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55


Steele


AFTER EIGHT YEARS WITH GORDON RAMSAY – INCLUDING INCREDIBLY TOUGH DAYS AND LONG NIGHTS AT CLARIDGE’S, MAZE AND RAMSAY’S THREE- MICHELIN-STARRED ROYAL HOSPITAL ROAD RESTAURANT – YOU COULD FORGIVE CHEF ANGIE STEELE FOR SLOWING DOWN A LITTLE. BUT THAT WOULDN’T BE LIKE HER AT ALL. ERIK BROWN REPORTS


A ngie Steele is heading for TV. She’s done it before. She appeared


on screen as sous chef in The F Word and worked on Kitchen Nightmares and Iron Chef UK. Now she wants her own show. She’ll probably get it too. The petite Cape Town chef may only be in her early 30s, but she’s a serial achiever – so driven, so very focused, that Gordon Ramsay nicknamed her “the South African rottweiler”. Two years after she left Maze in Grosvenor Square, she is juggling several careers at once and has her sights set on “a small empire” of her own.


As Angie Steele the company, she works as a private chef for A-listers – cooking for them two or three weeks at a time; she runs Cook With Me, one-on-one cookery classes for individuals; and she provides private dinner parties for clients. As Angie Steele, director of The Avenue Cookery School in


Putney, she runs a series of courses including Dining Room Demon (solid dinner party skills that won’t fail to impress) and Ready, Steady… Date! (a singles cookery class for six boys and six girls). I ask her which celebrities she cooks for. She can’t tell me: there


are confidentiality agreements in place. But it doesn’t take much Googling to find Angie’s name linked to the Beckhams and Lily Allen, among others.


The funny thing, she says, is that she never once thought of being


a chef when she was waitressing at Brad’s Grill, her father’s legendary and unchanging Cape Town restaurant. “Being a chef just wasn’t a career move,” she says.


It was a gap year that started it all. At 17, Angie and a friend travelled to London. Angie had found it so difficult to get a visa that she hadn’t bothered (something for which was later arrested and jailed). Strapped for cash, she got a job with Sarah Roberts Catering in London, peeling potatoes and washing up.


She worked long hours and made kilos of mashed potato at a time, but felt she had found something she was good at. When she left, they gave her a potato ricer as a leaving gift. Back in Cape Town, she decided to sign up at the Silwood School of Cookery. Brad was opposed to the move, but Angie stuck it out


industry


and after three years she got a job in the kitchens of the world- famous Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town – known affectionately as The Nellie. From there, she went to the Londolozi Game Reserve where she cooked bush dinners and fell in love with a boy in khaki. “I loved it,” she says, “I could have spent my whole life there.” But Angie decided she wasn’t cut out to be a bush girl, so she


returned to London and the catering company where she had previously worked. While she was there, another chef tipped her off about a Gordon Ramsay open day in Victoria. It was the day after the boat race and Angie says she had celebrated a little too much. She turned up at the open day with a hangover and a CV to find herself being thrust into an interview with Stuart Gillies, chef patron of the Boxwood Café, which was soon to open at the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge. It was, Angie says, a great interview and she found herself unexpectedly hurled into Gordon Ramsay Holdings as a comis chef. “God, it was just so much fun,” she says. “I loved working with Stuart, he was like this little bulldog, so enthusiastic about food. He used to call me Angelina Ballerina and it was so much fun. We were doing such awesome things.” It was there that she met Gordon Ramsay for the first time. “He


was really intimidating. Big,” Angie says. “I just remember thinking he had this massive head, and he was looking down on everybody. I just got my head down and worked.” From Boxwood, Angie went to Claridge’s and worked for Mark Sargeant for two years, and then on to the kitchens of Gordon Ramsay’s flagship three-star restaurant on Royal Hospital Road. “The first year I enjoyed,” she says, “but it was really hard. I stayed


there for two years. I enjoyed it as much as I hated it. I knew that I had to do it because I really wanted the discipline and I really wanted to get better.”


Angie says it was exhausting and competitive and in the end it almost convinced her it was time to quit cooking and return to South Africa. But at the last minute, she was persuaded back to the Boxwood Café.





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