Brett Graham, the Australian chef whose two Michelin-starred restaurant The Ledbury scooped the Highest Climber award at this year's World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards, has admitted the accolade will put further pressure on his Notting Hill team.
The Ledbury rocketed 20 places to number 14 when the list was revealed to the world at London's Guildhall earlier this week; it was the second special award for the restaurant after Graham accepted the Highest New Entry prize a year earlier.
Brett Graham's big challenge
Before taking to the stage to collect the award, Brett Graham had spoken to BigHospitality on the purple carpet outside the Guildhall and said making the list for the first time in 2011 had been a big boost to the business after the 55-cover venue had struggled early on.
However after the 50 winning chefs had posed for the annual group photo at the awards, Graham admitted climbing so many places was a big shock and would put more pressure on the team to improve.
"It is a massive jump. I never would have dreamed The Ledbury would be placed above the people that it is. We have had to stop bookings up to three months in advance because it got out of control. People come in with huge expectations now so we need to rise to the challenge - and it is a big challenge."
"There are so many fantastic restaurants on that top 50 list and we are chuffed to be part of it but it will place more pressure on the team and more pressure on the restaurant for bookings - it becomes incredibly hard to manage that."
The Ledbury opened in 2005 and showcases a seasonal menu with the New South Wales-born chef favouring traditional British ingredients such as salt marsh lamb, lobster and wild roe deer. Graham, who earlier in the day had helped promote the UK food scene by cooking at 10 Downing Street , is known for his low-key approach and made a point of explaining the award was first and foremost a recognition of a strong team.
"We are a seven day a week restaurant; I can't do it by myself. I have got a fantastic sous-chef, Greg Austin, and the rest of the team that have been there for years. They are the ones doing the work day in, day out alongside me. We have got a young, dynamic team who just pull together every day and make it happen."
Many of the team at The Ledbury are fellow 'Aussies' including long-standing restaurant manager Stephen Quinn.
The Highest Climber accolade is just the latest prize for the much-decorated restaurant. The Ledbury has topped the National Restaurant Awards for two years running and it has also been recognized by Harden's, Michelin, The Sunday Times and countless satisfied diners. Graham admitted he was sure other restaurants would soon take the place as 'flavour of the month'.
"A restaurant could be really hot this year and next year and the year after - not do anything different but someone else new opens and so that becomes the favourite. Every time someone comes to London; instead of coming to The Ledbury in a few years they will be going to somewhere else and that will become the place that is firing on all cylinders at that time."
The big question is where all the awards and prizes are displayed? Graham revealed to BigHospitality The Ledbury would not be showing off the trophy, or any other. "No awards go on show in the restaurant ever. They go to the kitchen for a week, or two, until I realise we are probably about to break it. It normally gets home and then my fiancé lets me leave it on the shelf for a week and then it normally gets wrapped up somewhere safe to keep for years to come."