Antony Worrall Thompson, celebrity chef, restauranteur and author talks life, health… and copper bracelets
An only child to two actors, you would have thought that Antony Worrall Thompson had been centre stage from birth. But the gritty reality of living with theatrical parents was a string of au pairs and boarding school education from three years old. Antony began cooking through necessity more than interest after one au pair gave him a raw bacon sandwich for lunch and he prepared himself a dish of butterscotch Angel Delight to keep the wolves at bay.
“Being sent to school from three years old means I push people away, am stubborn and have rebelled all my life,” he says.” Nothing could control me. I have built brick walls around myself, which only my wife Jay has managed to scale.”
The other way of looking at the experience of having to be self-sufficient from such a young age, is an understanding of Antony’s fierce independence, determination and spirit, which undoubtedly have helped him achieve a spectacular career.
“I don’t recall what the food was like at the school I was sent to when I was three,” he says. “But later at prep school and public school it was revolting. Because I had learned to cook at a young age I was well placed to take advantage, however, and was paid twice the going rate in the old fashioned fagging system because I could cook for the older boys.”
His entrepreneurial spirit emerged early and Antony would cycle from school to a nearby pub at weekends to chef in the kitchens, making sure he was back, unnoticed, for choir practise later in the day.
“My Grandmother was horrified when I opted for catering college on leaving school, hoping the money she’d invested in my education would be used to pursue the law or a career in the army,” he remembers. “There was no history of food in my family but in ways it isn’t so different to being on stage and I come from a long line of actors. You have to get prepared and geared up, particularly if cooking on TV, and that work is often theatrical with priorities leaning to entertainment over straightforward cooking demonstrations.”
Antony’s career took off after he moved to London in his twenties. He quickly became head chef at Brinkley’s Restaurant on the Fulham Road and within a few years he had a string of restaurants to his name. He has won countless awards, received rave reviews, is one of the best known and talented chefs in the world and has written a staggering 32 books.
On health and diet
“My Grandmother played a big part in my upbringing and had severe arthritis in her hands that developed when she was about 70 years old,” he remembers. “The restricted movement that followed was a real blow, particularly as she was a keen gardener. She loved magazines about homeopathy so gave copper and magnetic bracelets a try with great success. In fact, she said they helped so much that she felt faint if she took them off.”
So for the last 20 years Antony has been doing the same as a precaution having seen the issues that painful joints caused his Grandmother. His hands are key, both in terms of inventing new recipes in the kitchens of The Greyhound in Henley-on-Thames and Kew Grill in Richmond, and for writing his next book, which he plans to get stuck into this winter.
“I’m a real believer that stress exacerbates inflammation and leads to all sorts of negative immune response and am lucky that I love my work so much.”
Antony’s core beliefs on healthy eating are joined by perhaps more speculative theories, but he must be doing something right as other than the occasional twinge, particularly in his toes, he is fairly healthy.
“Cut back on processed carbohydrates, eat red meat a maximum of once a week and go for locally produced seasonal food,” he suggests. “Spices and herbs can make food interesting without having to add sugar, salt and fat.
“Try not to be tempted to stop eating properly if you’re on your own. Equally, don’t eat more than you need to. Use small plates and don’t go back for seconds. The more sedentary you become the more you need to look at your food intake and ensure you’ve adjusted it.
“I drink a lot of coconut water, which replaces electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. I take cider vinegar before bed every evening. And I’m a big fan of noni juice, which comes from the fruit of a tree indigenous to Southeast Asia and Australasia.”
“Fundamentally I believe in listening to your body, for example, sometimes I suddenly feel like a glass of milk! But save the health concerns for home – when you go to restaurants put health to one side occasionally and treat yourself.”
For more information about Antony visit www.awtrestaurants.com.
First published September 2015.
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