My Secret Life: 'Allegra McEvedy, 41, chef

'I went right off the rails'

My parents were... My dad was a consultant psychiatrist by day and historian by night – he sold close to a million copies of historical atlases in his lifetime. Our mum had a background in advertising but after having us, turned her hand to lots of things, from running a wine bar to writing radio plays.

The household I grew up in... was a very happy, secure one, though life changed rather abruptly as mama got seriously ill and died when I was 17.

When I was a child I wanted to be... I thought I'd be a barrister, but after mama died, which unfortunately coincided with me finding out I was gay, I went right off the rails, got expelled from my very academic school and once the dust had settled it was quite clear that I'd blown anything that required decent A-level results and a university degree.

If I could change one thing about myself... My ebullience for life can sometimes make me a tad bullish. But I think I'm mellowing a bit these days.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at... driving – if I hadn't been a chef I would have been a cabby.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... puddings. When I was starting out, women were silently encouraged to go into the pastry section. I was desperate to stay in the hot kitchen where the action was.

I wish I had never worn... head-to-toe black leather in 1991, with a buzz-cut and 12 ear piercings. Mums used to cross the street when they saw me coming!

What I see when I look in the mirror... Two rather intense eyes and a set of features that puts me firmly in the genetic line between my mum and my daughter. A strong body, which easily supports the results of a lifetime of good noshing.

It's not fashionable but I like... snooker. Love it in fact. Always have.

My house is... my home and my workplace. Busy kitchen with a big table – most of my childhood years were spent around the kitchen table, from making pastry as a kid to getting stoned with my mates once my dad had gone to bed.

A book that changed me... My first cookbook, when I was 30. I'd been doing restaurant cheffing for 10 years and had sort of ceilinged so was really pleased when a new game came along.

Movie heaven... any old Hollywood musicals.

My real-life villains... The people who are in a position to change the way that we buy from developing countries and do nothing about it.

My secret crush... Helen Mirren, any day of the week.

My life in six words... Varied, lucky, creative, stressful, stimulating, fulfilled. E

A LIFE IN BRIEF

Allegra McEvedy MBE was born in 1970 and raised in Hammersmith, London. She was expelled from St Paul's Girls' School at 17, but In 1991 completed her chef's training at Cordon Bleu. She worked in kitchens at the Groucho Club, the River Café and The Cow, and in 2003 launched healthy fast-food restaurant group, Leon. She has written five books, including Economy Gastronomy. McEvedy is patron of the Fairtrade Foundation (fairtrade.org.uk). She lives in Shepherd's Bush, London, with her daughter Delilah

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