The UK is not a 'foodie nation', says chef Angela Hartnett

The Michelin-starred restaurateur tells BBC’s Desert Island Discs that British food culture is ‘about money’

Angela Hartnett speaking at the Observer Food Awards in 2017.




Angela Hartnett speaking at the Observer Food Awards in 2017.
Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

The UK is not a ‘foodie nation’, says chef Angela Hartnett

The Michelin-starred restaurateur tells BBC’s Desert Island Discs that British food culture is ‘about money’

Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett has dismissed the notion that the UK has become a “foodie nation”, saying that British people do not know how to shop.

The former head chef at the Connaught, who trained under Gordon Ramsay, criticised Britain’s food culture, saying it was all about money.

Hartnett, who first honed her skills by making bread and pasta with her Italian grandmother, said it was wrong to “patronise” people on low incomes about organic food.

Hartnett told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Disc’s that when people said that the UK was a “foodie nation, we have a food culture, I genuinely don’t think we do”.

“I don’t think we’re like the Italians or the Spanish, where everyone … will go and buy a chicken and everyone can afford that chicken.

“Our food culture is about money. People who have money can afford good food in this country.

When you haven’t got any money [and] you’re living on a low income, to patronise and sit there and say, ‘You’ve got to have an organic chicken,’ is wrong.”

She added: “We’ve lost home economics in a lot of schools. People aren’t taught to shop. People don’t have the time to shop and the time to cook. Everyone says we’re a more unhealthy nation than ever, and yet we’re not doing anything about it.”

Hartnett said she was passionate about food waste, saying “I remember my grandmother, you went into her fridge, everything was covered with a saucer, she threw nothing away … we’re a bit lazy like that these days.”

Hartnett also spoke about her experience of trying to conceive in her mid-40s: “We did try and we did all the IVF and it just didn’t work. If I’d realised that early on, it probably would have happened. But I was working and working and working … that’s one regret unfortunately, but other than that I’m very happy with what’s gone on.”

Hartnett also said that there is one person that she cannot cook with – her fiance, Neil Borthwick, who is also a professional chef.

“We’ve learned early on not to try and cook together. We used to do that a bit and then Neil makes so much mess,” she said. “He’s a brilliant cook and he’s got a great palate, but he’s messy and it drives me insane at home.”

The pair, who met when Borthwick worked for Hartnett at the Connaught, will be marrying this year after he proposed “in his underpants” in the couple’s bedroom.

“That’s Neil, he’s just himself,” Hartnett told Desert Island Discs presenter Kirsty Young.

She also recalled the night her fiance was put in an induced coma after falling off his bike. “You’re in a police van going to a hospital and they can’t tell you whether he’s alive or dead,” she said. “It will be with him for the rest of his life. It takes years to have full recovery.”

Hartnett, who was awarded a Michelin star at the Connaught and then her own restaurant, Murano, and has since expanded her restaurant business, expressed surprise at how much the trade has changed, saying she never would have never imagined that one day people would be “fighting to get into it”.

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