Antony Worrall Thompson - Can Cook, Can't Cook

On Wednesday evening, my wife and I joined 40 other foodies for an Evening with Antony Worrall Thompson, part of BITE, The Cotswolds Food Festival. The elegant Wood Norton Hotel, near Evesham hosted the event, providing a 4 course meal designed by the famous chef and cooked under his supervision.

When we arrived, chef AWT was already seated at the bar with a large glass of red wine, so we presumed all in the kitchen was proceeding according to plan. Cocktail waiters circulated and so did AWT, his nasal voice reverberating around the room as he wandered from table to table. From Menage a Trois in Knightsbridge to his current stable of restaurants in Kew, Windsor and Henley-on-Thames, Antony Worrall Thompson has spent over 35 years working with food. With appearances on ITV's This Morning, BBC's Question Time and Grumpy Old Men to name but a few, Antony was one of the nation's favourites on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (below). An award winning Chef, a fierce campaigner for serious food issues such as diabetes, obesity, nutrition and eating habits of children and a great personality and raconteur, we were ready for an entertaining evening.

We were not disappointed. The four course meal, matched with carefully selected wines, was spectacular. The first course of Roast Local Beetroot, Goats Cheese and Winter Herbs went down very well and was speedily followed by a refreshing Gin and Lime Sorbet with Lime Crisp. The main dish though, was a picture to behold. Beautifully presented and exquisite in taste, the Roast Saddle of Lamb, Truffle, Creamed Savoy Cabbage, Confit Garlic and Fondant Potato reflected the very high standard one hopes for from a top chef (below). Empty plates all around were despatched back to the kitchen.

The following sweet, accompanied by a delicious dessert wine, was equally delightful in presentation and taste - Dark Chocolate Cremeux, Almond and Hazel Mousse, Passion Fruit, Praline Ice Cream and Candied Hazelnut (below).

With coffee served and petit fours on the table, it was time for AWT to share his culinary secrets with the gathered throng. Introduced by Henrietta Green, founder of Foodlovers and consultant to BITE, Antony described his ups-and-downs as a chef and business man, likening them to mountains he climbed and ledges he fell from. With his wine glass refilled, he launched into listing those chefs he thought could cook and those who could not - Delia Smith, Rick Stein, Raymond Blanc, Brian Turner CAN COOK, Lorraine Pascale, Nigella Lawson, Gino D'Acampo, Heston Blumenthal CAN'T COOK. He was unreserved in his opinions and open about his explosive life. Why had he succumbed to shop-lifting and why had he failed in business time and again. He certainly was not a man to give up, but his future book, 'Why', might have some answers!

With Antony's passion for good quality cooking ingredients and simple dishes clearly evident, the evening moved on to questions from the floor.  Volunteers were few and far between. I asked about today's 'fast buck' young TV chefs and there lack of cooking experience and Mrs RFI wanted some acknowledgement that 16 year old trainees chefs were 'misled' by the lack of cooking reality shown in TV kitchens. The evening finished with a pathetic question about making taramasalata and the significance of 'smoked' cod's roe, by which time AWT needed another glass of wine and to sell a few books to interested customers. 


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