Anthony Warner – alias blogger turned author the Angry Chef – is on a mission to confront the ‘alternative facts’ surrounding nutritional fads and myths
Sunday 18 June 2017
A few minutes into my encounter with the Angry Chef, I begin to wonder if his moniker might be ironic, like the big guy whose friends call him “Tiny”. On the basis of his excoriating blog – which exposes “lies, pretensions and stupidity in the world of food” – I had been expecting a bilious, splenetic man with wild eyes, his skin covered in tattoos. Instead, I’m sat across from a mild-mannered nerdy type with a tidy beard and black-framed spectacles. Unlike his writing, which is showered with profanities, he hasn’t sworn once. In fact, he picks his words very deliberately, as if there’s a legal and fact-checking team working overtime in his brain.
“I expected you to be a bit more … furious,” I finally say. “Do you have a temper?”
The Angry Chef, aka 44-year-old Anthony Warner, considers this, shakes his head. “Not at all,” he says. “People who know me and see the blog say, ‘You’re not angry at all!’ No, I was never one of the shouty, scary chefs. Perhaps slightly intimidating sometimes, but only in a quiet, I-don’t-know-what-he’s-going-to-do sort of way.”
“What about the swearing?” I ask.
“I can if you want,” Warner replies. “But no, I don’t rant, I don’t swear nearly as much in real life as I do on my blog.”
The Angry Chef’s first post on 30 December 2015 consisted of a few pointed thoughts on going sugar-free. He was anonymous back then and there were a couple of reasons for that. Warner liked the idea of writing in character: while he stands by everything he writes, the Angry Chef persona allows him to be more confrontational and unhinged. The other reason was that he wasn’t sure what his bosses would think of his new creation. After a decade as a “decent but unremarkable” chef in professional kitchens, Warner became a development cook for Premier Foods, a large commercial food manufacturer. He has spent the last 10 years creating recipes for the likes of Oxo, Mr Kipling, Loyd Grossman and Ambrosia.
This anonymity did not last long. The Angry Chef’s railing against the trend for clean-eating and wellness bloggers, his frustration at the miraculous properties assigned to kale and coconut oil quickly found an audience. The Sun asked Warner to contribute to an article about “Insta-gurus’ diet advice”, and Ben Goldacre, one of his anti-pseudoscience heroes, tweeted his approval. New Scientist commissioned Warner to write for them, a gratifying nod for a self-described “science geek” who has a degree in biochemistry from Manchester University.
Now a book, The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating, is out next month. It is a systematic, densely footnoted, and often very funny takedown of pretty much every food fad that has taken hold in recent years: detox, alkaline, ash and paleo diets among them. If you believe superfoods exist, then Warner will have some strong words to make you reconsider. Likewise, if you’re convinced there’s no possible defence for sugar or processed food, then he wants you to take another look at the evidence.
In an age of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, of “Deliciously Ella” Mills, and Hemsley and Hemsley, these somehow seem quite radical ideas. “A lot of the clean-eating people, I just think they have a broken relationship with the truth,” says Warner. “They’re selling something that is impossible to justify in the context of evidence-based medicine.