I’ve got five sisters and one brother. That made me eat very quickly. I had the chair in the middle, on the side where you entered the room; we always had the same seating arrangement. If there were nine pieces of chicken, we were served from oldest to youngest child. I’m the third eldest.

Me and my older brother Braimah are a year apart and shared a bedroom back in Nottingham. We used to set the alarm early to go down for what remained of, say, last night’s pudding. Sometimes we’d sneak down at 6am and someone would already have had it.

I had to get used to playing with the noise of other people playing their instruments in different rooms, but it was quite encouraging really. Then when Mum shouted, “Dinner!”, we each wanted to finish the musical phrase we were on.

I don’t think I ate at the royal wedding [where he played three pieces while Prince Harry and Meghan Markle signed the register]. I’d arrived early in the morning and probably on the way had a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich and granola yogurt-y bowl with berries from Pret. It’s important to wash your hands before playing. Not just because any grease will affect your performance but because it could wreck the instrument [a 400-year-old Amati cello].

I was diagnosed as a type-1 diabetic when I was 12. No one really knows why the pancreas stops working. I have to be very careful and inject insulin before I eat carbohydrates. The insulin takes the sugar from the blood to my muscles. I certainly don’t want to be performing hungry, because I’d be thinking about food instead of music.

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On the way back from school I’d get the bus from outside a fried chicken shop called City Chicken, where I’d get four chicken wings and chips for £1.50. Or five, if they’d throw in an extra wing because you were a regular. At 13 or 14 I felt like I was eating chicken constantly. I’d eat after school and then after I got home.Mum would make loads and my favourite was her spicy palm-oil chicken with peppers – and traditionally with cassava leaves, but spinach works.

My favourite food memory is jerk chicken – properly spicy – in the Cayman Islands when I was performing there with my older sister, Isata: she was the first one to play an instrument. She’s turned vegetarian. It’s cool but I suppose you have to be a bit more creative and fancy-nancy to live and cook like that.

Mozart is the composer and musician I’d loved to have sat down with. I imagine Wolfgang was quite a funny guy with interesting things to say over schnitzels and strudels.

My second to youngest sister, Aminata, who’s 14, is probably the most interested in cooking. Porridge isn’t the hardest thing to make, but her porridge can be extremely good, I must say.

It affects how you play as a soloist when you get to know the orchestra as people. I like to eat with an orchestra. I once had lunch during a recording break with Simon Rattle and the whole orchestra, which was very nice.

They call it “the post-concert pint”. A lot of musicians like a beer after a performance. I don’t know why exactly – maybe it’s because they enjoy more what’s well-deserved. The classical composers were often drinking a lot and doing crazy things, but I don’t think their music came out of alcohol – it’s more to do with musicianship often not being a well-paid thing, and also that music can take up so much of your mind, thoughts, passion.

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My mother moved to Wales at the age of three from Sierra Leone and I really like Welsh cakes, with nutmeg, sultanas and raisins.

I once made pasta in a kettle. It can work, but it’s probably not good for the kettle. I kept boiling the kettle, switching it off, then boiling it again. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re desperate.

My favourite things

Food
Fried plantain will go pretty much with anything anywhere; a curried goat in Antigua or a pasta dish in Nottingham. It can be savoury or sweet. It makes every meal 10 times better.

Drink
A cup of tea. Just normal breakfast tea with milk. Or a glass of water.

Restaurant
I love a good Nando’s. There’s one literally 20 seconds from where I live now in London. It’s dangerous on the way home because Nando’s is always a temptation.

Dish to make
If someone needed to eat soon, I’d probably make fried salmon with rice and vegetables. Salmon is often a bit more vicious to buy – by which I mean expensive – than chicken, but I do like salmon a lot.

Elgar is out now on Decca Classics.



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