After running the Camellia at Exclusive Hotels’ South Lodge Hotel for over 10 years, executive chef Lewis Hamblet decided to downgrade and give protégé Matt Gillan centre stage with the hotels second restaurant, The Pass.
There is daily competition between the chefs in the group as we’ve all got a common goal. We’re even competitive down to who has highest scores for food hygiene. But it’s only healthy rivalry and only helps raise the standard of the group.
The most accomplished chef in the group is Michael Wignall at Pennyhill Park’s The Latymer, and we all understand that. But we also know that Matt Gillan here at The Pass is rising up the ranks as well. He’s one for the future. I’m proud of that because he was my boy originally – I hired him as head chef of the Camellia.
It’ll be difficult to argue against Matt getting a Michelin star. He was ranked 33rd best restaurant in the UK by the Good Food Guide. We don’t want to count our chickens but he’s got a good chance.
I wouldn’t say there’s an inconsistency in the guides, just a varying expectation. It’s good that Michelin has a different ethos to the Good Food Guide and the AA, as otherwise you just get the same people winning all the time.
The Camellia was hanging onto the olden days of fine dining and sending a confused message. Because The Pass is our fine dining offer now, we eventually decided to take away the Camellia’s accolades and informalise it.
The Camellia was my baby, but I’m quite happy to bask in Matt’s reflected glory now.
As a hotel chef you have to decide early on in your career whether you want to be a Michelin-starred chef or go for an executive role where you often don’t get all the glory. I don’t want to be a 50-something chef running round a kitchen chasing a Michelin star, I’m quite happy now to hand the baton over.
Hotel restaurants let hotels down. We would advertise the restaurant and hotel in the yellow pages separately, so people don’t get put off by the fact we’re in a hotel. Sometimes it’s a struggle to get people in because they think they have to be staying to eat here.
There’s often an expectation from the guest that they have to dress up for dinner. That misconception is still so common. Sometimes you do get hotels where the concierge looks up and down and mumbles that you’re not dressed appropriately. But you have to change the attitude of the staff before you can change that of the guest.