From his mum’s beef stew to cooking for his family, these are chef Theo Randall’s food memories

Chef Theo Randall
9:00am, Mon 19 Jul 2021
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Theo Randall is one of the UK’s most celebrated chefs: he worked at the River Cafe when it was awarded a Michelin star, and is now known for his Italian restaurant at the InterContinental in Mayfair, London.

Before he was one of food’s biggest cheffing names, he was a child given free range in the kitchen, making more than a few mistakes along the way.

These are Randall’s food memories, from his mother’s beef stew to baking ill-fated profiteroles for his wife…

His earliest memory of food is…

“That’s probably got to be my mother’s cooking. She used to do this delicious thing – like a beef stew and potatoes. We used to go on these walks, I was still quite small, but I remember this stew she used to make – it was like a boeuf bourguignon, a beef casserole. And I remember my favourite thing was the baked potatoes; we’d cut them in half, and put as much butter in them as possible. I remember that taste very, very well.”

His culinary highlight…

“There’s been loads: when I became a chef; and going through River Cafe; and then opening my own restaurant in Park Lane. For my culinary high, a lot of it has been a collaborative thing: seeing people develop and grow in the restaurant, watching people going off and running a restaurant, and seeing them become a really great chef is very much a culinary high.

“But if I think about things simply, it’s really about my kids growing up and cooking for them and my family – having that love of food, and everyone else appreciating it as well. The thing with being a cook is what you’re really trying to do is trying to make people happy. If you can make people happy with food, then that’s really what it’s all about. I love seeing my family sitting at dinner, and I’ll cook something and everyone loves it. It’s simple stuff, but that’s really my culinary high.”

The first time he cooked dinner for other people…

“I started cooking at a very early age, I used to make little sandwiches and salads for my parents. I was making my little menu at the age of about eight. It was always something I loved and my parents would quite happily go out and leave me on my own. I’d be delighted because I could then cook something, and I’d make all these kind of weird concoctions and add all these different herbs and spices – sometimes it didn’t work out as well it should have done, but I always did that.”

Randall’s worst kitchen disaster has to be…

“Many years ago when I first met my wife and was trying to impress her, I thought I’d make profiteroles when we were in France. I was looking at the flour and I couldn’t work out [which to use], so I just bought this flour and made a choux pastry – which is quite difficult to make, particularly if you’ve got the wrong flour.

“So I was making the choux pastry, and it didn’t look quite right. I thought, ‘I’ll just pipe them onto the baking tray and put them in the oven’ and about 20 minutes later I pulled them out, and they didn’t look too bad. They had risen quite nicely and they were quite a nice shape, then I picked one up and realised it was like a golf ball and you could hit it. That took quite a long time to get rid of that embarrassment.”

The Italian Deli Cookbook by Theo Randall, photography by Lizzie Mayson, is published by Quadrille, priced £26. Available now.

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