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IN CONVERSATION WITH: ANGELA HARTNETT

What’s your first memory of food?

Without a doubt, cooking with my mum. I remember baking little cakes with her when I was in the Brownies and going out to Italy in the summer holidays. We used to visit this little village in Italy, and all the restaurants tended to have the same menu so I could order my favourite dish every time: agnolini, this lovely light chicken broth. I’d eat bowls of this even in the heat of summer.

What’s your favourite place to visit in Italy?

Venice is amazing - they have the most fantastic restaurants.

How has the culture of Italian food in London changed over the years?

Italian food has gotten much better - the days of the Chianti bottles and candles, although brilliant, are gone! I think travel - whether you love or hate Ryanair - has opened up Italy and the whole of Europe to people, and given them inspiration. It’s made customers more discerning as well. Unfortunately a lunch on the coast of Amalfi can’t easily be recreated in the middle of Mayfair because you’re not sitting beside a crystal-clear blue ocean with the sun shining - there’s a lot of romance involved in Italian food! But the food in London, as a capital city, is one of the best - it’s up there with Tokyo, it’s up there with New York and perhaps even beating Paris. It’s now one of the best cities in the world for food.

Who inspired you to start cheffing?

Gordon Ramsay inspired me to be really professional about it, but my love for cooking came from my family. I was quite good at it when I was little, and my mum always said that my brother Michael is the one with the brains, Angela is the one who’s good with her hands!

What’s been your most important lesson?

Consistency. I learned this from Gordon. When I first started working with him, he told me that the last meal that guests have at a restaurant is equally as important as the first meal they have there. The pasta has to be the same thickness, with the same amount of filling. We all go to restaurants that we know will give us a great dinner every time, not a great dinner some of the time.

What do you find yourself making at home after a long day at work?

Cheese on toast! And it has to be St. JOHN’s cheese on toast.

What’s the future for food?

It will just get better. It will be a tough six months but we’ll get through it. I hope the government sees hospitality as an industry that really needs support, with funding for colleges and apprenticeships. I’d love to see Home Economics back in school as a part of education. You are what you eat - if the government wants to help the NHS, it has to show people how to feed themselves properly.

The Italian Summer Feast launches tomorrow, Sunday 30th May.

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