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The UK is not a ‘foodie nation’, says chef Angela Hartnett

The Michelin-starred restaurateur tells BBC’s Desert Island Discs that British food culture is ‘about money’

Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett has dismissed the notion that Britain has a “food culture”, saying that only people with money can afford good food.

The former head chef at the Connaught said people had too little time to cook or to shop carefully, and that this was damaging to the health of the nation.

When people say we are a “foodie nation, we have a food culture, I genuinely don’t think we do”, Hartnett told BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs.

“I don’t think we’re like the Italians or the Spanish, where everyone from the person who lives in one flat (to the) villa will go and buy a chicken and everyone can afford that chicken. Our food culture is about money. People who have money can afford good food in this country.”

Hartnett, who first developed her culinary skills by making bread and pasta with her Italian grandmother and then trained under Gordon Ramsay, said it was wrong to patronise people on low incomes about organic food.

“When you haven’t got any money (and) you’re living on a low income, to patronise and sit there and say, ‘You’ve got to have an organic chicken’ is wrong. We’ve lost home economics in a lot of schools. People aren’t taught to shop. People don’t have the time to shop and the time to cook.

“Everyone says we’re a more unhealthy nation than ever and yet we’re not doing anything about it.”

She says she is passionate about the issue of food waste. “We’re a bit lazy like that these days. I remember my grandmother, you went into her fridge, everything was covered with a saucer, she threw nothing away.”

Hartnett was awarded a Michelin star at The Connaught and then her own restaurant, Murano. She says that she is surprised how much the trade has changed since she started. She would have never imagined, at the beginning of her career, that one day people would be “fighting to get into it”, she says.

She also says there is one person that she cannot cook with – her soon-to-be husband, Neil Borthwick, who is also a professional chef. “We’ve learned early on not to try and cook together. We used to do that a bit and then Neil makes so much mess. He’s a brilliant cook and he’s got a great palette but he’s messy and it drives me insane at home.”