Stoppard's Boy Rewrites Fast Food; Barny, Son of Playwright Tom Stoppard, Tells Nick Curtis How He Is Determined to Revolutionise Our Takeaways

The Evening Standard (London, England), August 16, 2006 | Go to article overview

Stoppard's Boy Rewrites Fast Food; Barny, Son of Playwright Tom Stoppard, Tells Nick Curtis How He Is Determined to Revolutionise Our Takeaways


Byline: NICK CURTIS

TOM STOPPARD hasn't bankrolled his son Barnaby's pioneering healthy fast-food stall and foodie internet resource, Barny's Place. But both Barny's parents sowed the gastronomic seeds that led this filmmaker and specialeffects wizard to open an upmarket takeaway, and to set about helping Londoners explore online the hidden epicurean delights of their city and the world.

"My love of food comes from my mother," says 35-year-old Barny, "and there are certain dishes she made for me as a kid, such as Hunter's Stew (beef and bacon), that I hope to offer as winter specials at the stall. Also, growing up with my dad, inevitably I got to eat in good places all around the world."

In 1990, while studying video art at Bournemouth, Barny accompanied his dad to the Stockholm Film Festival, and "got hugely drunk" with veteran indie producer Roger Corman, who offered him a job as a runner in LA.

He graduated to directing music videos in London, then wrote and directed an action film, Happy Maghee, featuring Jude Law and Ewan McGregor, supporting himself by cheffing in gastropubs at night. "It taught me that, although I love to cook on a big scale, I don't like line cooking, which is kind of like having a fight," he says.

When his partner Ashleigh got pregnant in 2000 (with their daughter Eden; their son Brodie followed two years later) with the film still only "95 per cent finished", Barny retrained, first as a DVD technician, then as a digital artist, and worked on computer effects for Harry Potter, Batman Begins and Kingdom of Heaven.

For years, though, he had been pondering why there was no healthy, fast-food equivalent of McDonald's around, "something that you'd feel good about eating even after you'd eaten it".

Barny is the second son of Stoppard's first marriage, to nurse Josie Ingle.

His parents split up in 1972 when he was a year old, and Barny and his older brother Oliver and half-brothers Edmund and William were raised in a " minimansion" outside Slough by Stoppard and his second wife, agony aunt Dr Miriam Stoppard.

FOR a while, Barny lived an odd dual life of privilege offset by fortnightly stays with his mother, who lived in hippy communes for a number of years and later settled in a modest flat in Hemel Hempstead.

He also suffered from the facial-paralysis disorder Bell's Palsy at 14 (he has had four reconstructive operations to make his mouth work).

He says he felt an outsider when young, but he clearly possesses a core of confidence vital in his new venture. "Miriam said to me once - and I think this is the one great thing she and my dad gave me - that you should never be afraid to ask, and never be afraid to try," he says.

When Josie died of a heart attack in 2004, he inherited a sum big enough to open a gourmet sausage sandwich stall on Saturdays in Broadway farmers' market, near his Hackney home.

"It was great, but I was working till 2am on films and hulking gas canisters around at the weekend," Barny says. "I had to give it up when Ashleigh threatened to leave me. …

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