How I Got Here: Lee Streeton

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Lee Streeton head chef of Art Yard Bar & Kitchen restaurant London

Related tags: Casual dining, Restaurant

Lee Streeton’s cooking CV includes Caprice Holdings and Hix Mayfair. He is currently head chef of Art Yard Bar & Kitchen

Why restaurants?
In my teenage years I was a bit of a tear away but then ended up washing dishes at The Crown in Staplehay, which taught me a discipline and provided a route into this wonderful industry.

Tell us something you wish you’d been told at the start of your career?
That I would have to start taking photos of food on a phone. I’m still not really into that whole social media thing – I start and then stop, but I am slowly getting there.  

What do you do in your spare time?
I try out new restaurants and enjoy drinking fine wines and Guinness. I really want to buy a boat in Brixham… if my wife will allow it.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
For me the best restaurant group in London is still Caprice Holdings. The food and service across the whole group is faultless. I worked there for 12 years and loved every moment. My goddaughter is currently doing some work experience at The Ivy and she’s loving it – all the chefs are really looking after her. That’s what the industry is all about.  I’ve also been to Oystermen [in Covent Garden] a couple of times recently and love the seafood there. The whole crab is a must. Also, our neighbours The Anchor & Hope, just down the road from Art Yard in Southwark, is fantastic, particularly the eight-hour lamb.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
I’d be a fisherman or in the Special Boat Service.

What motivates you?
Building a team and a busy restaurant with happy customers and giving the chefs a good foundation to grow in their career. That’s something I’ve been really mindful of when building the team at Art Yard and am fortunate to have a great bunch of people in place.

Where was your last holiday?
Kalkan in Turkey. It was simply amazing. We are going again in September and I can’t wait to get back.

Who has had the biggest influence on your approach to restaurants?
The chef who influenced me most is Mark Hix. He was always very much about what the customer wants, not what the chef wants. He taught me how to build menus and the formats to follow. Another person who has really influenced me is Tulio Galindo (currently general manager at Spring). He is an amazing front of house and is relentless in his quest for great service. He really understands chefs and how to get the best from us. 

What keeps you up at night?
Lack of staff and Netflix.

Worst business decision?
Any bad decisions I’ve made I made for a reason and it felt right at the time. If I make a bad decision, I take it on the chin and move on.     

Best business decision?
As we all know, staffing is a challenge, so I have sat back and really thought about what it is the team want and how I can help them achieve their goals. Chefs are not interested in long hours, they want to be part of a team and family – so we need to adapt and work differently to put this into place.

What are you reading at the moment?
Ottolenghi’s Simple. What a great chef. The book is so brilliantly simple and delicious.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in restaurants?
Demonstrate flair and passion and be driven, stubborn and relentless.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
I would implore the government to do more to promote our industry to young people. If we can’t attract the next generation of chefs, waiters and bartenders then the industry is in big trouble, especially with the voyage into the unknown with Brexit.

Art Yard Bar & Kitchen, Bankside Hotel, 2 Blackfriars Road, Upper Ground, London

Related topics: People, Profiles, Casual Dining

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