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How We Met: Giorgio Locatelli & Tim Roth

Interviews by Sudi Pigott

The chef Giorgio Locatelli, 39, spent his childhood at his family's Michelin-starred restaurant on Lake Maggiore, Italy. He came to London in 1986 to work at the Savoy. After a spell in Paris, he returned to cook at the acclaimed Italian restaurant Zafferano and this year opened Locanda Locatelli with his wife Plaxy. They have two children and live in Islington. His second television series begins next year.

British-born Tim Roth, 41, came to prominence starring in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. In 1999 he made his directorial debut with The War Zone and is soon to direct Harold Pinter's adaptation of King Lear. Roth can next be seen in the English Civil War drama, To Kill a King. He has three children and lives in LA with his wife Nikki.

Giorgio Locatelli: I first met Tim on the set of Peter Greenaway's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. At the time, I was working at the Savoy, doing lots of ice sculptures and fancy buffet stuff and frankly getting rather bored. By bizarre coincidence, an artist friend of mine, Daniel Harvey, who grows grass out of walls and had done a book for Greenaway, had been asked to do art installations for the film. The art director Ben van Os was talking about the over-the-top food needed throughout the plot and Daniel recommended me. I had to cook the most grotesque feasts every day - as all the action takes place in fancy restaurants. I remember having to secure special permission from Buckingham Palace to get hold of a swan to roast.

Most of the cast were well-established thespians whom I was rather in awe of, but Tim was of similar age to me, playing a young hooligan in the film and seemed rather wild off set too. I found his edgy, mischievous character hugely appealing and we soon began to hang out together. Tim would come and sit in the driver's seat of the coach that doubled up as my props van and we'd just have a laugh about all the outrageous antics of the film, like the time when Helen Mirren and Michael Gambon got thrown into the back of a van full of high, stinking dead birds and meat - or speculate about which actor had made off with a whole load of piped chocolate-and-nut dog shit I'd prepared specially for the film!

In one scene, Tim was scripted to eat mussels, which he wasn't that keen on, and throw up at a critical moment. We were doing takes for six hours or more and I had to cook an obscene amount of mussels - in the end Tim vomited for real. Thankfully, he's a little more appreciative of my cooking these days!

After the film I went to work at Zafferano and open up Spiga in Soho and we lost touch. Then my staff started talking about this Hollywood actor they half-recognised who kept eating at Spiga and suggested I check him out. I was thrilled to discover it was Tim back in the UK directing The War Zone and we resumed our friendship. I was relieved to find he was still the same crazy character with a wicked sense of humour, very straightforward, fair and completely unfazed by fame.

Basically, we just talk about unstarry things like our wives and children. Tim is very much a family man and has been incredibly supportive to us through difficult times with my daughter's food intolerance problems. He's a good listener and gave us lots of practical help with finding specialists to talk to in the US. Likewise, we were there for Tim when he had a bit of a rough ride over The War Zone. We share a similar attitude to setbacks, it's very much, go on, get on with the next project.

Our friendship fluctuates depending on Tim's filming schedules. Recently he was in the UK a lot filming To Kill a King. He was staying across the road from Locanda Locatelli and often popped in late in the evening. After spending up to eight hours a day in a saddle, he'd come in walking really strangely. At the restaurant we now refer to any customer with a funny gait as doing a Rothie.

I find it refreshing that Tim is not a foodie, his approach is completely unsnobbish - he goes for the simplest pasta dish, and is sparing with his compliments.

Getting involved with TV work has made me even more appreciative of the work Tim puts into getting inside his characters. One of the reasons our friendship survives long periods of not seeing each other is that we retain immense mutual respect. I'm always relieved to discover that Tim's success hasn't changed him, apart from making him more at ease with himself and even better company.

Tim Roth: I think Giorgio worked harder than anyone on The Cook, the Thief - the rate he turned out those humdinger dishes was phenomenal. I was amazed by his skill and the artistic precision he put into making the food - it required a very different but equally severe discipline to my work. As an actor, I'm always fascinated to learn what motivates people in different walks of life and remember firing questions at Giorgio about how he ended up being a chef. I was hugely impressed by his ambition and drive.

It was a low-budget film and I soon figured that hanging out in the food-prop coach was a great way to get some decent food, talk about women and have a good laugh. In my character I spent a lot of time firing a water pistol, and Giorgio and I would lark around spraying the rest of the cast or start food fights. Basically, we discovered that we were kindred overgrown kids letting off steam while working under pressure. Giorgio had a terribly handsome wide-eyed look and a slightly punky, anarchic approach - still does - which is terrifically captivating.

Inevitably, we lost touch when I was working in the States, so it was fluke that I gravitated to Spiga when I was back filming The War Zone. It was fantastic to catch up with Giorgio, especially when it emerged that my producer went to school with Giorgio's wife, Plaxy - we discovered we had lots of friends in common to gossip about. I was pleased and not at all surprised by Giorgio's success. We do talk a bit about the fame thing and how ridiculous it is if you start believing in it all. I like to tease him about the whole superchef business, it's good to help keep each other grounded. Giorgio doesn't give me the star treatment either, just sees me as the ordinary bloke I am. And he doesn't have any prejudice against people like me who are not into their food in a serious way and doesn't try to ram his more complex dishes down me.

We share a conviction that you have to be quite selfish in the pursuit of what you want out of life. It's important that you do what you want, rather than what's expected of you, and chances are others will like what you're doing. I'm sure it's that down-to-earth approach and Giorgio's ebullient enthusiasm which makes Locanda Locatelli such a relaxed place.

I like that Giorgio never minces his words - if he's angry about something he doesn't hold back. He passionately defends everyone he cares about and he's not even acting. He's really a gentle soul.

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