Chef’s Table: Theo Randall

Theo Randall family food
Image: Martin Poole

Have you ever wondered what a chef cooks at home or if their kids behave any better than yours in a fine dining restaurant? We grill some of Britain’s best chefs for the lowdown. This week, Theo Randall.

On Family Cooking

Who does the cooking at home?

I cook when I am at home but my wife is also a really good cook. For me, cooking at home is a real pleasure and a great way to unwind and also experiment.

Do your children get involved with the cooking?

Sometimes but they are very happy to simply sit and eat. Both of my children love their food and will give me a full review of what they have eaten (which can be very funny but also painful).

Do you manage to get your kids to eat their 5-a-day?

Probably 10 a day. We have a smoothie maker which is in constant use. Their favourite is mango, banana, passion fruit and fresh ginger with a squeeze of lime – very sophisticated!

What is your view on sugar for kids?

It is a disaster! When the children were little I would take them to parties and you would see all these kids running around like maniacs because someone thought it was a good idea to give them sugary cakes and drinks. Yes, kids love sweet things, but too much is really bad for them – especially fizzy drinks. Try crushing a watermelon and pouring the contents into plastic cups or make ice lollies from them. They are sweet, but naturally so.

Pasta is a common child favourite but has come under fire recently as an unhealthy choice. Is it still firmly on the menu in your house?

We eat a lot of pasta in our house because you can make a delicious plate of food very quickly and you can incorporate vegetables, herbs, fish and meat in different dishes. I think it is healthy as long as you do not use too much cream or butter. Something as simple as a spaghetti in a tomato sauce with garlic, olive oil and basil should be a little ones staple. My children still love it.

What are your children’s favourite dishes?

Max’s favourite is Linguine alla Vongole (like me). Lola loves aubergines so it has to be Melanzane Parmigiana.

Do you have a favourite home cookbook, or do you just wing it?

I have hundreds of cookbooks but one of my favourites is The Silver Spoon. A real classic!

One meal for all or separate kids dishes?

Normally one meal for all unless we are eating fish, Lola doesn’t like it.

Your new book breaks recipes down according to how long they take. Lack of time is something that busy parents often cite as a reason for not cooking from scratch. What are your three go-to recipes for quick family meals?

Risotto with peas and proscuitto: everyone loves this and we all have a bag of frozen peas in our freezer.

Courgette frittata with ricotta, basil and parmesan: So easy to make and serve in the middle of the table on a chopping board or from the pan with a mixed salad of tomatoes, cucumber, cos lettuce and grated carrot with oil and vinegar.

Linguine with prawns, courgettes, garlic and parsley: Fry the prawns in a frying pan while the pasta is cooking. Add the ribbons of courgettes to the cooking pasta. Take out the pasta and courgettes with some tongs and add them to the frying pan with the prawns, garlic and parsley.

Theo Randall Family Food

On Restaurants 

Do many people bring children to your restaurant, Theo Randall at the Intercontinental?

Yes, and we encourage it. Parents tend to bring children early evening which is sensible. We have always made an effort to produce a really good children’s menu which is very important – why shouldn’t children eat the same quality produce as their parents?

Do you think fine dining restaurants should be child free?

It depends on the restaurant, the atmosphere and size. When I was a child my parents took me to nice restaurants and I feel it has been part of my education. We have done the same for our children.

Do you eat out as a family or avoid restaurants when off duty?

I always go to restaurants off duty, particularly when I am with my kids and dogs. We go to casual places, our favourite is Greenbury Cafe in Regents Park Rd, NW1. It is the only truly dog friendly restaurant I know and they make a fantastic brunch.

What do you think of Britain’s chicken nugget/fish finger kids menu culture?

Children don’t necessarily want to eat that. More choice is needed. If you eat too much fatty food it is going to do you harm but if you can introduce fruit and vegetables as well you have a far more balanced diet. Children love carrot and cucumber sticks dipped in houmous or mayonnaise to make them more appealing.

Top three places to eat out with the children?

Princess Garden (Mayfair), Ask Italian (Nationwide), Cachao Toy Cafe (Primrose Hill)

Don’t miss Theo’s Pasta with Pesto & Courgettes recipe on Mr Fox and subscribe below so that you don’t miss more new recipes from his book next week.

Theo Randall Family Food
My Simple Italian by Theo Randall is published by Ebury Press, £25 and is out now. Photography by Mike Lusmore. Image of Theo Randall above: Martin Poole.

Theo Randall was head chef at the Michelin-starred River Cafe for ten years. He now runs his own restaurant, Theo Randall at the InterContinental Park Lane, in London. A natural teacher, he runs monthly classes at the restaurant and regularly appears on television shows like Saturday Kitchen and The Chef’s Protege. Theo lives in London with his wife and two children. Follow Theo on Twitter @TheoRandall