Restaurant and BigHospitality went in search of the next generation of great British cooking talent. And, boy, did we find some.
Once you have finished reading this feature bookmark it or print it out and keep it somewhere safe. No really. It might be a useful reference for the future. Because if you don’t recognise all the faces here now – and the chances are you won’t – you soon will.
We love to feature the big name British chefs but we got to thinking about who we would be falling over to interview 10 years from now when the likes of Ramsay, Heston and Caines are old news (sorry guys). So we asked top chefs, food writers, reviewers and experts to identify which young British talent they think will be the next stars of the future. And then, rather than wait 10 years, we thought we’d speak to them now.
There were a lot of names that came our way, but some cropped up time and again. The result is that we’ve been able to pinpoint the UK’s most exciting young talent: 12 chefs, all under 30.
We’re not just talking about the cream of the capital, either. We’ve scoured the country and chefs in our line-up come from Scotland, Carlisle, Bristol, the Home Counties and even the Isle of Wight.
Some of them you might have heard of, others you won’t. Some have already carved out a name for themselves in top kitchens while others have won culinary contests. Some run their own restaurants, some aspire to. Some have Michelin stars, others will no doubt join them.
They all share one thing in common – they are destined for greatness. Within this pack are the next Wareings, Marcos and Ramsays.
Head chef, Le Pont de la Tour (28)
Lee Bennett’s mantra is to stay a minimum of one year in a job, a maximum of two. It’s an attitude that has seen him work under some of the best chefs in the business in some far-flung places, including opening Gordon Ramsay’s Verre in Dubai and working with Alain Ducasse and Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. More recently he won the admiration of Marcus Wareing while head chef at the Savoy Grill. At 27 Bennet also became the youngest chef to win the Craft Guild of Chefs
Pastry chef, The Hand and Flowers (22)
At only 22 Butcher makes some of the other guns in the list look like pensioners. Poached from the kitchens of Adlard’s in Norwich in 2005 by Tom Kerridge, Butcher spent six months as a pastry chef at the chef’s acclaimed Marlow pub before taking a year out to learn bread-making and baking at East Anglia’s artisan bakery Metfield. Now back at the Hand and Flowers, he heads up the pastry section and meets regularly with top chocolatier and pastry chef Damien Allsop for top tips. His future looks sweet.
Junior sous chef, The Grill at Dakota Forth Bridge (24)
Cameron’s recognition of good food began at an early age when his mother introduced him to the delights of home-grown vegetables. A passion for top quality produce is now central to his cooking and has influenced his career, prompting him to work at Edinburgh’s seasonally- focused Roxburghe Hotel and do a stint in Austria, before moving to The Grill under Rick Stein protege Roy Brett. He was a member of the team that won the The Grill the title Scottish Seafood Restaurant of the Year 2009.
Head Chef, Texture (26)
It’s easier to say where Dabbous hasn’t worked given the experience the 26-year-old has already clocked up. But, for the record, his CV includes The Fat Duck, Pierre Gagnaire, Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Hibiscus, Murgaritz and Noma. Now at London’s Texture, he is part of a team making waves in modern European dining. But for how long? Dabbous’ future ambitions are to open a restaurant and bar in London with two former work colleagues. He is definitely one to keep tabs on.
Head chef, L’Autre Pied (27)
One-time protege of Shane Osborn at sister restaurant Pied a Terre, Eaves became a star in his own right in January after receiving his first Michelin star. At just 27 he heads up one of London’s most exciting restaurants, winning accolades such as Time Out Eating and Drinking Awards Best New Restaurant 2008 and Square Meal’s Best New Restaurant 2008. Expect more success in the future. “I’ve always worked in top end restaurants and I want to keep pushing forwards,” he says.
Head chef, The Pass (28)
Gillan made his mark this year when Horsham-based restaurant The Pass received three AA Rosettes after only three months of opening, a feat which caught even him by surprise. The former commis chef at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and senior chef de partie at The Vineyard at Stockcross, has really hit form at The Pass and aims to turn it into a destination restaurant for West Sussex. “It’s a unique concept,” he says. “It’s in a country house hotel but when you walk through it’s like stepping into Narnia.”
Head chef and owner, Bijou (25)
Hill’s victory in the Nestle Toque d’Or back in 2004 was the springboard for not only a successful career as a chef but also as restaurateur. The owner of Bijou in Carlisle, and one time chef under Angela Hartnett at the Connaught, says the catering college competition has enabled him to build a successful business. Expansion plans for the restaurant are under way and Hill says his ambition is for Bijou to become the first restaurant in Carlisle to gain a Michelin star. Watch this space.
Chef, Casamia (23)
A shared passion for food, a desire to be the best at what they do and incredibly supportive parents have helped brothers Jonray and Peter become some of the hottest siblings in cooking since the Roux brothers. The pair rubber-stamped their credentials in January this year when Casamia, the family-owned Italian restaurant in Bristol which they took over three years ago, won its first Michelin star. The restaurant’s style is typified by Jonray’s particularly high standards when it comes to produce and his dedication to seeking out top producers in the area.
Chef, Casamia (22)
The quieter of the two brothers, Peter lets his cooking do the talking. Having passed everything he learnt at college on to his older brother at their former restaurant, Fratelli, in Cheltenham, he loves the fact that they can discuss ideas together. “We take inspiration from everywhere, but we also inspire each other,” he says. While they rely on each other for inspiration, the brothers agree they owe a great deal to their parents Susan and Paco, who they regard as their biggest influence. The pair are now a force to be reckoned with.
Chef de partie, Claridge’s (23)
Though one of the youngest on the list, Squire is far from short on experience having worked at London’s Claridge’s for almost eight years after leaving school at 16. He is already building an impressive CV for himself as well, having won The UK Skills event for cooking and representing the UK at the 2007 World Skills Event in Japan. More recently, Squire was named Best Young Chef at the 2008 Craft Guild of Chefs Awards. An appearance on Ready Steady Cook thrust Squire into the limelight back in 2008; it’s a place he’s likely to stay for a while yet.
Chef patron, The Hambrough (26)
Thompson has caught the eye of a number of food writers for the impact he is already having on the Isle of Wight since June 2007 when he left his job as head chef at Waldo’s at Cliveden to open The Hambrough – a restaurant with seven rooms – in Ventnor. Having gained his first Michelin star at just 23 he has already won the island its first star just five months into the job. It won’t stop there though: Thompson is keen to turn the region into the ultimate foodie destination.
Head chef, Launceston Place (29)
Welch is probably the best-known of the young stars thanks to his former position as head chef at P»trus and numerous TV appearances, but while he may be moving ever closer to ‘celebrity chef’ status his feet remain firmly on the ground. The same can’t be said of his profile, however, which continues to soar following his successful relaunch of Launceston Place in March 2008. With his first child on the way, UK diners everywhere will have their fingers crossed that the chef line continues.
Photos by John Carey