Russell Norman

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Russell Norman
Born(1965-12-09)9 December 1965
West London, England
DiedNovember 23, 2023(2023-11-23) (aged 57)
EducationHeathland School
Alma materUniversity of Sunderland

Russell Norman (9 December 1965 – 23 November 2023) was a British restaurateur, chef, teacher and author.[1] In the early 2010s, he gained a unique reputation and identity as "the coolest man in food". He co-founded Polpo, a renowned Venetian-style tapas restaurant in London,[2] and the Italian restaurant Brutto.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Russell Norman was born on 9 December 1965 in Perivale, Ealing, West London, one of six sons.[5]

He grew up in the Twickenham suburbs and attended the Heathland School in Hounslow, West London. There, he excelled at drama,[6] and later studied English at the University of Sunderland.[7]

Norman's fondness for Shakespeare came to supersede his interest in sport, to his family's bemusement. Russell portrayed himself as the "black sheep of the family".[7]

Culinary career[edit]

After his graduation, he began his career as an arts administrator at Easington District Council. Then he returned to London and commenced work as a barman at Joe Allen and then worked there for several years in various capacities.[7] He subsequently worked as GM at Circus in Soho, and at Zuma in Knightsbridge prior to taking on the role of Operations Director at Caprice Holdings.[8]

Norman's adaptation of the informal American or Italian eatery and hotel atmospheres would shift the British hotel industry paradigm. At the time, British restaurants were highly formal, unlike their foreign competitors. In 2009, Norman and Richard Beatty opened Polpo in Soho, London;[9] the new restaurant introduced novel small plates, loud music, and waiters with tattoos and bed hair. He also refused to accept customer reservations.[7][10] His unconventional formula soon became the talk of the town, and other London restaurants emulated his ideology.[7]

Norman and Richard Beatty became long-term business partners, opening 17 more restaurants (4 of which in London) and catering to a wide customer range.[7] In 2020, he withdrew from Polpo Group when financial constraints from the UK COVID-19 pandemic response inhibited promised employee pay-outs.[jargon].[7][11] Norman opened Trattoria Brutto, a restaurant inspired by Florentine trattorie with a touch of New York, independently in October 2021.[12]

He often emphasized work-life balance and workplace–micro-management avoidance.[13] He also demonstrated great admiration and appreciation of Italian culture.[3]


In 2014, he mentored novice and emerging restaurateurs on the BBC Two series The Restaurant Man. He also appeared as a guest cook for a few episodes of the British television series Saturday Kitchen.[3]

His first cookbook, Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (of Sorts),[14] eventually won the inaugural Waterstones Book of the Year Award in 2012.[3] His second book, Spuntino: Comfort Food, won the Guild of Food Writers Award in 2016.[15] His third book, Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking, was published by Fig Tree,[13] and his fourth book, Brutto: A (Simple) Florentine Cookbook, was published in November 2023.[3] He was also briefly a contributing editor to Esquire and to Noble Rot magazine.


Norman died unexpectedly on 23 November 2023, at age 57;[3][9][16] the inquest into Norman's death on 10 February 2024 revealed he had died from suicide by hanging.[17][18]


  1. ^ "Russell Norman". Amazon. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  2. ^ Lee, Jeremy (26 November 2023). "'We all fell madly in love with him. He was a joy.' Remembering the chef Russell Norman". Food. The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 26 November 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Hill, Amelia (24 November 2023). "Restaurateur and author Russell Norman dies aged 57". Restaurants. The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 November 2023. Reproduced word-for-word as Hill, Amelia. "Restaurateur and author Russell Norman dies aged 57". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 November 2023.
  4. ^ Norman, Russell (28 October 2023). "Russell Norman's recipe for Lady and the Tramp's spaghetti with meatballs". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  5. ^ Little, Harriet Fitch. "Russell Norman, restaurateur, 1965–2023". The Financial Times. Nikkei. Archived from the original on 30 November 2023. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  6. ^ Sweeney, Tom (27 November 2023). "Russell Norman was not just a celebrated chef, but a talented actor too". Letters. The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Russell Norman, restaurateur behind Polpo who blazed a trail with small plates and no reservations – obituary". The Telegraph. 24 November 2023. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 26 November 2023.
  8. ^ Cooke, Rachel. "Russell Norman: the new king of Soho dining".
  9. ^ a b "Russell Norman: Restaurateur, author and Saturday Kitchen chef dies aged 57". Sky News. Retrieved 26 November 2023.
  10. ^ Rayner, Jay (24 November 2023). "Russell Norman and his small plates changed British dining for ever". Comment is Free. The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 26 November 2023.
  11. ^ Reynolds, George (15 February 2022). "Opening nightmare: launching a restaurant into a world stricken by Covid and Brexit". The Long Read. The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  12. ^ Ellis, David. "Russell Norman: Trattoria Brutto is a chance to reset the record, go back to basics and do what I love".
  13. ^ a b Hayes, Martha (7 April 2018). "Russell Norman: 'It's 20 years since I was a chef. I still wake up in a cold sweat'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 November 2023.
  14. ^ Norman, Russell (2012). Polpo: a Venetian cookbook (of sorts). London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781408816790. OL 26035809M.
  15. ^ Norman, Russell (23 July 2018). Spuntino: Comfort Food (New York Style). Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4088-4718-3.
  16. ^ Cumming, Ed (27 November 2023). "Farewell to restaurateur Russell Norman, a true food original". Comment. The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  17. ^ Bashforth, Emily (10 February 2024). "BBC star and restaurateur Russell Norman's cause of death confirmed". Metro. Retrieved 10 February 2024.
  18. ^ Castle, Liane (10 February 2024). "Saturday Kitchen chef and Polpo founder Russell Norman took own life in home near Ashford, inquest hears". Kent Online. Retrieved 10 February 2024.