Angela Hartnett MBE, 47, is chef and proprietor of restaurants including the Michelin-starred Murano in Mayfair and Merchants Tavern in Shoreditch. She lives in east London with her partner, chef Neil Borthwick.
I’m not someone who jumps out of bed. I set my alarm for 6am and it goes off every 15 minutes. I like to think I’ll get up early, but as you can see from my heart rate, it’s more like 8am. The night reports, telling me about the previous day’s takings and any issues, come in from all my restaurants anytime from midnight to 1.30am, but I’m careful not to read them until I get up the next morning and have coffee. I need two cups to get my brain functioning. I cycle from my home in Spitalfields to Murano for a 10.30am menu tasting.
It’s the first time I eat, and I taste about 16 dishes, which doesn’t do anything for my metabolism. I taste, comment on and photograph each dish, before going through them with the head chef. I’ll say, “Tweak this, change that… why did you put that with that?” It can’t just be about my opinion; we can’t have partridge and venison on the menu just because I like them, when duck would be the better option. It has to be collaborative. Modern techniques aren’t necessarily my style, but if the flavour works then I’m all for it.
My heart rate is only high when I’m cycling between restaurants. It would be a lot higher if I was opening a new restaurant: you have to be ready to open on time, because delays cost money, and you have to get the right staff on board – and there’s a real shortage of trained staff. And then you’re flooded with critics who all want to come on the first day – I had four critics in on Murano’s second ever service. Jay Rayner argues that if you’re charging full prices you’ve got to be ready, but it’s not that sort of business. You need to build a team.
I’m quite a relaxed person, day-to-day: they’re restaurants, for Christ’s sake – people need to get over themselves and realise it’s only a carrot. My heart rate rises at 12pm, when lunch service at The Merchants Tavern starts. My partner, Neil, is the head chef, so I just do what he wants me to do, I don’t argue.
Getting the food out on time can be stressful, because you’re reliant on other people, but it gives me an adrenaline rush. It’s the most fun part of the job. I think the mistake a lot of chefs make is putting TV and books and extracurricular things before a restaurant. The minute you start taking your eye off it is when things go wrong.
When I’m not working in the evening, I’ll eat out locally. I stick to regular, local haunts, like St John Bread and Wine and Taberna do Mercado. I don’t want to be challenged on my nights off. I get into bed at 11pm and read for 20 minutes until I drop off, and I sleep through.