My Cultural Life: Margot Henderson

The influential chef on what she’s reading, listening to and more

margot henderson interview
Patricia Niven

Few chefs have shaped London’s food scene like New Zealand-born Margot Henderson. Fans of her unfussy, produce-led cooking followed her from The French House dining room, which she founded in 1992 with husband Fergus Henderson, to beloved Shoreditch restaurant Rochelle Canteen, which also serves as a base for catering company Arnold & Henderson. She’s the author of You’re All Invited: Margot’s Recipes for Entertaining, and was awarded an OBE in the 2021 honours list.

The book that changed my life is Nose to Tail Eating by [my husband] Fergus Henderson. He taught us to cook on the bone, to cook gently, and to respect the whole animal. I also love Edmonds Cookery Book – a classic found in every New Zealand household – and Simon Hopkinson’s dreamy Roast Chicken and Other Stories. I return over and over to his love of gentle, classic cooking.

margot henderson
Penguin Random House

At the moment I’m reading My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. The pain of these young relationships is almost unbearable sometimes.

The first album I loved was Pearl by Janis Joplin. I was about eight or nine, and I’d close all the doors in the sitting room and dance for hours. I didn’t really understand the words – it was more her energy and soul. It was the beginning of a life-long love affair.

My all-time favourite piece of music is Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone. I dance, drive and cook to Bob. This song is a timeless, beautiful piece of poetry and I never tire of it.

I’m currently enjoying the Stack Radio App. I’ve been listening to Pauline Daly’s guest mix tape, which is full of gems from New Order to Siouxsie and the Banshees.

My favourite film is Jane Campion’s The Piano, which was so wild and moving when it came out. I loved all the rain and that sex scene with Harvey Keitel, when he puts his finger into the ripped hole in her tights. Another great New Zealand film is Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which is an uplifting jaunt through the bush. The young lad is brilliant. Where do they find kids like that?

margot henderson interview
Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin in The Piano
Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy

I have a few collections. Lots of cookbooks, which I love flicking through. Plants, too – I’m a terrible gardener but very enthusiastic. I also have a drawer full of gorgeous knives from around the world.

My most-loved museum is The National Gallery. As a young family we lived in Covent Garden and I would often take my kids to fill an hour or two. Jacopo Tintoretto’s The Origin of the Milky Way, a story of breast milk making the Milky Way, is so lush and voluptuous it takes your breath away. The children loved ‘the tiger painting’, Henri Rousseau’s Surprised!.

The best exhibition I’ve seen was a Sarah Lucas retrospective at The New Museum in New York called Au Naturel. A retrospective is an emotional experience. The art comes together saying different things as it ages along with you.

margot henderson interview
Sarah Lucas’s retrospective at The New Museum
EPW Studio

My favourite place in the world is Paris. The food, the streets, the bars, the galleries. It’s a feast for the senses. Le Baratin, Chez Georges and Le Clown are some of my favourite restaurants.

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