My life in food: Theo Randall, chef

 

After working at Chez Max in Surbiton, Randall joined the team at the famed London restaurant The River Café. After a break of a year, in which he went to work with Alice Waters, pioneer of Californian cuisine, he returned as head chef to The River Café and won a Michelin star. He left to set up his own restaurant at the InterContinental Hotel in 2007. He is currently appearing on The Chef's Protege, which continues tonight and next week on BBC2 at 6.30pm.

What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?

A stainless-steel olive-oil pourer I bought in a little hardware shop in Italy. I get these 5-litre olive oil tins and decant it, carefully, into this little pourer. I'm quite sentimental about it, it's cheap but has a nice design on it. Least used is my food processor. I like doing things by hand with knives, or using a pestle and mortar.

If you only had £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

I would probably go to Brian Randall's butchers in Wandsworth, London. He has an amazing shop. Especially the beef. I would spend £10 on a bit of thick sirloin, rub it with oil and salt and pepper and cook it on a griddle pan and have it with a tomato salad.

What do you eat for comfort?

Comfort food should be quick, so I do Tagliatelle with butter and parmesan. I'd want a decent unsalted butter and fine-quality parmesan. The importance with simple dishes is getting the best individual ingredient. With parmesan you need to look for the word "extra" after the "parmesan reggiano". It means it's good stuff.

If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

I love potatoes, but not eating bread would be so difficult. One of the nicest things is to get some sourdough bread, grill it, then rub tomatoes on top and add oil.

What's your desert island recipe?

Boiled langoustine. So I'd catch some, boil them for no more than, say, a minute, and eat them with some mayonnaise I'd made up.

What's your favourite restaurant?

I think I'd head to Italy and a place called Aqua Sale in Osteria, Puglia. You enter into this courtyard full of lemon trees and jasmine. And they bring out plates and plates of anti-pasti – clams, prawns, octopus – all to die for. Then it's the pasta dish. Then they bring out fish and ask you how you'd like them cooked. It is a wonderful place.

What's your favourite cookbook?

Venus In The Kitchen by Norman Douglas. It was written in the Fifties and he was a very good friend of Elizabeth David – she'd go to him for inspiration, they were very close. His book is full of strange recipes – like how to bake white truffles. Along the way you get these lovely little stories, too, about a recipe's aphrodisiac quality, hence the title.

Who taught you to cook?

My mother I'd bake with, of course. And then I worked with Max Magarian, who taught me lots. Then there was Rose and Ruthie from The River Café in Hammersmith. And later the great Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. I've been very lucky with the people I've worked with.

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