Angela Hartnett: 'People assume all kitchens are manic. Half of them aren't that mad'


The secret of good Italian food is to keep it simple I used to help my gran cook supper when I was a kid, making things like aubergine Parmigiana. She always told me never to overcomplicate, to keep it seasonal and to buy the best quality you could afford.

Gordon Ramsay was a tough boss It's hysterical that other chefs compared his place [Aubergine, which Hartnett joined in 1994] to the Vietnam [War], but Gordon always thought that was giving the place a bit of a raw deal. Around then all [the London kitchens] worked hard hours. But it was Aubergine that was producing the best food in London and it was there that the chefs from the other kitchens went to eat.

Not every chef's kitchen is manic People assume that from TV shows, but half the kitchens in the capital aren't that mad. The real pressure is to serve something with consistency and in the time frame, but not in the manic way some programmes make out.

I've learnt from my mistakes In my early jobs anything I could screw up, I would – I once switched the freezer off and melted all the ice-cream, I over-cooked the crème brûlée… the list was endless!

You don't cook for your ego, you cook for your guests You look at what customers are searching for in a restaurant and examine how styles have changed: people want more relaxed dining experiences these days.

New restaurants can be successful whatever the financial climate Look at London now and how all the [good] restaurants are full. Maybe not the private dining-rooms, though, as expenses have been cut and people who work in the City don't need to come to the West End, as there's so much choice where they work.

I like food that involves sharing such as Japanese and Moroccan. Moro in Exmouth Market, London, is great, as they always have this delicious vegetable mezze.

I don't like sweet stuff I never had chocolate as a kid so if I want a quick food rush now I go for the salty option and break open a packet of crisps.

I think the Queen has served our country brilliantly so getting to meet her at Buckingham Palace when I got my MBE [in 2007, for services to the hospitality industry] was a beautiful honour for my family and it made me so proud.

We're so apathetic in this country People don't vote because we've got politicians who aren't inspiring us – they're more inspired by Barack Obama! That 15 per cent turnout at the recent police commissioner elections – well, I'm not surprised at all.

Angela Hartnett, 43, currently runs the Michelin-starred Murano, London W1 ( Her new restaurant, at the five-star Lime Wood Hotel, Hampshire (, opens in the new year. For more information:

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