Following the launch of Theo Randall's new Festa in Famiglia menu at his InterContinental restaurant, The Week Portfolio asks the celebrated chef if families who graze together really do stay together.
What are your earliest memories of eating with family?
Growing up family meals were every day. I remember my mother used to teach art on Thursday nights so I would always help to prepare dinner before she got back, so we could all sit and eat together.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
This was quite normal for us as any meal generally was sitting together and enjoying my mother’s cooking, which was very good. My earliest memory are the dinners we had on holiday. I was always very adventurous and would eat anything. My favourites were snails in France and Spaghetti Vongole in Italy.
And what are the key ingredients of the family dining experience that you are hoping to bring with your Festa in Famiglia menu?
It’s all about communication at the table. Having a meal together is a great way to spend some quality time as a family. There is nothing better than having good food that can be shared at the table, along with great conversation. I want to bring back the quality family time I enjoyed as a kid and still do with my family when we are all together – whether this is with friends or family. Sharing food is very important as there is interaction and always makes conversation - good and bad. I have a family of food critics so I am always on my toes but my son Max really enjoys cooking and helped out when we were in Puglia on our family summer holiday.
Do friends and family become more reluctant to cook for you when you become a famous chef?
Funnily enough I don’t get invited for dinner at friends’ houses that much. It tends to be dinner out but I am quite happy to turn up early at a friend’s house and take over the kitchen. I love what I do and cooking for friends and family is actually very relaxing and fun.
To what extent does having a public profile distract from the work of actually being in the kitchen?
I have a very busy schedule and there are always lots of requests for events, profiling etc, but my true love is being in the kitchen working with my team. A full day working lunch and dinner is always going to be the most rewarding as that is what I have always done and love.
Cuisine is obviously very diverse across Italy. Which parts of the country have most inspired your Festa in Famiglia menu?
It has to be Puglia as this is the region we always go on a summer family holiday. We tend to eat out a lot as the restaurants are so good and are set up for big tables. If we eat at home I tend to cook a whole fish and lots of different vegetable dishes as Puglia has some of the best vegetables in Italy - as well as lovely olive oil.
With the emergence of sharing plates and no-booking policies, is restaurant dining becoming more relaxed and communal? And is this a good thing?
Restaurant dining has become more relaxed and this is a very good thing. When we first opened Theo Randall at the InterContinental back in 2006, my aim was to provide a friendly service that was professional but also relaxed. This is quite normal now and it is lovely to see. Having a meal in a restaurant that has great food and service that feels generous and welcome is a winning combination.
You recently tried to create the world’s biggest antipasti board? Do you think food is at its best when it is shared?
Communal food is always going to be fun, especially Italian food as it is designed to be shared - a good example is antipasti served in the middle of the table, which people can take what they like from. We emulate this with our big antipasti banquet in the restaurant. Sharing food is the most hospitable thing you can do. It shows you care and is the most welcoming gesture to any guest.
Where are your favourite places to eat around the UK?
There are so many great restaurants in London and one of my favourites is Clipstone in Fitzrovia. I love Greenbury Cafe for brunch on Regent’s Park Road and the best Japanese restaurant has to be Jin Kitchi in Hampstead. Amazing food and service, half the price of any central London Japanese but twice as good.
And how do you think eating out is going to change over the next couple of decades?
Well that is a tough question. I think restaurants will become more relaxed and you will see a lot more seasonal, local produce all over the country. Depending on the outcome of Brexit, you will see a lot more locally sourced restaurants and shops/supermarkets selling local produce. There will be more regional cuisines and I think the fast food culture will be far better quality and healthier food. Food outlets will open in less obvious places to avoid expensive rents. I hope there will also be a better understanding of sustainability and lot more home grown produce.
To book a Festa in Famiglia lunch at Theo Randall at the InterContinental, visit theorandall.com
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.