Beginning her career in the likes of Aubergine, Zafferano and L’Oranger, Angela Hartnett was made head chef at the famed Petrus before going on to launch Amaryllis in Scotland, Verre in Dubai, Menu and The Grill Room at The Connaught, as one of Gordon Ramsay’s talented team. 

In 2008 with an MBE for services to the hospitality industry already under her chef hat, she branched out on her own with the launch of Murano in Mayfair, which has successfully retained its 1-Michelin-star since 2009 and is one of the few restaurants to hold 4 AA rosettes. Café Murano – the little sister to Murano – launched in 2013 and now has three sites across London. 

Angela was awarded an OBE this January for her services to the hospitality industry and to the NHS throughout the pandemic and her eagerly-awaited third cookbook – The Weekend Cook – rolls out this summer. We caught up with her to discuss the book, where it all began, where it’s going and why the hospitality industry offers an amazing career.

When did you know you were going to be a chef?
A lot of my family were always involved in food businesses whether it was a fish and chip shop or café so the idea of running my own food business always appealed to me. I just didn’t really know how, where or which area to focus my attention on. My mum wanted me to do a cookery course or study in France but I decided to study history. It was only really after completing my degree when I worked in a few local pubs such as The Free Press, The Cambridge Blue and The Blue Boar that being a chef really started to crystallize in my mind. 

You seemed to progress quickly wherever you went  – what do you put that down to?
I will hold my hands up and say I am late for everything in my life but I have always had a good work ethic. Wherever I worked, I worked hard, did the job properly and always had high standards. One of the key things to aid my progression was that I have never been afraid of saying I don’t know. Far too many chefs are terrified of asking for help. Others think they know it all but every chef has their own idiosyncrasies and if you’re going to work for someone else, you’re going to have to learn how they do things. It’s vital that you can ask – how do you want it done? What’s your way? Even now, I may be judging Great British Menu and I will see something different and ask – how did you do that? I’m the first to say I don’t know everything and take great pleasure in learning new tricks and techniques from others.

What do you love most about your job?
I genuinely love the banter in the kitchen most of all and that hasn’t changed. Whether it is doing a shift, developing some dishes with the team or just having a nosey with the team, I just love the people side to the job.  One of my most important jobs is that I build a team so talking to them, chatting with them and joking with them is important so they can always feel comfortable coming to me. 

Have you ever felt burnt out? 
The only time I really found it difficult was when we opened up after the second COVID lockdown. That felt so tough. Everything was hard. You couldn’t get staff, equipment, customers. Usually each day there are always a few fires to be put out but at that stage I was spinning with a hose trying to put out constant blazes and that felt like it continued for a couple of months. Hopefully we’re out the back of it now.

What have been your favourite memories?
Watching Italy win the World Cup final in Germany was pretty amazing but cooking with Gordon Ramsay and Jason Atherton in Afghanistan for the troops and the Queen giving me my MBE take some beating.

What other projects do you have in the pipeline? 
Lots happening this summer. I will be at the Summer Smoke & Cut Festival and we will be taking Café Murano to a few festivals such as Pub in the Park. We have also just started a Café Murano book club where we invite an author each month to do a talk and we cook some dishes. We’ve had Mary Berry and have a great line-up for the summer. 

Why should the next generation be looking to hospitality as a career choice?
Hospitality isn’t just about restaurants and cooking. There are so many jobs and skills within it. You could be a hotel manager, you could work on a yacht, in the army – there is so much to hospitality.  The perception of the industry has also changed and it’s a great place to work and progress. Food isn’t going anywhere. We will always need to eat and we have a great food culture in the UK. There is something for everyone in food and as Marina O’Loughlin said – “everyone has at one time been touched by hospitality”.

How long has your book The Weekend Cook it been in the works? 
It’s been a couple of years in the making and COVID probably helped as it gave me a bit more time at home to put it together. The book is all about easy to replicate, home-cooked dishes, perfect for when you are entertaining at home. Some recipes are a bit fancy and more developed but anyone can make them. The book isn’t strictly Italian with influences from around the world. It’s more of a mash-up of my favourite recipes and tips, alongside some of my neighbour’s dishes, that I have fallen in love with over the years and
that have become key parts of our annual celebrations.

What recipe have you shared with us and why?
I have chosen my Asparagus Quiche recipe from The Weekend Cook as it’s a great one for summer entertaining. Some people think that you are allowed to put anything you want on a quiche. But I’m not so sure. It is actually quite hard to make a good quiche and one of the best quiches that I’ve ever eaten was made from a Simon Hopkinson recipe – it was just onions, onions and more onions and cream and cheese. This is an asparagus quiche, but you could use broccoli if asparagus isn’t in season. You could vary the cheese you use, but you do need a hard, firm cheese. So perhaps Comte or Gruyere, or even a hard blue. You could also add a bit of cumin. Use this egg to cream ratio and you have yourself the perfect quiche base upon which to carefully build other flavours without going crazy.