Trade secrets: Top chefs reveal their guilty pleasures

What is Valentine Warner's guiltiest pleasure? What was Angela Hartnett's real-life kitchen nightmare? And what does Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall want for Christmas?

VALENTINE WARNER

My top table There are three of them: the Anchor and Hope on the Cut, London SE1, which is profoundly delicious; Barrafina, on Frith Street, London W1, which is a succession of endless treats; and Ibrahim's Moroccan stall on the Golborne Road at the top of the Portobello Road – the tagine of the day and the lentils are always good and it's cheap, too.

The food shop I can't walk past Washingpool Farm Shop near Bridport, Dorset (washingpool.co.uk) and Sumblers butchers in Marlborough, Wiltshire (01672 512185) are my favourites.

My secret ingredient Vinegars of all descriptions.

My favourite kitchen gadget My potato peeler and orange-plastic egg pricker. Both are from my childhood – nicked from my mum and still doing a good job.

My top cookbook Jeremy Round's The Independent Cook. Sadly out of print, it is full of wonderful recipes and written with great love and humour.

What's in my fridge? A jar of sauerkraut, an industrial quantity of apple and pear chutney, and a rather sad-looking turnip.

My favourite waitress/waiter John at Barrafina – he makes me laugh the minute I walk in.

Top TV food programme Any featuring Keith Floyd.

Comfort eating Baked beans with cheese, soft-boiled eggs and soldiers or good jamon eaten straight from the waxed paper.

What's my kitchen like at home? Microscopic and full of pans and Kilner jars.

My favourite shortcut/cheat Mayonnaise. Get some Hellmans, add an egg yolk, a little olive oil, mustard and lemon. It tastes convincingly home-made – to me at least.

My last supper Crab mayonnaise or soft roes on toast, ham in parsley sauce, excellent cheeses and a cracking pear. Plus some good wine, of course.

My favourite artisan producer How am I meant to answer that with so many excellent products all over the world! You never know when the next will turn up.

My worst ever disaster in the kitchen A hellish fiasco involving royalty, a disastrous cake, laughing policemen, a polar-bear rug, angry clients and general humiliation. Needless to say I did not charge for the job.

If I wasn't a chef I'd be ... an artist.

My ideal dinner guest David Attenborough.

What I'm eating on Christmas Day this year For lunch, definitely goose, with bread sauce, parsnips, potatoes, red cabbage, carrot purée. And then Christmas Pudding with lots of sixpences hidden inside.

'What to Eat Now' by Valentine Warner is published by Mitchell Beazley at £20

ANGELA HARTNETT

My top table Jean Georges in New York (jean-georges.com).

The food shops I can't walk past Dean & DeLuca in New York or Bouley Bakery, Tribeca, New York.

My favourite kitchen gadget Electric parmesan grater.

My top cookbook Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Meat Book.

What's in my fridge? Nothing, apart from an old piece of cheese and some jam.

My favourite waitress/waiter John, who is the manager at J Sheekey restaurant in Covent Garden.

Top TV foodie programme The Restaurant.

Comfort eating Crisps.

What's my kitchen like at home? Ill-equipped.

My favourite shortcut/cheat Buying pastry.

My last supper With my family in Italy eating anolini and tortelli.

My worst ever disaster in the kitchen Burning the food for my PR boss when she came for lunch.

If I wasn't a chef I'd be ... in the police force.

My ideal dinner guests Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David.

What I'm eating on Christmas Day this year I'll be working on Christmas Day but I will have a cooked breakfast and champagne with the staff before.

York & Albany, 127-129 Parkway, London NW1 (020-7388 3344); Murano, 20-22 Queen St, London W1 (020-7592 1222)

SHAUN HILL

My top table Hibiscus in Mayfair. The food's reasonably adventurous, but not a worry. I don't like to be challenged by dinner.

The food shop I can't walk past Any cheese shop really, or Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly.

My secret ingredient is a chicken leg. I use a drumstick, which costs next to nothing, instead of a stock cube.

My favourite kitchen gadget is a liquidiser because it does things that can't be done by hand, like making sauces with olive oil rather than cream for example. That requires centrifugal action.

My top cookbook is Michel Roux's Pastry. He is an expert on proportions of ingredients which is very important when making pastries.

What's in my fridge? I don't really have a fridge, it's my wife's. I have a small compartment which is full of cheese and booze.

Top foodie TV programme I watch very few, not out of snobbery but because of the hours I work. I have seen some of The Restaurant though and thought it was very good. It's amazing how people who seem almost normal have boundless ambition to open a restaurant.

Comfort eating I don't go for chips, and burgers taste like dog shit to me. I'd say good cheese and some San Daniele ham with really good bread.

What's my kitchen like at home? It's really nice. It's the first nice one I've had. It's big enough to sit at one end and read the paper and cook at the other. It's an L-shaped room and has a built-in espresso machine because I live on jangled nerves and alcohol.

My favourite shortcut/cheat Buying good produce and not arsing around with it.

My worst disaster? I guess it would have to be when the kitchen caught fire. I was cooking a red mullet and it went up in flames. I used a dry extinguisher to put it out which covered the whole place in sand. The waitress pretended everything was fine.

If I wasn't a chef ... I'd still do something with food and wine. I'd probably be a restaurant reviewer.

My ideal dinner guest The mind immediately wanders to types like Bill Clinton, but I think after a bottle of wine I'd most like to have dinner with Ken Dodd – at least then I would laugh.

What I'm eating on Christmas Day this year I usually cook a goose, but I've got so many people this year that I'll probably do a huge lump of sirloin. Our best meal, though, is Christmas Eve, when I do seven different courses of fish!

Walnut Tree Restaurant, Llanddewi Skirrid, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire (01873 852797)

GIORGIO LOCATELLI

My top table Da Vittorio, on the beach in Porto Palo in Sicily.

The food shop I can't walk past The Ginger Pig on Moxon Street in Marylebone, London W1.

My secret ingredient Liquorice from Amarelli in Calabria.

My favourite kitchen gadget My espresso machine – my wife wouldn't be with me today if this coffee machine didn't exist.

My top cookbook Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, by Pelegrino Artusi.

What's in my fridge? Chicken, Parmesan, a case of cold beer, several bottles of champagne and white wine, organic vegetables and loads of weird Thai and Chinese stuff that my wife cooks with.

My favourite waitress/waiter Roberto Veneruzzo, the restaurant manager at Locanda Locatelli.

Top TV foodie programme The Galloping Gourmet.

Comfort eating Panettone dunked in tea.

What's my kitchen like at home? Very tidy! We have a large stone island in the centre with stools all round so I can prepare food while I talk to dinner guests, or talk to the kids as they do their homework.

My favourite shortcut/cheat Asking my wife Plaxy to cook.

My last supper Wasabi duck breast from Mark Edwards at Nobu in the Metropolitan Hotel, LondonW1.

My worst ever disaster in the kitchen Dropping 24 glasses of prawn cocktail on Christmas Day at the Al Passatore restaurant in Italy when I was 15.

If I wasn't a chef I'd be ... riding motorbikes for a living and fiddling about with mosaics.

My ideal dinner guest My father-in-law, the late Clive Exton.

What I'm eating on Christmas Day this year We're having a typical English lunch with an Italian twist!

Locanda Locatelli, 8 Seymour St, London W1 (020-7935 9088)

HUGH FEARNLEY-WHITTINGSTALL

My top table St John in Smithfield Market, London EC1 – Fergus Henderson's nose-to-tail attitude never fails to delight and where else do I get to eat squirrel pie?

The food shop I can't walk past The Town Mill Bakery in Lyme Regis.

My secret ingredient Thyme, the most underrated herb.

My favourite kitchen gadget A potato ricer: it makes the creamiest mash of all time, completely lump-free.

My top cookbook The Constance Spry Cookery Book, nothing short of a complete cookery course.

What's in my fridge? A lot of organic cider.

My favourite waitress/waiter The entire crew at Moro in Exmouth Market, London EC1, who are brilliant at making you really welcome.

Top TV foodie programme I have a soft spot for Masterchef with John Torode and Gregg Wallace.

Comfort eating It has to be a Crunchie.

What's my kitchen like at home? Chaotic but aromatic.

My favourite shortcut/cheat Using rice cakes instead of potato to thicken soup; they give it a velvety texture.

My last supper Oh Christ!

My favourite artisan producer Right now it's Harborne Blue, a blue goat's cheese.

My worst ever disaster in the kitchen Sometimes I put things back in the range oven to keep warm and discover them several days later as strange charcoal sculptures.

If I wasn't a chef, I'd be... A journalist, which is frankly what I am.

My ideal dinner guest Right now, Barack Obama is a hot invite.

What I'm eating on Christmas Day this year Roast forerib beef on the bone with all trimmings. I'm also very fond of a goose.

Fantastic Limited Edition River Cottage Christmas Goose Hampers available now to Independent readers. Includes a diary signed by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Go to rivercottage.net/Independent for more information

GARY RHODES

My top table I have two: Le Gavroche in London W1 and Xian in High Street, Orpington.

The food shop I can't walk past Harrods.

My secret ingredient I'm not telling!

My favourite kitchen gadget A coffee grinder is excellent to blend things such as spices.

My top cookbook Great Chefs of France by Anthony Blake and Quentin Crewe, 1978.

What's in my fridge? I always have fresh ham, cheese and tomatoes – great in a toastie when I get home late.

My favourite waitress/waiter The greatest of all is Silvano, the restaurant manager at Le Gavroche.

Top TV foodie programme Floyd on France.

Comfort eating I love eating Special K Yoghurty.

My last supper Braised oxtail with mashed potatoes and then bread and butter pudding.

My worst ever disaster in the kitchen I was doing a function for over 500 people who were all about to be served tournedos of beef, before I realised there were only 480 cooked ... I've never flash-fried medallions of beef fillet so quickly in my life!

If I wasn't a chef ... I'd have loved to play for Manchester United but I'm rubbish at football. When I was a young lad I wanted to be a policeman.

My ideal dinner guest Having dinner with my family, just the four of us, is my favourite thing in the world.

What I'm eating on Christmas Day this year As a family we love slow-roasted duck.

'Gary Rhodes 365' is published by Penguin/Michael Joseph, £25

THEO RANDALL

My top table Al Pompiere in Verona, a wonderful trattoria where there isn't a menu as such; the salted pork meats and cheeses are worth travelling for alone.

The food shop I can't walk past La Fromagerie in Marylebone, London W1. One of the best cheese shops.

My secret ingredient Red wine vinegar.

My favourite kitchen gadget A pestle and mortar – it really is the best way to get the most flavour from any herbs or spices.

My top cookbook Modern Italian Cooking by Biba Caggiano; her recipes are all authentic, delicious and simply brilliant.

What's in my fridge? Parmesan, anchovies, butter, yoghurt, dark chocolate, milk, flat-leaf parsley and Actimel for my little boy and girl.

My favourite waitress/waiter My wife, Natalie; I met her when she was a waitress at the River Café.

Top TV foodie programme Saturday Kitchen – let nobody tell you that things don't get competitive when it comes to those omelettes!

Comfort eating Porcini risotto is the perfect autumn/winter dish to have at home, in the warm, with a decent bottle of red.

What's my kitchen like at home? It's the heart of the house – lots of stainless steel and a huge, great oven.

My last supper It would definitely have to be Italian – taglierini with white truffles washed down with a very large glass of Barolo from Aldo Conterno.

My favourite artisan producer Rocco from La Bottega del Pane on Kingston Road in Wimbledon – they make the best Pagnotta bread in London.

My worst ever disaster in the kitchen Ask my wife about the time I made the choux buns ... she will tell you they came out like golf balls!

If I wasn't a chef I'd be ... a blacksmith. I have a fascination with forges and anvils.

My ideal dinner guest It would have to be the pre-eminent cookery writer Elizabeth David.

What I'm eating on Christmas Day this year Bollito Misto, a traditional dish with poached chicken, beef brisket, calves' tongue, cotechino sausage, lentils, carrots, celery, Swiss chard, mostarda di Cremona, salsa verde and horseradish.

Theo Randall at the InterContinental London Park Lane was awarded Italian Restaurant of the Year at the 2008 London Restaurant Awards

CHING-HE HUANG

My top table Cocoon in Regent Street, London W1.

The food shop I can't walk past Far East Chinese Bakery in Gerrard Street, London W1.

My secret ingredient Shaoxing rice wine and not just for cooking, either.

My favourite kitchen gadgets Wok, chopper and pestle and mortar.

My top cookbook Yan-Kit's Classic Chinese Cookbook.

What's in my fridge? Duck breast, XO sauce I smuggled back from Hong Kong, dried shrimps, mozzarella, basil, aubergine, seabass and pickled cucumber in soy.

Top TV foodie programme Gordon Ramsay's The F Word on Channel 4.

Comfort eating Chocolate truffles, and peanut butter and jam sandwiches.

What's my kitchen like at home? Small, cosy and organised.

My favourite shortcut/cheat Ready-made wonton wrappers from the Chinese supermarket: life's too short!

My last supper My grandmother's zong-zi dumplings.

My favourite artisan producer The Ginger Pig in Marylebone, which makes classic pork sausages.

My worst ever disaster in the kitchen While cooking on location for Chinese Food Made Easy, the hot wok got a tad temperamental and I lost some hair! Lesson learnt.

If I wasn't a chef I'd be ... an actress.

My ideal dinner guest Alan Carr: he's adorable.

What I'm eating on Christmas Day this year Turkey, stuffing with all the trimmings; then Chinese hot-pot on Boxing Day!

'Chinese Food Made Easy by Ching-He Huang, published by Harper Collins, £17.99

TOM KITCHIN

My top table I love the food at La Petite Maison in London's Mayfair.

The food shop I can't walk past Valvona & Crolla on the top of Leith Walk, Edinburgh.

My secret ingredient Fennel seeds.

My favourite kitchen gadget A Japanese knife that my friend bought for me in Japan.

My top cookbook Marco Pierre White's White Heat was a huge inspiration to me when I grew up.

What's in my fridge? Always a bottle of champagne, some cheese, milk, egg, prosciutto ham and a few of my wife's Swedish foods, such as strange looking caviar in a tube.

My favourite waitress/waiter Philippe Nublat (The Kitchin's Maitre d') without a doubt. I am hoping all my waiters will copy his skills and attitude!

Top TV foodie programme I don't watch much TV.

Comfort eating Nothing beats a good homemade Sunday roast!

What's my kitchen like at home? We have an open-plan kitchen with a kitchen isle. It's pretty contemporary with a plum-coloured feature wall.

My favourite shortcut/cheat Getting my pig supplier to only charge me £2 for a pig's head, as nobody used them. Although it takes me two days to prepare it, it's now my signature dish.

My last supper Some newly caught langoustine and fresh bread with a glass of crisp Riesling.

My favourite artisan producer Daylesford Organic (daylesfordorganic.com).

My worst ever disaster in the kitchen I've sometimes used sugar instead of salt – very annoying.

If I wasn't a chef I'd be ... a footballer. Still hoping Liverpool will take me on.

My ideal dinner guest I would love to have dinner with my wife, which doesn't happen as often as I'd like. Also, I always enjoy a meal and catch-up with Pierre Koffmann, my good friend and mentor.

What I'm eating on Christmas Day this year I'm planning to roast a whole goose and will definitely do some Swedish herring and aquavit too.

The Kitchin, 78 Commercial Quay, Leith, Edinburgh (0131-555 1755)

SAT BAINES

My top table El Bulli in Girona, Spain.

The food shop I can't walk past Any shop that has wonderful produce on display.

My secret ingredient Attention to detail.

My favourite kitchen gadget My brand new Athanor stove.

My top cookbook White Heat by Marco Pierre White.

What's in my fridge? Guinness, bellota ham, my wife Amanda's Philadelphia cheese and Badoit mineral water.

My favourite waitress/waiter Amanda and I ate at Maze in Grosvenor Square, London W1, recently and the restaurant manager there was exceptional.

Top TV foodie programme Anything with Keith Floyd in it.

Comfort eating Pasta with a sauce made with chorizo and sausage: warm, spicy and filling.

What's my kitchen like at home? It's a bombsite at the moment, as we're having it redone.

My favourite shortcut/cheat Getting someone else to cook!

My last supper We stayed in a great Relais & Chateaux hotel in Mallorca once. Just around the corner was the most fantastic place that had freshly made pizza. So it would probably be one of those pizzas washed down with some good champagne.

My favourite artisan producer Most of my suppliers!

My worst ever disaster in the kitchen I've never really had a total disaster, but it doesn't stop me feeling like it's always about to happen.

If I wasn't a chef I'd be ... someone else creative. Or a serial killer!

My ideal dinner guest Muhammad Ali or Georges Auguste Escoffier.

What I'm eating on Christmas Day this year Beef (I've got my butcher to hang it for 80 days!) with tons of veg and prawn cocktail to start.

Restaurant Sat Baines, Lenton Lane, Nottingham (0115-986 6566)

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