Career Profile: James Hatswell

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chef

James Hatswell spent eight years working as a cook in the Royal Navy
James Hatswell spent eight years working as a cook in the Royal Navy
Chef James Hatswell trained at HMS Raleigh’s Cookery School after joining the Navy at 16. During his eight years in the forces he visited 36 countries, developing a love of global cuisine. He currently runs a tight ship as head chef at the Heron Restaurant at Denham Court Mansion in Buckinghamshire.

How I got to where I am now:

I joined the Royal Navy when I was 16. There, I had discipline, pride, leadership, time management and most important of all, team work drilled in to me on a daily basis. After eight weeks of basic training in a number of areas, including marching with a rifle, first aid and firefighting, came cookery school.

It was at the Cookery School at HMS Raleigh where I first learnt to cook. Bill Ferguson, who recently appeared on Heston Blumenthal's TV show Mission Impossible, was my instructor and a great chef. Everything was on schedule and ran like clockwork in his kitchen. Every Morning we would be inspected to make sure our shoes were highly polished and shiny, our chef whites were pristine white with sharp creases where they should be and that we were clean shaven with a short haircut. We all looked so smart and uniformed and felt so proud to be standing where we were.

After cookery school I was drafted to my first ship HMS Cardiff where I hit the ground running and where I worked with some great chefs, one of them being Ian Spencer who now works for the Queen.

In all I spent eight years in the Royal Navy cooking around the world and during that time I learnt so much and matured so quickly. Without that experience I wouldn't be who I am today.

When I left the Royal Navy I went into fine dining and worked with an inspirational head chef Jason Tate, who was just as disciplined and organised as the officers I'd worked with in the Navy, so working with him was great. From then I went to Elizabeth's House in Devon as a sous chef before being approached for the position of head chef at Buckinghamshire Golf Club, where I have been for nearly two years now. The Buckinghamshire is gorgeous, the location is breathtaking and so picturesque and the course is a pleasure to play (when I'm not in the kitchen of course).

My greatest challenge:

It was the transition from sailor chef to a civilian chef. I left the security of the Royal Navy in the middle of a recession which was pretty scary, but with determination, passion, believing in myself and the support of friends I am now on the career path I want to be.

My biggest achievement:

Serving my country in the Royal Navy and being awarded my second medal for operations in Iraq where I spent almost a year under mortar fire working alongside some of the bravest men and women I have ever met.

My inspiration:

The people I served with in the Royal Navy. My life has been like a jigsaw, where I have taken something away from everyone I have worked with. The jigsaw is not complete, however, I still have so much more I want to achieve.

What I love about my job:

I love going into work. Buckinghamshire Golf Club is stunning. It's surrounded by two rivers and hundres of acres of green, so how could you not come to work with a smile on your face? I also love the freedom and variety of the menus I write - I do a number of bespoke menus for clients, so sitting with them and giving them what they really want by using my experience and knowledge of travelling is great. I do a lot of VIP functions so I get the chance to really blow people away with presentation and bring colours and flavours together to make a great dish.

If I hadn't become a chef I'd be......

still in the Royal Navy, but as a medic or a pilot, maybe because I watched too much Top Gun.

Related topics: People, Restaurants, Career Profile

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