Antony Worrall Thompson
Interview: Antony Worrall Thompson
So you thought Antony Worrall Thompson was just another celebrity chef who happens to live in Berkshire. Well did you know that his Godfather was actor Richard Burton and that he "conned" his way through a raft of chef's jobs? Read on!
He's a staple figure cooking up the proverbial storm on our television screens - Antony Worrall Thompson, who still enjoys the beauty of living in Berkshire.
But he had a stormy start to his culinary career when he was expected by his high-brow family to seek a profession in the army or in law.
His subsequent success as a chef justified his dogged determination to unshackle himself from familial expectations, though not without a bit of 'conning'...
AWT chats to BBC Radio Berkshire's Richard Skinner about his colourful background, which includes having actor Richard Burton as his Godfather.
Listen to the full interview here or read extracts below:
We know you well of course through your TV, radio work and books. Was cooking always going to be your career? Is what you always aimed for as a child?
"It was. I don't know why cos my grandparents had servants all their lives, living in India, so she could burn a boiled egg.
"My mother was an actress so constantly on the road so she was never around to cook.
"So I suppose it stems from neighbours and au pairs who were hopeless cooks - and I just one day said: 'I'll do it myself'.
"Contrary to family requests - they wanted me to go in the army or be a barrister or something like that - I did it.
"My grandmother was horrified cos she paid for my public school education and said: "darling, people downstairs cook"."
So you decided to embark on your career - the 'on TV' element wouldn't have been envisaged at all I assume?
"No. I guess there were one or two people like Fanny Craddock who my mother ended up being a director for on her show, so I used to pop along there and help lay it all out when things when marked with tape and stuff like that."
Taking it right back, you weren't born in this neck of the woods were you.
"I was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon. My parents were in Romeo and Juliet and for the first time in my life I arrived early.
"I was actually born in the Green Room of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre as it was known in those days.
Richard Burton: AWT's Godfather
"My father's understudy was Richard Burton and he became my godfather.
"There was a little incident when I was in a nursing home in Stratford and he rode up the river when I was in the garden in one of these prams and he put a Welsh thr'penny bit in my hand - which I promptly swallowed.
"The matrons of the nursing home went absolutely ballistic and called the whole cast and crew in and he owned up.
"I only met him about six times but it's great to have on your CV: Richard Burton is your Godfather."
About cooking, how did you learn the ropes?
"Funnily enough I didn't really learn the ropes.
"The compromise with my grandmother was to do a degree course in hotel catering and management.
"I was in a little Essex hotel, which again didn't go down too well - she refused to put Essex on the envelope when she wrote to me - I was food and beverage manager and the chef didn't turn up one day, so I went into the kitchen and told a second chef what to do and then watched how he did it.
"I conned my way through loads and loads of jobs as head chef for many years and I think I was only a second chef for about six weeks in my career."
About why you still live in this area - your roots are here but it'd be very easy for you to live the high life in Hampstead.
"You know what, I think London's a killer. I hate the traffic and I hate what goes on in London. It's still dirty to me, and out here - we also have our problems here in Henley-on-Thames of course, we've had shocking traffic problems - but it is a beautiful spot.
"The area is just a beautiful part of the world."
You're still writing about food with a new book coming out.
"The beauty of not cooking so much in your restaurants nowadays is that when you 'do' cook, you really enjoy it.
"I've got the first book called Saturday Cooks Cookbook which is out in February and later in the year I've got Fast Family Food."
Find out more about Antony via his official website:
last updated: 08/01/2008 at 16:01
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