How I got here:
Whilst at catering college I was working at a hotel in Southampton called Botleigh Grange, and over six years worked my way up from potwash to chef de partie.
After a recommendation from a friend I left to work at the Lanesborough Hotel in Hyde Park, London, but I’m a country boy at heart and I just couldn’t settle. I was living in Dulwich so it was a real shock to the system moving up from Hampshire.
I decided to stick it out a year, to get it on my CV, but I eventually went back to Botleigh Grange as sous chef for another five years. By the time I was 28 I was head chef and had two rosettes.
By that point I was stuck in a rut and had gone through a divorce. I thought if I’m going to cook for the rest of my life I need to be somewhere good rather than stewing in the same place.
I left for a position as junior sous chef at Monsieur Max in Hampton Hill. Tom Kerridge, who now owns the Hand & Flowers in Marlow was my senior sous chef. That was a big turning point for me as it was my first Michelin starred kitchen. It was a great experience to learn new ingredients, new techniques and things I’ve never seen before. It set me on my path really and gave me a base to grow from.
A year later I ended up at West Stoke House where I stayed for the next seven years. Myself and the owners started the restaurant from scratch and by 2008 I was awarded my first Michelin star. Unfortunately the owner was given an opportunity too good to pass up and sold the property to a private owner in November 2010.
That was where my first contact with Alan Murchison came. Tom introduced me and we hit it off straight away. Now I’m on the verge of opening his latest venue in Dartmouth.
On leaving London:
I’ll not go back to work in London again. I’m a country boy at heart from the South Downs area, born and raised in Winchester and spent the last seven years in Chichester. Dartmouth fits in with that beautiful area. I’m not a big city boy - I don’t feel comfortable there. I’m enjoying my fishing and going for walks in the fresh air - you don’t get to do that a lot in London.
On getting my first star:
My background had been so boring and dire up to the point I started at West Stoke House that I decided to use my time teaching myself to cook properly. I spent four years researching loads of cookbooks and finding a style that suited me, and eventually got a repertoire of dishes together. After four years in the job I was awarded a rising star, and went on to achieve the full thing in 2008.
On my biggest regret:
I think I shouldn’t have stayed at Botleigh so long. I got comfortable and was given silly pay rises to stay on, but with hindsight maybe I should have left sooner and done something else. But I’m in a good space now with a Michelin star held for the last three years, so it’s not all bad. Perhaps without doing that journey I wouldn’t be where I am today.
On finding Alan Murchison:
Me and Alan have gotten on so well the last few months, and I can see a long term relationship happening. Alan presented me a fantastic opportunity to work in an environment where you have the backup and support of what’s getting to be a large organisation. There’s a fantastic work ethic between everyone and we share ideas and suppliers.
On my future:
I love Dartmouth, and I’m not one to move around every couple of years. I can feel myself still being in Dartmouth, full to capacity every service and making people happy in years to come. And fingers crossed maybe I’ll even have a star, you never know.