An absolute pleasure in chatting with the inspirational President of the Restaurant Association Robert Walton MBE who founded The Nth Degree Global and is Chairman of Young Chef Young Waiter.
1. Lovely to have the opportunity to chat with you both, Robert and Donna; I’d like to start with the present. So how’s life been for you?
Thank you for having us. We’re wonderful, thank you, we’ve been in Langdon Court properly for a couple of months, so we are delighted.
2. You purchased a Jacobean Manor House hotel, Langdon Court, in 2021. Has it been a labour of love?
Yes, it was love at first sight! Langdon Court is a special place that stretches back to the Doomsday Book. We feel a great deal of responsibility to restore it for future generations. We are making progress with the house and the grounds, but we know it will take years to bring her back to her former glory.
3. May I ask who decided on your wedding at St.Paul’s Cathedral?
That was me! As I have an MBE, which the Queen awarded in 2007, I was able to get married in St Paul’s Cathedral in May 2010. It seemed the perfect place to walk down the aisle with Donna. I did most of the organising as working in the events industry; I knew exactly what to do.
4. You became president of the Restaurant Association in 2008; how has the role changed your outlook on fellow restauranteurs? What does the part mean to you?
I feel fortunate to be president and think I’m the longest-serving president. I believe it is so important to give back to the industry; actually, that is a massive part of the work I do as Chairman of the World Young Chef Young Waiter competition.
5. I was pleased when in 2019, you revived the World Young Chef Young Waiter competition; how is this going?
Thank you, it was a decision that was well received in the hospitality industry. We are keen to promote hospitality as a career of choice, a profession and a vocation. This year we have taken the competition globally to eight countries, with a World Final planned for Monaco in November.
6. You received your MBE in 2007; please tell me it was the most beautiful day.
Yes, it is the most emotional and best day of your life.
I attended the ceremony with my mum and two children. I shared the day with wonderful people, including Kylie Minogue and Jo Malone, who received an OBE and MBE, respectively. The recent passing of Queen Elizabeth II has brought back a lot of memories from this day. I have felt very sad to lose our extraordinary Monarch and I was very lucky to meet her in person.
7. How did your life change when you were diagnosed with tongue cancer?
My life changed completely. When I was diagnosed, Donna and I focused entirely on getting through the months of treatment. We are very positive people, so we look toward the future. After tongue cancer, my palette was different, and I’ve been discovering different tastes all over again. There are many things I can no longer eat or drink, but I’ve found plenty that I do still enjoy. I now support the Oracle Cancer Trust and raise funds for them.
8. The Nth Degree Club is precisely what?
I started The Nth Degree Club in 2013 to unite like-minded people who enjoy fine dining. I’ve always loved food since I trained as a West-End chef. I also have an invaluable network of friends in the hospitality sector and beyond, so I bring it all together in beautiful venues. The Nth Degree Club has celebrated exclusive events in prestigious locations across London, including Hide, SushiSamba, Core by Clare Smyth, City Social, La Dame De Pic and Quaglino’s.
9. Donna’s nickname for you has undoubtedly gathered momentum across your social media platforms, particularly Instagram; how did that come about?
I met Donna the same year she opened her first store in Chelsea. At the time, I was wearing a waistcoat and tie, and she thought I was so well turned out that she called me Bobby Dazzler! I always like to be well dressed, so it suits me.
10. Do you still have a penchant for handkerchiefs?
Absolutely! I have a lot of my clothes made by Simon Dowling Bespoke.
11. You’ve created a super following on Instagram with your cooking videos; which are the stand-out dishes and celebrities?
I started cooking in Lockdown and fell back in love with cooking all over again. My favourite dish would have to be a beautiful Lobster Thermidor which I cooked for our tenth wedding anniversary. For celebrities, I adored cooking Vongole for Vogue Williams and Chicken Gyros for Georgia Toffolo.
12. You made a great couple, and the dynamics are superbly well documented on Insta. Has it been a great collaboration through both your lives and businesses?
Oh yes, we always like to keep everything positive, happy and as stress-free as possible. We work so well together and split responsibilities to play to our strengths.
13. Are you working on a cookbook? If so, will it be based on The Human Being Diet recipes?
I suppose I have a digital version of a CookBook with my YouTube and Instagram channels. I love sharing my recipes with my audience on Instagram stories, and so we’ve edited them for YouTube. Donna loves simple, healthy dishes, so she does follow Petronella Ravenshear’s The Human Being Diet.
You can find links here:
Robert Walton MBE YouTube channel
Robert Walton MBE Instagram
Donna Ida Recipes
Donna Ida Instagram
Langdon Court Instagram