Pearls of Wisdom: Theo Randall

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Theo randall River cafe Kitchen

Theo Randall celebrates his fifth year at his restaurant at the Intercontinental in London
Theo Randall celebrates his fifth year at his restaurant at the Intercontinental in London
Theo Randall started his career at The River Cafe where he remained for 17 years. Next month he celebrates the fifth birthday of his restaurant at the InterContinental on London’s Park Lane.

I create new dishes and bring back old ones.​ I am not always reinventing the wheel.

When we opened Theo Randall at The InterContinental​ five years ago there were quite a few good Italian restaurants. Now there’s loads and so many are reasonably priced. I look at Zucca and can’t believe they can serve dishes for £7, it’s fantastic.

I’m not into making food look pretty​. Fancy decoration doesn’t suit Italian food. Style is inside you. It’s so easy to copy other
people’s dishes but you need your own style to evolve.

When you open your own place it’s a bit confusing at first.​ You want to be seen to be a creator rather than a copycat, so you’ve got to start doing things differently. But I have been influenced by my time at the River Café and Chez Panisse.

The important thing is consistency.

People who have inspired me are​ Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Alice Waters, Paul Bertolii and Max Magarian [chef owner of Chez Max in Surbiton], who was the first chef I worked with.

I eat out as much as I can​. I’m in the restaurant most nights, but all the chefs go out once a month. We recently went to Hereford Road and I also like going out to a really good Chinese or Greek restaurant.

Fifty per cent of my team​ have been with me from day one. It’s nice when you see them develop. But change is also good. When people stay too long there’s a pattern that sometimes you need to break – it’s important to get in new blood to lift the crew.

Having just one meal in a restaurant​ can give you a lot of inspiration.

The River Café​ is one of the nicest kitchens you could ever work in.

A lot of chefs think restaurants with three Michelin stars​ are the most inspirational, but I think it is the more simple restaurants that are the most inspiring.

I love what I do.​ If you spread yourself too thinly you lose that enjoyment. I like to keep things at a scale that I can control. I have lots of offers to do other things, but I couldn’t have done them properly. I’m very hands-on.

When I first looked at the site in the InterContinental​ I thought it would be a challenge. But having my name above the door on Park Lane has real opportunities. There are pros and cons to not having your own entrance. The benefits are that on a Monday night you can pick up 30-40 people from the hotel.

Presence in the kitchen is important.​ You need to lead by example. And calmness is incredibly important. If you come into the kitchen in a bad mood then you will bring everyone else down with you.

People often say once you’ve been running a restaurant for a couple of years​ it must get easier, but it doesn’t. You’ve got to work hard to keep up the standards.

Restaurants are very organic operations​, you’ve got to move on a daily basis. You can have a very regimented kitchen, but you have to be able to let it live a bit as well.

I’m not a screamer or a shouter​ – actions speak louder than words. Nice is not the right word to describe me though – I prefer fair.

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