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Industry insights from Angela Hartnett following a decade of Murano

Published 15 October 2018

Angela Hartnett is celebrating a decade of her Michelin-starred restaurant Murano, a brilliant achievement from one of our most treasured chefs. Here Chloë Hamilton hears insights from Angela Hartnett following a decade of Murano– from ditching tasting menus to keeping your team happy.

Ten years ago we didn’t have to worry about Twitter and Instagram but these days it’s become such a big thing.

If you use it right, it’s very good for your restaurant. But if you use it wrong it can be detrimental. When you hear people saying ‘the food’s got to look Instagramable’ you just think the world’s gone mad. What if it tastes rubbish? You can’t think, I’ve got to have a glass plate and therefore I’m going to succeed. You’ve got to believe in what you want to cook. You can tweet as much as you want but if you can’t cook it doesn’t matter how it looks on social media.

There’s not really been a change to my social life over the years. 

I think you can do everything you want, you’ve just got to be organised. Running Murano has never stopped me having a holiday, it’s never stopped me going off and having a facial or going to the movies. I got married. I still have parties. You make sure you’ve got a good team and you work as hard as them and you make sure they have a good time and lots of time off as well.

Getting and keeping staff is harder, but everyone knows that. 

When you’re speaking to Michel Roux who’s running Le Gavroche, and he’s struggling then you think ‘god there’s no hope for anyone’. I’m in a good positionbut it is slightly frustrating when people email and go ‘so what’s the shift rate? What sort of hours am I working?’ And you think, do you actually want to come and work for me because you want to cook the food I cook? Or is it because you’re going to get three days off a week? We’ve had our guys on a four-day week for years now – at the end of the day, if you treat people properly, they’ll stay with you.

We got rid of tasting menus five or six years ago

 Because running that alongside an à la carte is a lot of work for the kitchen and guests wanted to change it all the time. The whole table have to order it, and people go, ‘oh you know but can I change this dish’. I had a great manager who would never say no, so every tasting menu was never as it was supposed to be, which didn’t make it any easier for the kitchen. So I said forget it, let’s just get rid of it. Now you can choose what you want and have it in whatever order you want. If you want a six-course tasting menu, you can do it. If you just want two courses, you can.

I think there’s a real renaissance of Italian food. 

It seems to be every 15 minutes there’s another Italian restaurant opening. Having opened Café Murano I’ve tried not to bastardize it so it’s English-Italian but have tried to make it very authentic, which isn’t necessarily that easyfor the palate. One thing is telling chefs that dried pasta is equally as good as fresh pasta. Everyone believes fresh is best because obviously there’s more work involved but I don’t think it is for certain dishes. For something like a lobster or vongole linguine I would say dried is better.

We are seeing a lot more women as head chefs 

But I don’t know whether that’s because it seems to be more out there. I’ve always had the same attitude: I don’t care whether someone’s male or female, I just want someone do a good job. It transpires that I’ve got quite a few female headchefs, female sous chefs, female managers, but I haven’t consciously said, ‘I’m employing you because you’re a woman’. I’m employing them because they’re good.

I’ve never regretted doing any TV work

 I enjoy the stuff I do and I’ve always thought it’s worth doing. But what I would say is that unless you’re going to be a chef like a Jamie or a Gordon and be on TV the whole time, it should never overtake your job. I choose to take part in a project only if I believe in it. We’re not actors, we’re chefs. I’ve got to like the team I work with, the producers and TV company and if that’s the case, then I’ll do it. If not, I won’t.

Fake allergies drive me mad. 

When people sit there and say they’re allergic to something when they actually just dislike something. I mean there are people with real allergies like gluten allergies and coeliac disease. But when someone says they don’t like something and go ‘it’s an allergy…’ Someone once said they had a visual allergy – that they could eat a sauce with mushrooms as long as they couldn’t see the mushrooms. We had to take the mushrooms out!

You have to change with the times. 

We realised a few years back that people don’t necessarily want to be doing two- or three-hour lunches, so it’s now a much speedier service. We’re very flexible. I’d like to see that Murano still stays relevant. Everyone’s always dissing Michelin and dissing fine-dining – and I don’t like the expression ‘fine- dining’ – but I do think there’s a world for more luxurious restaurants. Murano is full every day now and I’d like to see it still full in ten years’ time.

It’s all about the team.

 I like the guys I work with and the camaraderie. We did Wilderness festival and it was a lot of my guys from the restaurant who worked it. You work bloody hard and it’s knackering, but you have such a laugh doing it. And I think if you can’t smile at work and have fun in the kitchen, you should get out of show business. And don’t take yourself too seriously. At the end of the day we’re cooking food. We’re not saving lives, we’re cooking a carrot and a potato – let’s put it into perspective.

This article was first published in the CODE Quarterly magazine. To subscribe, please click here

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