Charismatic and culinary, Antony Worrall Thompson is one of the world’s favourite celebrity chefs. We chatted to this charming and talented restaurateur, bestselling author, award-winning chef, TV regular plus twice winner of The Weakest Link Chef Special.
By Tanya Kovarsky
What is your cooking approach and philosophy? Keep it simple, keep it natural and keep it local – it’s back to basics. What have been the highlights of your career? When I won MOGB (Meilleur Ouvrier de Grande Bretagne – Antony is only one of seven chefs to have merited this lifelong title), cooking the inaugural lunch for Her Majesty, the Queen at the opening of the Channel Tunnel, and becoming a television chef.
You often speak about the problems of children’s eating habits and diabetes. How do you think we could prevent the rise of childhood obesity, and diabetes? Teach children to cook in school – not just theory but practical too.
Your best meal ever? We stayed at Strawberry Hill in Irish Town, very romantic and extra brownie points given by Jacinta, my wife, who is Irish. High in the Blue Mountains you want for nothing; it’s all about pure luxury and great food, which is always a bonus in those far-off climes. Another occasion was on the beachside between the excesses of Trenchtown.
I came across a group of tin huts nestling in the sand: glorious smells, Bob Marley via CD hitting the mood, the locals flying high on non-endangered weed, casually chomping through coconuts with massive machetes. Benches set beside a blazing barbie, Red Stripe in hand, you watch the fishermen powering their boats up the sand, depositing their catch, alive and flapping. Straight onto the coals, no time for rigor mortis to set in. Superb lobsters, prawns, crawfish, snapper – I’ve never tasted food like it. I was in heaven.
What do you consider passion food? Food you share such as oysters, asparagus and lobster. Food that doesn’t need a lot of work – you don’t want to be fussing about in the kitchen.
What are you best London food shopping spots? Selfridges department store, The Grocer at Elgin Avenue, Villandry Foodstore, Harrods and Borough Market.
What do you cook at home? Good, honest food.
What is your best kitchen gadget? My centrifugal juicer.
If you had to choose your last meal on earth, what would it be? A big pot of caviar, roast rib of beef, sticky toffee pudding – go out with a bang!
Is there anything you’d never eat? Rice pudding.
Which chefs/foodies inspire you? Heston Blumenthal, Alice Walters, Wolfgang Puck and Ferran Adrià.
What is your favourite foodie destination and why? San Francisco offers great restaurants, wonderful produce and an incredible setting.
What do you do in your spare time? I’m a workaholic so don’t have much spare time, but if I do, I go boating and antique hunting and play the odd game of tennis.
What are you plans for the rest of the year career-wise? I’m opening a new pub in Oxfordshire called The Lamb at Satwell, which is near Henley-on- Thames. I’m also opening a new grill restaurant in London, Barnes Grill, and finishing off a barbeque book. You have your own range of food and gourmet products.
What else can we expect in the range this year? I’ve got a line of barbeques coming out this year.
What were your thoughts on South Africa and its food and wine when you were last here? Improving! Wonderful produce but there was a tendency to overcook everything. I thought the wines were excellent.