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26 February 2014updated 28 Jun 2021 4:45am

Why would anyone be snooty about Tony Gallagher swapping the newsroom for the kitchen?

The former Telegraph editor's stint at Moro restaurant reveals an unspoken assumption: it's hard to imagine a man having an appetite for more than power and money in his work.

By Sarah Ditum

Here’s a rum thing. Man has demanding, high-paying job for many years. Man loses his job in the brutal tectonic shifts of management politics. Man cheerfully takes up new occupation related to a beloved pastime, in a totally different field to that of his former glories and recent tumble. Hang on, that doesn’t sound rum at all. That just sounds sensible. Except that the man is Tony Gallagher, recently deposed Telegraph editor who followed up news of his exit with the announcement that he was going to work at the restaurant Moro, and recently deposed newspaper editors aren’t supposed to take their deposing like that.

A newspaper editor is a Public Figure, and when they stop being editors, they’re required to carry on being Public Figures. Get a column. Run a think-tank. Move into spin doctoring. Less advisedly, you could become the defendant in a front-page dominating criminal case – not ideal, admittedly, but still public and therefore still allowed. Jaunting off to carry vegetables and chopping chilis? Not the done thing, not at all. And so the tone of reserved, almost disdainful surprise in reports of Gallagher’s culinary venture.

The Evening Standard did a little light investigative work to make sure Gallagher wasn’t just having a joke. The International Business Times thought he might be taking the piss too. And the Guardian’s Media Monkey suspected he was merely serving out a bit of time before his real opportunity emerged. But what if he isn’t? What if the kitchen truly is his spiritual home? Having waitressed in the restaurant of an up-itself country hotel as a teen, I’d rather shut myself in a meat locker than ever put myself at the mercy of a stroppy dessert chef again, but then I’ve never had to be at the mercy of the Barclay brothers either, so what do I know about stress?

And looking at Gallagher’s twitpics, he’s a man who loves food. That’s not “loves food” in the sense of lovingly piling all the crisps into one’s loving mouth, but “loves food” in the sense that every dish looks to have been prepared with the joyful attention of someone who takes pleasure in cooking as a craft:

No, gutting fish probably doesn’t compare in power terms with filleting MPs’ careers by exposing their expenses. Maybe power isn’t everything that a life should aspire to. Maybe you can hope to enjoy your work, not just dish out and receive bollockings while grinding your way to another raise.

Obviously enjoying work is a little easier to look for when you have the proceeds of a Fleet Street editor’s job to support you, and obviously Gallagher may well sack off the harissa and run away to head a board of trustees on some august public body anyway. But I don’t want him to. I look at Tony Gallagher, a happy man with a paring knife in his hand, and I think: here is hope. Here is humanity. Here is an excellent Moroccan-style lamb if only you could book a table, which you can’t, because every hack is London is probably stuffing the place out this week.

So, no cynicism please, and no subtle snarking that this must be a brief dawdle on the way to something better, because this already is something better. Tony Gallagher, you are a promise to all of us that the freedom of the craftsman is just a career mishap away (n.b. assuming the career mishap dishes you out as a higher-rate taxpayer, not someone scrimping at minimum wage) (further n.b. assuming there is a welcoming practitioner of your chosen craft to take you in) (actually, last n.b. this probably isn’t a widely applicable promise after all. Sorry). Nevertheless, and all qualifiers aside: if you’re amused by a man having an appetite for more than power and money in his work, I imagine your life must taste pretty thin.

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