such a big deal for us.
Does Mark ever just want anything plain?
I’m sure if he’s looking for something plain he can find it at his work canteen.
Do you both always feel like eating the same thing?
In the morning, its not a question of choice. You get what the kitchen gives you.
Do either of you have any allergies?
When you are eating breakfast out, do you rearrange the food on your plate to be symmetrical, or get the staff involved in the plating up?
Yes, more often than not I will flash my Instagram to the waiter and they are more than happy to help.
How many staff do you have helping you?
None, I work alone and have never had an intern or assistant help me in the kitchen
Where are you guys from?
Mark is from Delft, The Netherlands. I am from a small town south of Liverpool called Runcorn.
Where do you get the funding?
We have jobs like anyone else.
Do you cook symmetry lunch and dinner as well?
You could say so, if I am cooking at home. I will cook for the two of us and we will have the same thing, but I don’t bother to arrange it perfectly or photograph it. If we eat out for lunch or dinner then I am like any other person in the world and insist that Mark orders something different so I can try.
Why don’t you (Michael) get Mark to film you for your Stories sometimes?
Is there any food that you like that you cannot find in China or is everything as easy to find as in the UK?
Pink rhubarb, parsnips and plantain are just a few of the perishable ingredients that don't really exist in China. Pretty much all other shelf stable foods are available in Shanghai.
Did you transport a lot of your plates from the UK, or are you starting a new collection in Shanghai?
I had one large carry on suitcase of ceramics that I brought with me. I also brought my stand mixer and a very basic kitchen setup.
There are no shortages of ceramics in China.
Does Mark ever do any cooking?
Rarely, but he can cook!
Do you ever just want to make a bowl of Lucky Charms and call it a day?
Never. For me that defeats the purpose of why I make Mark breakfast, and as much as I love how fun Lucky Charms are, I’m always reminded how disgusting they are when I have some.