The Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards: Chef to Watch 2021 shortlist

By BigHospitality

- Last updated on GMT

The Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards: Chef to Watch 2021 shortlist

Related tags: Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards, Tom Booton, Harriet Mansell, Santiago Lastra, Chet Sharma, Ana Gonçalves, Jay Morjaria, Anna Tobias, Sven-Hanson Britt, Imad Alarnab

Whether heading up a kitchen or opening their debut restaurant, this year’s shortlist of super-talented chefs are set for even greater things.

Tom Booton, The Grill at The Dorchester 

An undeniable top chef in the making, Tom Booton became the youngest chef to head up the kitchen at The Grill at The Dorchester in London when he was given the role in 2019 at the age of just 26. In his time at the restaurant he has made his mark with his innovative cooking style marking a fresh chapter in the restaurant’s history.


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Harriet Mansell, Robin Wylde

West Country-born chef Harriet Mansell is making waves in Devon with her debut restaurant Robin Wylde in Lyme Regis, which opened last year and shines a light on the region’s local ingredients. Such is her success that she is now following it up with a low-intervention wine bar nearby called Lilac. Before going permanent, Robin Wylde operated as a pop-up in Lyme and was a sell-out for its entire six-month residency, which is no doubt a sign of things to come.

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Santiago Lastra, KOL       

When it opened briefly between lockdowns, Santiago Lastra’s ambitious Mexican restaurant Kol turned heads for its approach of using mostly British ingredients cooked in traditional Mexican ways. The Mexican-born, former Noma consultant chef hasn’t had a chance to really show off his culinary prowess on these shores, but once he does, we anticipate a successful future.



Chet Sharma, Bibi

With a PhD in Physics from the University of Oxford under his belt, Chet Sharma is a culinary force to be reckoned with. The 33-year-old has already played a key role in some of the world’s top kitchens - including Moor Hall, L’Enclume and Spain’s Mugaritz – and is now teaming up with former employer JKS Restaurants to open Bibi, a restaurant in Mayfair that is looking to break the mould of Indian fine dining in the capital.

NRA21 - tata

Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng, TĀ TĀ Eatery

The pair behind popular nomadic pop up TĀ TĀ Eatery and katsu sando-focused concept Tóu have already made their mark on the capital with their show-stopping food, and now they’ve been drafted in to help relaunch Taiwanese chicken joint Mr Ji as a full-service restaurant. Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng aren’t afraid to play with interesting flavour combinations and try out new things, which makes what they are doing with Mr Ji, as well as any future projects, particularly exciting.

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Jay Morjaria, JAE

Jay Morjaria secured a £500,000 investment on TV programme Million Pound Menu, but has instead continued working as a chef consultant. His most recent project, JAE at Untitled in London, has impressed with critic Jay Rayner praising his ‘seriously punchy Korean cooking’. As tenacious as he is skilled, there’s plenty more to come from this chef restaurateur.


Anna Tobias, Café Deco

Anna Tobias has a strong cooking pedigree having worked at some of the capital’s most influential chefs and restaurants, including The River Cafe, Blueprint Cafe and Rochelle Canteen and her debut restaurant in Bloomsbury, called Cafe Deco, sees her join forces with the team behind 40 Malty Street. As it emerges properly from lockdown, Cafe Deco looks like it will follow in the footsteps of Tobias’ mentors and become a London institution.

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Imad Alarnab, Imad’s Syrian Kitchen

After two non-starts as a result of Coronavirus restrictions, Syrian chef Imad Alarnab has finally opened his first London restaurant in Soho’s Kingly Court. Having been forced to flee his home city of Damascus, where he ran two successful restaurants and chain of juice bars, in 2015, Alarnab’s story is one of triumph over the most severe adversity. Focusing on a cuisine little explored in the capital, the launch of Imad's Syrian Kitchen marks the culmination of a five-year journey and the start of an exciting new chapter for Alarnab.


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Shannon Johnson, Hicce

27-year-old Shannon Johnson worked for three years at Murano under Angela Hartnett before joining Pip Lacey’s debut solo venture Hicce in Coal Drops Yard, where she is head chef overseeing a modern British menu with a focus on wood-fired cooking. She represented the central region on Great British Menu 2021.

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Andy Beynon, Behind

Andy Beynon’s intimate fish-focused restaurant really impressed Michelin’s inspectors, with the Hackney restaurant being awarded a star after only a few weeks of trading. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise given Beynon’s pedigree, however, having worked with the likes of culinary giants Jason Atherton, Michael Wignall, Claude Bosi, and Phil Howard. Now out on his own, he’s already on his way to following in the footsteps of his mentors.

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Sven-Hanson Britt, Oxeye

MasterChef the Professionals finalist Sven-Hanson Britt has long-held plans to open Oxeye in Derbyshire that follows his farm to table approach. The Coronavirus hasn’t helped in his endeavours, but his dream to open one of the most exciting restaurants in the UK remains intact. In the meantime, late last year he joined forces with Tris Hillier and Scott Ward to launch Homestead on Leamouth Peninsula in Docklands.  


Roberta Hall, The Little Chartroom

The chef-patron at The Little Chartroom has made a name for herself at her bijou Edinburgh restaurant and didn't let lockdown get in her way, with a successful pivot to open Little Chartroom on the Prom. There's likely to be more to come from her this year as well as her reputation grows - helped by the fact that she was also recently crowned the winner the fish course in the finals of this year's Great British Menu.

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