Angela Hartnett interview: The chef and restaurateur on critics, customer complaints, and kitchen camaraderie

Hartnett, found fame as a protégée of Gordon Ramsay and won her first Michelin star in 2004

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The Independent Online

I saw on Twitter that you recently went away with fellow chefs Russell Norman and Mark Hix. Did all the conversation revolve around food?

No! It's mates away, not foodies. We talk about loads of stuff but naturally food and wine are part of it.

So what was the best thing you ate while the three of you were off on your travels?

When we were in France we came across some delicious razor clams and salt cod fritters. Plus a fab veal tartare.

Which chef would you most like to be stuck on a desert island with?

I would happily be stuck with my mum, or any of my aunts. Not chefs as such, but brilliant cooks.

Is the hedonism that's depicted in Kitchen Confidential a fair reflection of restaurant life? Any tales to tell?

I guess it rings true for certain kitchens – I'm not sure if it's so common these days though. Kiss and tell? Never; that's the fun part about being in a kitchen – it's the team camaraderie.

Do you read what's being said about your restaurants on TripAdvisor?

We do keep an eye on it and other review sites. If there's a worthwhile comment, we may well respond. However, I would always prefer that customers didn't complain afterwards, but rather told us at the time if we've got something wrong, so that we can rectify it there and then.

What's your pet hate in restaurants?

Rudeness. Insincere service. Restaurants that make it difficult to book but then when you arrive, they are half-empty. But it's a hard business so I always try to be understanding. I will forgive almost anything.

Who's your favourite food critic?

I always like hearing from Matthew Fort and Jonathan Meades.

When was the last time you got nervous cooking for someone?

I'm always nervous about cooking, as you strive to get it right every time – but you can always do better. The beauty of this job is that it's never static. The most critical people I cook for are my family – they know me the best.

What's the most extravagant meal you've ever had?

It's more the wine than the meal. I once tasted five vintages of Dom Perignon at their champagne house in France, when I cooked with David Thompson, John Campbell and Peter Gordon.

When was the last time you messed up in the kitchen?

I'm not sure really. I made a dodgy queen of puddings recently because I rushed it. And I messed up my pastry at the BBC Good Food Show – but the tart still worked.

You started in kitchens quite late in life, yet have achieved great success. To what do you attribute this?

Working hard and being consistent. Plus, I have been lucky with being in the right place at the right time. And enjoying it. But anyway, who knows how to define success – I find that awkward.

And do you watch cookery TV?

No, I don't really watch cooking shows. Except Come Dine With Me, if it's on. And Tom Kerridge is great on TV.

You come home and the cupboards are bare. What's your go-to dish?

A toasted cheese sandwich with mayo. Or tuna on toast.

Biography

Born in Kent of Welsh, Irish and Italian heritage, Angela Hartnett, 46, found fame as a protégée of Gordon Ramsay. Holding a degree in history, she came to cooking relatively late, learning on the job at a hotel in Cambridge. Undertaking a one-day trial at Ramsay’s first restaurant, Aubergine, also alongside Marcus Wareing, she impressed and worked her way up to run the Connaught, winning her first Michelin star in 2004. Her sixth restaurant, Cafe Murano, in Covent Garden, opens on 29 June.

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