Passed/Failed ANTONY WORRALL THOMPSON
Antony Worrall Thompson, 47, is the television chef who, for starters, opened Menage a Trois and now runs Bistrorganic (formerly Woz) and Wiz. More simply Antony is on Carlton Food Network on Thursday and Saturday afternoons, and he is one of the chefs on BBC2's Ready Steady Cook roadshow.
Thursday 20 May 1999
Laddie and the tramp: I went to school in Brighton, where my mother then lived; it was a boarding nursery where theatrical types dropped their kids. At the age of five, I wandered down to the beach in my sleep and was put in the coalhole as a punishment. It didn't work. I climbed out through the manhole and ran away for four days with a tramp.
Blackboard duster jungle: I passed the entrance exam to what in those days was Milner Court, prep school of King's School, Canterbury. The guy who ran it, a reverend, was like a little Hitler; it was a highly disciplined school and I was definitely the rebel; when the teacher threw the blackboard duster at me, I used to throw it back. The headmaster told my mother "He's not bright enough for King's", but I had the ability to revise quickly and I passed the exam. On the first day at King's they said, "We're going to break this boy's spirit", and I became an immediate hero to other new boys. With some other boys, I pushed a teacher's car into the swimming-pool.
Sweet Fanny Cradock: My mother went into television and became floor manager for Fanny Cradock, which is when I got my first insight into cooking. My mother was quite a good cook until I started - when she fell apart. I started cooking in my school holidays, because the au pairs looking after me were absolutely lousy at cooking. I had a surrogate aunt who ran the Duck Inn at Pett Bottom in Bridge, near Canterbury, and after church I would cycle out illegally and work in her kitchen. At school I used to cook for the monitors and used to get double the rate. It was mainly steak and fried egg sandwiches over gas rings. It was very simple; I used to get excited by a block of Echo margarine in those days.
Devil take the HND-most: I got economics and English A-levels and left King's in July for five months in a crammer in Victoria; I re-sat French (which I'd failed) and took politics (I was a great fan of Harold Wilson and wanted to be a politician). I was desperately keen to be a chef but my grandmother was horrified. She was a powerful lady - ex-Army, actress - who had paid for my education, so for her I took the first HND in hotel management. It was very, very dull: textures of carpets, how to make beds and clean loos.
Steamrollered: I just got on with this hard work, while my friends were out drinking and chatting up girls. I had my face smashed up in a rugby accident and although it was patched up, it couldn't be rebuilt until my bones had stopped growing when I was 21. I couldn't look at a girl, let alone talk to one. I still look as if I've been squashed by a steamroller.
Interview by Jonathan Sale
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