The Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards: Chef to Watch 2022 shortlist

By BigHospitality

- Last updated on GMT

The Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards: Chef to Watch 2022 shortlist

Related tags: Nathan Davies, Adriana Cavita, Mark Donald, Spencer Metzger, Luke Farrell, Sollip, John Chantarasak, John Javier, Kim Ratcharoen, Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards

This year's Chef to Watch category promises to be the most hotly contested in the award's history.

Nathan Davies, SY23

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What a year Nathan Davies is having. The former Ynyshir head chef opened his debut restaurant SY23 in Aberystwyth moments before the pandemic struck but, undeterred, has created a debut restaurant that has stolen the show. Not only was SY23 named by Michelin as this year’s Opening of the Year but it was also awarded a Michelin star, having only been open for trade less than 10 months. If that wasn’t enough, he also managed to get the final banquet in this years’ Great British Menu.

Adriana Cavita, Cavita

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Image: Lucy Richards

Mexican chef Adriana Cavita might not be a household name in this country yet, but with her forthcoming Mexican restaurant about to open its doors all this could change. Her impressive CV shows time at El Bulli in Spain and Pujol in Mexico City, both World’s 50 Best Restaurants regulars, and she’s likely to sprinkle some of that magic in the capital this year.

Mark Donald, The Glenturret Lalique

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Located in Scotland’s oldest working distillery, The Glenturret Lalique has not yet been open a year but has already caught the eyes of the Michelin inspectors. Chef Mark Donald is no stranger to accolades from the red book, having secured a star when he headed up the kitchen at Number One in The Balmoral, but at this 26-cover, dinner-only restaurant the potential to step up another gear is evident.

Kim Ratcharoen, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

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Earlier this year Kim Ratcharoen returned to Gordon Ramsay’s eponymous flagship in London’s Chelsea as head chef, having previously risen through the ranks to become senior sous chef. The Thai-born chef has been marked out by Ramsay as a “hugely talented” and “incredible” chef and who are we to argue with him?     

Thomas Spenceley, The Ledbury

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Former Kitchen Table head chef Tom Spenceley now heads up the kitchen at Brett Graham’s rebooted Notting Hill restaurant The Ledbury, which alone speaks volume about his talent. The Ledbury was one of the most highly anticipated (re)openings of the year and with Graham and Spenceley behind the stove it has already impressed regulars and new customers alike. With Spenceley, we think there is more to come.

Gemma Austin, Alexander’s & Co, A Peculiar Tea

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At just 28 years old Carryduff-born chef Gemma Austin has already had a varied and successful career, moving from the role of head pastry chef at a five-star Belfast hotel to eventually become executive chef at Alexander’s & Co restaurant in Holywood, County Down. She also runs pop-up business A Peculiar Tea that serves a tasting menu as well as a hugely popular afternoon tea.

Spencer Metzger, The Ritz

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Last year Spencer Metzger was promoted from premier sous chef to head chef at The Ritz in London having joined the prestigious venue in 2015. During that time he has also collected a number of cheffing awards including winning the Roux Scholarship in 2019 at the age of 26. More recently he was crowned Great British Menu 2022 Champion of Champions following a stellar performance in the TV cooking competition in which both his fish course and main course made it through to the banquet.

Luke Farrell, Plaza Khao Gaeng

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When he’s not living in Bangkok Luke Farrell is growing a vast range of Thai herbs and vegetables in tropical greenhouses in Dorset to help fuel his passion for Thai cuisine, and in particular that from the south of the country. Now that produce is being put to use at Plaza Khao Gaeng, his new restaurant inside the rebooted Arcade Food Hall. There’s more to come from Farrell, with Arcade’s new owners JKS Restaurants also believed to be working with him to open a standalone central London Thai restaurant.

Bomee Ki and Woongchul Park, Sollip

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Korean husband and wife duo Woongchul Park and Bomee Ki opened their first restaurant, Sollip, in London in 2019 and have gone from strength to strength. Sollip is a reflection of the couple’s training, blending European and French cooking styles, with Korean techniques and ingredients in a way not seen before in the capital and has already won a number of accolades in the short time it has been open.

John Javier, 17 Little Portland Street

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Australian chef John Javier has worked at restaurants including Quay, Momofuku Seiobo and Noma but it was at his Master restaurant in Sydney where his playful, ultra-modern Chinese cooking really turned heads. Following a stint as group development chef at the Pachamama collection of restaurants over here he’s now opened up at 17 Little Portland Street in London where he can be found serving modern Eastern and Asian food to a backdrop of hip hop among other music choices.

John Chantarasak, AngloThai

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Alongside his wife Desiree, half Thai, half British chef John Chantarask is hoping to finally open his debut restaurant in central London in partnership with restaurant group MJMK. Chantarask is a true talent and AngloThai promises to marry Thai flavours with British ingredients, paired with low-intervention natural wines. The restaurant will be beaten by Chantarasak’s debut cookbook Kin Thai, which will be published in May.

Laurence Henry, Canal Turn

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Laurence Henry was named MasterChef: The Professionals Champion in 2018 while a sous chef at two Michelin-starred Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham. Now the award-winning chef is branching out alone in the city with his debut restaurant in Nottingham’s The Island Quarter due to open this year.       

Harry Guy, X by Harry Guy

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X by Harry Guy will be the debut restaurant from Guy, who won the Roux Scholarship in 2016 and has worked at restaurants including Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume and Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy Grill. Four years in the making, the restaurant is promising ‘flavour-first’ British dishes when it opens this year in Chester and will certainly be one to watch.

The winner of this year's Chef of the Year award will be announced at the National Restaurant Awards ceremony, which is being held at London's prestigious Hurlingham Club on 13 June.

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