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Two minutes with Theo Randall

Published 8 January 2020

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For our latest Careers Q&A we speak to Theo Randall, chef patron of Theo Randall at The Intercontinental. He offers an insight into his route into the industry, shares his tips for those starting out in the industry and explains why Verona is a must-visit destination for good food.

When did you realise you wanted to work in hospitality? 

I got a job working in a little bistro to earn some extra pocket money age 15. I loved the atmosphere in the kitchen and enjoyed the banter between the front and back of house. I really looked forward to going to work and was soon showing an interest in the kitchen. At this point I started thinking, I love this and was wondering how I could do it properly. 

Where and how did you get your start? 

My first job was at Chez Max with Max Markarian. Max was a brilliant teacher and a great chef. The restaurant was small so it was just me and Max in the kitchen but it was full on as I had to do the pastry, garnishes, vegetables – and anything else Max would give me. This was a brilliant training because it was so intense. I was with Max for almost 4 years before I moved to the River Café, and from there I had the chance to open my own restaurant, Theo Randall at the InterContinental. 

Sum up your current work life in one sentence. 

There is always something to do…

Who has been really influential on your career and why? 

My parents have been hugely influential because I grew up with their love of food and travel. My mother is a brilliant cook and would be always baking, cooking, making jam, foraging or preserving so it was slightly obsessional but it rubbed off on me. When I told them I wanted to train as a chef they weren’t surprised and were very supportive. I have also been lucky enough to work with some brilliant people – Max Magarian, Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray, Alice Waters and Paul Bertolli. They have all inspired me in many ways and always make me think, what would they do? 

What’s next for you? 

2020 is going to be continuing from last year and making sure my team at Theo Randall at the InterContinental are happy and inspired. Potentially some new projects with some interesting pop ups along the way. 

What’s your one piece of advice to someone starting out? 

Always listen, be polite and ask as many questions as you can. Think about longevity rather than quick changes. Always trust your instinct…

Where did you last have a great meal? 

A couple of weeks ago at Bibendum. Claude’s food is amazing. We had course after course of brilliant food. The roe deer was one of the best meat dishes ever. 

Are there any openings you are looking forward to? 

Yes plenty but the one I am really excited about is Eataly. I have been to a few of them but having our own one here in London is very exciting. The quality of their products and food in general is totally inspiring, I will be there in Bishopsgate. It is a great way to discover Italian food all under one roof. 

Where is the most exciting city for hospitality (aside from London)? 

There are so many – New York Rome, Paris, but one I love going back to is Verona. It’s not an obvious choice but the food and style of the place is unbeatable, in winter or summer the place is buzzing with brilliant trattoria’s with amazing wine lists, piazzas with local markets and some beautiful old hotels all adding to this very hospitable city. If you love good food and want to sample a taste of the Veneto, go to Verona. 

Who would you identify as a rising star?

I was lucky enough to judge Young Chef of the Year in October of last year.

The standard of the cooking was very high. One of the chefs really stood out and was our eventual winner. His name is Rich Henderson and I am certain he is a rising star and will go on to great things. It wasn’t just that he could cook but how articulate and passionate he was about our profession. Watch this space…

This Q&A was first written for the Careers Q&A. To subscribe, click here

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