Allegra McEvedy MBE
Chef, writer & broadcaster
Allegra has been cooking professionally for 30 years, starting her career by working in some of London’s best restaurants as well as an eighteen-month spell on the East and West coasts of the States. Over that time, she developed the philosophy that she continues to live and work by: that there are more ways for a chef to make a difference than by winning Michelin stars, and good food should be available to everybody.
In 1991, Allegra completed her classical French training at the Cordon Bleu in London. She also obtained a Higher Certificate from The Wine & Spirit Education Trust.
In 2004, Allegra co-founded LEON, the award-winning, healthy, fast-food restaurant group, which opened its first outlet in Carnaby Street, Soho. Six months after opening, LEON was named the “Best New Restaurant in Great Britain” at the Observer Food Monthly Awards, and in 2008 it won the Palme d’Or for the Best Restaurant Concept in Europe.
Prior to the pandemic, LEON had over 60 restaurants, mostly in the UK though with an increasing amount overseas including the USA. Allegra gave up her hands-on role at LEON in 2009 to focus on writing and broadcasting but remains in touch with the business as well as being a founding shareholder.
She then went on to work at Green’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar, The Belvedere in Holland Park, The Groucho Club and The River Café. She got her first Head Chef position at Tom Conran’s The Cow in Notting Hill, at the age of 24, making her the youngest female Head Chef in London.
During her time in the USA, facilitated by being awarded a special visa as ‘an alien with extraordinary ability in the culinary arts’, Allegra ran the kitchen at Robert De Niro’s New York restaurant Tribeca Grill, regularly doing 500 covers a night. Whilst in New York, she catered for an exclusive Democratic Party fundraiser, which involved personally cooking for President Clinton. She then went to San Francisco, working in the city at Rubicon and Jardinière as well as doing a stage at Chez Panisse in Berkeley.
In February 2017 McEvedy re-opened Albertine, a wine bar and restaurant in Shepherd’s Bush that her mother had set up in 1978. Allegra says it “feels like the rightest thing in the world; a dream come true.”
In November 2018 Albertine won the LBH&F Brilliant Business award for “Best Place to Drink”, and has pivoted and repivoted through the pandemic to stay open for home-cooked meals, deli goods and of course fabulous wines. With her partners she also set up their own import company, La Madeleine, to bring new, small-producer biodynamic wines into the UK.
In 2019 Allegra co-hosted with Fred Siriex a new format for CBBC Step Up to The Plate, teaching children aged 11-14 with aspirations in the hospitality industry how to run a restaurant. Allegra was chef, mentor and judge for back of house, and Fred for the front. It was well received both with both audiences and critics, and was recommissioned for a second series which was filmed through 2020, to be aired Spring 2021.
In 2015 & 2016, before its move to C4, Allegra was one of the judges on CBBC’s Bafta winning Junior Bake Off.
Previously she co-presented Economy Gastronomy, a six-part BBC2 prime-time series about planning ahead, shopping well, spending less and using ingredients wisely.
In 2014 she presented a series of short films for BBC online around engaging young children in cooking, and appeared in The Great British Food Revival for BBC2.
She has worked extensively with Good Food Channel, culminating in presenting Allegra’s Turkish Delights and Matt and Allegra’s Big Farm.
She enjoys radio, contributing regularly to Radio 4 (Loose Ends, The Today Programme, Women’s Hour, World at One), and does a seasonal food slot on Robert Elms’ show for BBC London.
Over the years McEvedy has worked as a consultant to a diverse range of businesses: for the last 10 years this has been predominately focussed on weekly sessions with Compass UK & Ireland (specifically on food in schools and Further Education) and Pret a Manger. Previously other clients have included The Royal Parks, The Institute of Contemporary Arts, The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (aka Wimbledon), The South Bank Centre and Nandos.
Allegra was a weekly columnist at The Guardian for 3 years and also previously had columns in ES (Evening Standard magazine) and Elle. These days she focuses her journalistic efforts more around the ethical work she supports, such as last year’s extended article for Delicious magazine about her recent trip to Palestine in support of the Fairtrade olive growers.
Allegra has written eight books which have sold internationally both to the English-speaking market and in translation.
The Good Cook (Hodder & Stoughton, 2000).
Allegra McEvedy’s Colour Cookbook (Kyle Cathie, 2006).
Winner in the Chefs and Restaurants category of the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ Cookbook Awards.
LEON: Ingredients & Recipes (Conran Octopus, 2008).
Currently on its fourth UK print run; published in America in 2014 in hardback and 2016 in paperback.
Economy Gastronomy (Michael Joseph, 2009).
The bestselling tie-in book to the BBC TV series, which sold over 100, 000 copies.
Bought, Borrowed & Stolen: Recipes and Knives from a Travelling Chef (Conran Octopus, 2011); the paperback was re-titled Around the World in 120 Recipes and came out in June 2013.
Big Table Busy Kitchen (Quercus, 2013)
Winner of the ‘Best Female Chef Cookbook’ in the World Gourmand Awards 2013.
Quick Quick Slow (Kyle Books, October 2016)
Jolly Good Food (Hachette Children’s 2017), based on the food in Enid Blyton’s books, and Allegra’s first foray into children’s cookery.
The Good Stuff
Allegra is a proud and active Patron of the Fairtrade Foundation and an ambassador for Compassion in World Farming. She is also a Patron of The Food Chain, a charity that teaches people with HIV and AIDS how to eat and cook in a way that supports a healthy lifestyle.
In January 2020 Allegra set up a brand new bespoke children’s teaching kitchen at her daughter’s school and started running weekly cookery classes for Years 4, 5 & 6 as part of the curriculum. In the first lesson the children all make bread, butter and jam from scratch in an hour…“because armed with a jam sandwich anything is possible in life”, says Allegra.
In 2008, Allegra was awarded the MBE for services to the hospitality industry, with the citation of promoting healthier eating and ethical sourcing in the UK.
In 2020 she was offered an Honorary Doctorate of the Arts by Oxford Brookes University, which she looks forward to receiving post-lockdown!
Allegra lives in West London with her two daughters; Delilah, 10, and Marnie (aka “The CEO”), 3.