My Home: John Torode

For the chef John Torode, there are some things that no household should be without - photos of friends, a comfy sofa and a bit of clutter
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The Independent Online

I lived in Tufnell Park, north London, for seven years until we went south of the river in 2002. I wasn't sure where our family should settle, but I love this city and I can't understand why anyone would choose to live in the middle of nowhere.

My wife and I considered living in the country when we moved in together six years ago, but found the moment we went south of Surbiton, everyone seemed ashen-faced and old. We're urbanites - we feel at home in cities like London, New York and Sydney.

That urban preoccupation is reflected in our kitchen. A print by Chris Clume depicts Alfred, an 84-year-old porter, drinking a pint of Guinness at 7am, while working at what was Smithfield meat market. There are also three small prints of New York.

The most important aspect of a home is that it's a retreat, a place where you can laugh and cry. There's nothing worse than a sterile house. The kitchen is the nucleus of our home and the table at the centre of the room is where we eat as a family. It's slightly dishevelled at times, but I wouldn't want it any other way.

We've had to do a lot of work to the house. The last person to live here was a DIY enthusiast, and seemed to have, unsuccessfully, attempted to nail the place together. The ceiling of the living room collapsed when we moved in.We decided to renovate one room at a time.

The kitchen was a priority, and no one other than my wife is allowed to cook in here. The main area borders a corridor, where there is a huge comfy sofa dressed with mismatching cushions.

In the living room is afireplace, with original tiles featuring rural scenes; Jess hates them, but I think the history is amazing. There's a mahogany dining table in the centre of the room, with a sculptureof a bird in flight, carved from driftwood washed up in Cornwall.

My affinity for beef extends into my home life, so you'll notice canvas prints of cows, a cowhide rug and prints of Smithfield meat market. Another recurring theme links pictures of birds, the sky and the sea - a throwback to my Australian roots. Much of the art in the house comes from exhibitions held at Smiths.

A glass door leads into the garden, which has been scarred by the erection of a railway just behind our back wall. This monstrosity has been the bane of our lives for the last few years. Yet it has brought those living on this road closer together. We all petitioned for its demolition, and, as a result, have become great friends. In the garden, in front of a small patio, are some apple trees. The back area has a fig tree, and a contorted chestnut, next to "Oz Corner", with its mulberries and a ghost gum, which reminds me of climbing trees in Tasmania in my youth.

On the first-floor landing is Jonah's room, with his first bed, which has star shapes cut into the headboard. Next door is Lulu's room, decorated with purple flowers and white doves.

The main bathroom is on the next landing. The black slate floor is set off by black lace curtains, which hang next to the huge rain-fall shower. At the centre of the room is a free-standing bath, which presents all manner of fun. The bathroom adjoins a fairly ostentatious master bedroom, with a four-poster bed.

On the third floor is the room belonging to my two children from a previous relationship, Marselle, 11, and Casper, nine. The room next door doubles up as a spare room and study, with floor-to-ceiling windows leading to a balcony that I'm sure would not take my weight.

Like much of the house, the second bathroom is not finished. We see this house as a work-in-progress, and intend to have it finished by 2020. Our home reflects our family's ethos: life is for living, not for tidying up.

'Celebrity Masterchef 2007' is on BBC2 on Mondays at 6.30pm

John Torode was born in Australia and came to the UK aged 25. He runs the London restaurant Smiths of Smithfield, and presents Celebrity MasterChef 2007. He lives in Streatham, south London, with his wife, Jessica, and their two children, Jonah, two, and Lulu, seven months.