Antony Worrall Thompson's life: A tormented childhood, two divorces and an empire under strain
Celebrity chef previously revealed he was abandoned as a child by his alcoholic mother and sexually abused by
four different people
Antony Worrall Thompson has not been shy of talking about his turbulent past
Antony Worrall Thompson has never been the kind of man to call a hotpot a navarin d’agneau. When his eggs are scrambled, he will say so.
Some years ago, he confessed without any apparent shame that he had fathered a love child, shrugging that the boy was ‘from a bonk’.
He added: ‘I don’t know anything about him.’
And yesterday the man memorably
described by Gordon Ramsay as a ‘squashed Bee Gee’ was once again owning
up to a scandal of his own making.
Thompson, 60, chose to make an almost brutally clean breast of the
startling revelation that he had been caught shoplifting. He promised to
such circumstances, individual psychotherapy – which could lead to a
diagnosis of depression, anxiety or kleptomania – would be the most
likely treatment sought.
the chef has faced financial problems a friend, cookery writer James
Steen, said: ‘Whatever is going on here is not to do with money.
'It is to do with Antony, and whether he is all right or not.
no secret that he had a terrible childhood and was greatly affected by
it. Perhaps all these years later he is now dealing with it.’
Worrall Thompson’s early life, as unsparingly described in his 2003
autobiography Raw, would have been enough to send anyone into a life of
He revealed that he was effectively abandoned as a child by his alcoholic mother and was abused sexually by four different people.
He suffered disfiguring facial injuries during a school rugby match which could not be fixed until he was an adult and the bones had finished growing.
A virgin until 22, with incredibly low self-esteem, he made up for lost time with two marriages and numerous affairs.
His recent happy personal life, with third wife Jay and their two children, has been a victory against the odds.
Henry Antony Cardew Worrall Thompson grew up in Kent and Berkshire, the only child of two actors, Michael Ingham (who cast off his double-barrelled surname for his stage career) and Joanna Duncan.
His godfather Richard Burton had been his father’s understudy at the RSC.
‘I had a posh sort of family, in a way,’ he once said. ‘My grandmother had servants and my uncle often used to have dinner with Princess Elizabeth at the Palace during the war.
'It was my mother who was the black sheep.’
His mother split from his father when he was three. Shortly afterwards, she sent him to boarding school.
He recalls that he missed her greatly and used to sleepwalk – for which he was punished by being locked in a coal cupboard.
Mansion: Antony Worrall Thompson left behind his 1.6m home in Henley
Things were not much better in the holidays. ‘My mother would leave me in the corner of the pub,’ he said. ‘My overriding feeling was of being incredibly unwanted.’
The sexual abuse, he said, came from his bisexual stepfather, a nurse, a schoolmaster and a childminder. Worrall Thompson insisted that, although his life story sounded quite far-fetched, every word was true and he had survived it without requiring any therapeutic input.
He said: ‘Abuse is not always the worst thing that can happen to you as a child. I don’t think it affected me that much. I’m just stubborn.’
He became interested in cooking after a blundering au pair served him raw bacon in a sandwich. He also realised that his mother enjoyed being brought breakfast in bed, and he was desperate to please her.
He wanted to train as a chef but his grandmother – who had paid for his education at King’s School, Canterbury – told him that cooking was no job for a gentleman.
He did a hotel management degree as a compromise. His final report read:
‘On no account should this boy be let loose near a kitchen.’
He moved to Essex, and in his book the debauched years that followed are described like something from a comic novel, replete with lesbians, waterbeds and mafia gangsters.
Most people who have read it find that it stretches credulity – not for nothing was Worrall Thompson known as Pinocchio when he appeared on the reality show, I’m A Celebrity, in 2003.
Notting Grill, a restaurant owned by Anthony Worrall Thompson went into administration in 2009
He met Jill, who was to be his first wife, when she was 17 and he 22. They were married for five years, albeit unhappily. There followed a seven-year-sexual free-for-all.
He was having an affair with Annie Foster-Firth, the wife of business partner Don, when they opened Mnge a Trois in 1981.
He then fell in love with his second wife, a bubbly Australian called Militza, and they had two children, but the marriage never seems to have got off the ground.
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Antony Worrall Thompson inside Notting Grill in 1998
Friends insist he never seems to be short of cash. One who saw him just before Christmas said: ‘There was no hint of any trouble on that score.’
He said in a recent interview that he has a share portfolio worth 60,000 and numerous other investments.
However, in 2009, Worrall Thompson was hit by the recession and forced to put his firm into the hands of administrators, blaming his bank for refusing to extend the firm’s overdraft by just 200,000.
Some 60 staff were made redundant as a result and he closed four restaurants, the successful Notting Grill and Barnes Grill in London, and his two pubs – The Lamb Inn and the Greyhound in Henley. Worrall
Thompson said the only alternative would have been to offer his 1.6million home in Henley (which he has now left) as a guarantee.
Shortly afterwards, however, he bought back the Greyhound thanks to financing from two business partners. He also owns two grill restaurants at Kew and Windsor and a delicatessen caf called the Windsor Larder.
There is also income from publishing – he has written dozens of cookbooks and brought out two last year alone.
There is some income from promotional deals, such as his tie-in with Splenda sweeteners and the Breville cookware company.
Plus, of course, there is some television work, although these days he is not quite in the first league, despite that attempt to revive his television ratings on I’m A Celebrity, which reputedly earned him 50,000.
Perhaps the key to his universal popularity has been that he always seems to appreciate how lucky he is to be in that position.
He told an interviewer four years ago: ‘Nowadays they wouldn’t put someone like me on TV in the first place because I’m short, fat-arsed and I have a broken nose.’
To that list he must now add a severely-dented public image.