Archive for April, 2019

Chef Interview: Paul O’Neill, Cliveden House (April 2019)

Posted on: April 27th, 2019 by Simon Carter
Cliveden House Hotel

It would appear that the four part “A Very British Country House” Channel 4 TV series aired last September hasn’t done the hotel any harm, perhaps in particular through giving air time to the visit of Meghan Markle before the Royal wedding.  Indeed, subsequent business has seen a rise in the numbers of guests and turnover alike. The first three months of the year were a record. In addition, reviews and feedback about the hotel appear to be strong, while business is happily continuing to move in the right direction.

Paul O’Neill fell into cooking by accident before finding his first serious post-college position at Claridges under the iconic mentor John Williams.  After a journey that includes an impressive array of hotel kitchens, alongside a career defining success in the 2013 Roux Scholarship, Paul talks candidly about the experiences that have shaped him and led to his position as Executive Chef at Cliveden House hotel.

Paul O’Neill

Paul’s childhood was characterised by being fairly self sufficient and independent. His parents were often away, leaving Paul with au pairs. Cooking was an option such that his mother may joke that it meant he wouldn’t go hungry.

Straight from school, Paul enrolled in a catering course at Chichester College and spent weekends working at Chichester Festival Theatre.  At 17, he sent his curriculum vitae and a covering letter to a number of Michelin Star standard hotels and restaurants. These included The Hilton on Park Lane, The Dorchester and the independent restaurant Chapter One.  Paul went on a staggering ten or so kitchen trials, which proved successful as he ultimately chose a role at Claridges.  The size and scope of the brigade at Claridges was breathtaking and he joined the team working for the then Executive Chef, John Williams. 

Claridges had 48 chefs and the kitchens were an incredible hub of activity. It was the perfect experience for any young chef, it wasn’t a case of repetition, as the work was so varied. At Claridges, a chef might be working on canapés for 800, before immediately employed on a function for 250 guests. At evening restaurant service, perhaps the same chef would be on larder before working on room service or sometimes even bar.  The main sections Paul contributed to in terms of the restaurant were fish, garnish and larder.

The level of discipline and regimented hierarchy at such a place meant chefs learnt life lessons, as well as how to be a well rounded chef.  Paul remembers, “It was in the days when you would go into work punctually, properly attired and clean shaven and you’d happily put in 96 hours a week for £11,000 (no overtime).”  The world has changed so much and one wonders whether the development of chefs today is any better for that change.

Having joined in 2002, Paul left Claridges after two and a half years, which was at the same time as John Williams moved to The Ritz Hotel.

After a few roles honing his skillset further, Paul became Senior Sous Chef at Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club in East Sussex.  A 106 bedroom, 4 red star property, popular with weddings and functions as well as a two AA Rosette Restaurant.  At the time of Paul joining, Andrew Wilson was head chef.  Andrew had worked for Eric Chavot at The Capital and had also taken part in the 2007 Roux Scholarship.  Armand Sablon was the Scholar that year having entered from the brigade of André Garrett at Galvin at Windows.  In fact, there was quite a network of contacts with experience of The Roux Scholarship. 

In 2012, encouraged by Andrew to do so, Paul entered The Roux Scholarship for the first time. Despite not having made it through the initial process of the paper recipe stage, he remained undaunted. Paul entered for a second time in 2013, making it through to the final before being crowned Scholar of that year.

Roux Scholarship

Indeed, the 2013 Roux Scholarship was the televised competition, so before the semi-finals Paul went to Limewood with Angela Hartnett, Luke Holder and James Martin.  Some other finalists went to Gleneagles with Andrew Fairlie, while another group went to Padstow with Rick Stein.  The week leading up to the final was hectic and an extraordinary experience for Paul. The week started with all the finalist going to Le Gavroche with Michel Roux Jnr. The next day (Tuesday), they were at The Waterside Inn focusing on wine with Diego Masciaga and Alain Roux. The final three days were spent with Michel & Robyn Roux in Switzerland. “I have a wonderful memory of eating charcuterie and drinking wine with Michel and Robyn,” reflects Paul.  The final was to be on the following Monday.

In terms of the final, Paul suggests a finalist is better off practising and learning techniques than trying to research classic recipes. There is a 90% chance you won’t be lucky enough to have studied the chosen dish. So it is far more important to be skilled in classic cooking techniques. These may include filleting a whole flat fish and sowing it up, trussing a bird, or how to debone and ballotine a bird and so on.  Paul describes the overall experience as one of the greatest of his life, “the support of the whole ‘Roux Family’ was and continues to be, incredible,” suggests Paul

Paul took his winners stage at the Michelin three star Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. While working at the flagship restaurant five days a week, he also worked Saturdays at the group’s Michelin one star restaurant. 

To demonstrate Paul’s natural work ethic and dedication, after a couple of weeks in Paris, he found that Pierre Gagnaire’s main restaurant was to be closed for a week. Instead of being a tourist, sightseeing or checking out the local bars, Paul went straight to work at the one star restaurant on the out-skirts of Paris. Such endeavor was rewarded by a place on the fish section. 

This went well, so that when returning to Pierre Gagnaire’s Michelin three star restaurant kitchen, he found himself on the sauce section. Such a compliment reflected the respect gained by Paul over a short space of time as a talented and accomplished chef. It also spoke volumes for the quality and reputation of the Roux Scholarship. Paul remembers, “Part of gaining respect also meant knuckling down and working along side maybe 5 other stagiaires present in any given week.” The stage was three months in total, which proved a wonderful and career changing experience.

Paul stayed a further year at Ashdown Park, repaying their faith with his loyalty. The next role was to be the AA five gold star restaurant with rooms called Berwick Lodge in Bristol, where he remained in his first head chef role for over three years.  During this time, André Garrett contacted Paul, when he was looking for a head chef at Cliveden House.  With so much quality hotel background, Paul was ideal for the role. A key decisive attribute of Paul’s was to multi-task and this worked well given the number of outlets that the main kitchen at Cliveden House serves. Working and learning under André Garrett was a great benefit, allowing Paul to understand how to deliver the product day in day out, service in service out.

Cliveden Dining Room

When André found it was time to move on, Paul was delighted to have the opportunity to take over the Executive Head Chef role at Cliveden House. Since the turn of 2019, Paul has found the change fairly seamless and been able to hit the ground running. 

In terms of the main dining room, the focus remains on obtaining the best possible produce before applying his cooking philosophy. The mantra is to keep it simple through managing three or four ingredients on a plate.  The rule is typically to make the most of the flavours by presenting ingredients in different forms to provide complementary and contrasting tastes and textures.

The overall dish must not hark back to those days when chefs added, added and added some more and sometimes didn’t know when to stop. Paul suggests that the beauty of food is in the simplicity of strong natural flavours combining and enhancing in their own right.  He suggests an explanation for a decade or so long trend from 2005, where chefs would over complicate or over elaborate, “came from the online explosion in knowledge and information.” Perhaps also customers and chefs were made more health conscious, in other words, less butter and cream. In addition, encouraged by social media imagery, chefs tended to deliver an excessive appearance of complexity.  Fortunately, the stripped back, back-to-basics ideas have prompted a counter movement back to classical flavours.

The main dining room at Cliveden House offers a capacity of 70 covers and with a few relays may hit 80 covers. On special days, like Mother’s Day, the hotel may open the adjacent French Dining Room to take up to 90 or more guests. 

The hotel kitchens brigade numbers 26 which covers a significant number of areas. To give an idea of the workload, the hotel may have a wedding with the wedding breakfast at 2.30pm, a further function in The French Dining Room at 7.30pm. In addition, mid-afternoon may see afternoon teas before covers in the main dining room for dinner.  The main kitchen in the basement services all these requirements.  Paul feels that the hotel kitchen manage it well, people don’t tend to wait too long and he’s confident of quality and consistency.

Being aware of the trends of less formal lunch dining, the main dining room is now only open for lunch on Sundays with the rest of the week being a popular choice for afternoon tea. The accent is on the overall guest experience (including residents) – the Great Hall is ideal for arriving guests to have a reception space or for existing guests to simply relax.

As part of the Iconic Luxury Hotels Group, Cliveden House is part of a wider brand identity. Part of this identity are the ‘Iconic Dishes’ that span the group of Chewton Glen, Cliveden House, Lygon Arms and 11 Cadogan Gardens.  There are 14 dishes in total that reflect the highest quality with consistency along with the strongest customer feedback. For example, the truffle risotto, the Dover sole or beef Wellington will appear on the Iconic list of dishes and a minimum number of those will appear on each property menu at any given season. 

Paul’s own creative process invariably starts with a spider diagram, centring on the main protein with the web consisting of the complementary and contrasting way in which the element is prepared. For example asparagus may be blanched, shaved, pickled or raw – then what brings that together such as a curd, emulsion, olive oil or dressing and so on.  Paul was inspired to create in this way from a strong respect for ingredients, particularly gained since his three months stage at Gagnaire.

The main focus is now to help develop Cliveden House as a food offering that is in the forefront of people’s minds as part of the wider picture of a world-renowned destination hotel.  His progress will naturally be followed with interest.

Guest Reviewer: The Royal Oak Paley Street, (April 2019)

Posted on: April 21st, 2019 by Simon Carter

fine dining guide invited Dr John White to be guest reviewer of The Royal Oak at Paley Street.

The Royal Oak at Paley Street describes itself as having a gourmet gastro-pub menu with an extensive wine list in 17th-century rooms with exposed ceiling beams.

John White enjoying a Moretti

Dear Reader,

My reason for writing is that I enjoy this pub/restaurant so much and wanted to share my appreciation. Further, Simon Carter, editor of the Fine Dining Guide (, asked me to give some insight to his readers why someone might develop such loyalty to an establishment like The Royal Oak. I visit for both lunches and dinners. Indeed, Simon, my regular golfing partner, took my wife and me there one day, at his expense. I was hooked at once! (I’ve returned the compliment many times since.)

It’s an elegant and cosy restaurant-pub, with a fine garden for the summer. There is also a modern hall cum private dining area in an extension which works well for large parties. The food is perfectly timed, and they serve my favourite draught beer (Moretti), which is very hard to find on draught in the UK generally.

The tables are appropriately sized – that is, of normal pub size, which allows diners at any one table to sit no more than a few feet apart. The benefit of such cosiness is that no one needs to raise their voice to be heard, so no one is required to shout above the babble of other, unrelated diners booming to each other across a wide table like mastodons across a swamp. There is no background music either.

There is a large car-park. I’ve never had trouble parking, which is important when one’s wife is partly disabled (there are two disabled car-spaces.) There is also a fine Ferrari joke: a large placard outside the front door of the pub informs all passers-by that the adjacent space is reserved for Ferraris ONLY. Apparently, customers with Aston Martins, Porsches and Maseratis are required to move into the main car-park! (I don’t own any of these.)

Nick Parkinson

Perhaps, most of all I love the staff, who are friendly, but never obsequious; attentive, but never intrusive; capable and very knowledgeable about the food that they serve. They are led most ably by Nick and Roz Parkinson (owners, with well-known TV personality Sir Michael Parkinson who is often in attendance) and by Scott, the restaurant manager.

The food is created to what I would call Michelin standard, although not currently held for reasons that Michelin never explains. In the same year, The Royal Oak moved up from 46th to 22nd place in the respected, renowned and recently awarded, ‘Top 50 GastroPubs.’ The pub also retained its 3-rosette rating from the AA Restaurant Guide 2019 (roughly equivalent to one Michelin star I believe) and enjoys a creditable ranking in the influential Waitrose Good Food Guide 2019.

Specifically, the food is cooked to order using the finest, fresh, seasonal ingredients from (currently) a choice of 8 starters (price range £9-11), 8 main dishes (price range £18-28) and 6 desserts (price range £8-14). All ingredients are locally-sourced where possible. As one might expect, seasonal produce is favoured, while game is always on the menu at the appropriate times of the year. I can recommend especially the wonderful pies that the chef makes at all times of the year.

The kitchen will make every effort to accommodate variations to the menu for the benefit of those who have allergies, intolerances or dietary requirements. On one occasion, my wife was able to order in advance an off-menu variation of one of her favourite listed dishes, required for medical reasons. The chef obliged, with no extra charge, although one wonders whether this could be a regular event for the kitchen for practical reasons.

It is all excellent value. Naturally, the price depends on the type of food ordered, but currently a three-course meal (excluding optional extras) costs an average £42. Side orders are available, and I would recommend the ‘mash’ as a fine example of its kind. There are also pre-starter snacks available of which the warm Scotch quails eggs (£4) are a must!

A standard 12.5% is added as an optional service charge. This is about average now throughout the up-market hospitality industry.


1. The Loyalty card for regular diners is excellent value. You hand over your name and e-mail address, and receive a card that provides either a direct discount or a slightly amended a la carte menu at a reduced fixed price, ring and check as this may depend on business circumstances or time of year. E-mail notifications of special events or offers are sent every two weeks or so, and are always worth reading.

2. There is a new addition of a £20 set lunch menu. This permits the diner to order two courses from a short list of two entries each for both starters and mains. It represents stunningly good value, although personally I prefer the range of the larger menus.

3. Draught Moretti beer. I’ve mentioned that already, but it’s worth mentioning again. You won’t find it easily elsewhere in the UK, although the bottled version is widely available in larger supermarkets. But everyone knows that cask beer tastes better than the same beer bottled, don’t they?

4. An extensive wine list. The Royal Oak is very proud of its wine-list including fine wines by the glass utilising its Coravin wine system. I can’t comment, since I don’t drink wines when there is Moretti on tap, but it does stock a very superior Prosecco according to my wife. Its chosen house champagne is Roederer NV. That is again an excellent selection – with an industry-wide reputation for consistency and superiority – and the same Roederer NV is always the way I choose to drink my 10% alcohol at home!

5. You might get to see Theresa May (local MP as well as prime minister) discussing policy with French president Macron, or similar dignitaries, as has happened on rare occasions in the past two years.

In summary, should you choose to visit, happy eating and drinking! Should you enjoy the experience half as much as I do then you’ll be sure to return.

Regards, John White (Scientist and author. I’ll receive neither payment in cash nor kind for this article.)

The Lygon Arms Hotel, Broadway (April 2019)

Posted on: April 10th, 2019 by Simon Carter
The Lygon Arms

There are three separate but equally valid reasons to consider a stay at The Lygon Arms in Broadway. The first may simply refer to the quality of the product itself – the hotel features, facilities and importantly the warmth of welcome. The second is the context of the location of the hotel – nestled on the northern border of an English Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB, The Cotswolds) and the third is the extraordinary and at times, overwhelming, sense of history that pervades any stay.

Dating as far back as records of the property may be found, the main building has been a hotel, or rather a Coaching Inn. For a few sensible reasons the name of the Inn changed to suit the times. As early as 1377 it was referred to as The White Hart, a Hart being a mature stag and the personal symbol of King Richard II. After 1400, his cousin Henry IV, a Lancastrian, had usurped Richard so The White Hart became The White Swan reflecting one of the symbols of the Lancastrians. Under future monarchs the name would change to The Swan and Hart (Henry V), The George (James I) and back to The Swan. From 1641 the name returned to The White Hart and remained so for 200 years before General Henry Beauchamp Lygon owned the property and had his butler act as manager.

The government introduced by Statute (National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949) Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which now number 46 in England and Wales. Subsequent government Acts have enhanced the status of AONBs to close to parity with National Parks. The Cotswolds was first designated in 1966, covering 787 square miles and as such the largest in England and Wales. The area is partially bordered by the M4 to the South, the M40 to the North East and the M5 to the West.

The Cotswolds AONB enjoys – like the chilterns – its own statutory body called a Conservation Board, the aim of the board is to protect and enhance the countryside as well as preside over sympathetic planning. The latter is clear from the abundance of new build properties close to the Lygon Arms that feature the beautiful Cotswold Stone.

The famous long walking trail – The Cotswold Way (red line on the map above) – runs through Broadway having started close by in the market town of Chipping Campden, taking in a total of 102 miles along the route to the city of Bath in the South. Should a shorter walk be the order of the day the ‘Jewel of the Cotswolds,’ offers a selection of restaurants, pubs and tea rooms. However, if the town is a mere base and a car drive is preferred, then countless destinations are available from Stratford upon Avon or Warwick to Oxford or Bath.

Cotswold attractions found on helpful websites such as or include those from art galleries to a heritage railway, from Broadway Tower to clay pigeon shooting, from museums to horse riding, from a distillery to a falconry centre, from plenty of parks and open space activity to much more besides. Surely though, taking in the highlights of the local beautiful villages of quintessential English country life is a must.

Lygon Arms Courtyard Suite

There are six catagories of accomodation at The Lygon Arms, three rooms – cosy, classic and deluxe and three suites – junior, courtyard and master. The courtyard suites were developed in the last couple of years as part of a phase of redevelopment by the L+R Iconic Luxury Hotels Group (also of Chewton Glen and Cliveden House). These new opulent suites were previously a function cum events facility but now provide the best of the modern world to contrast with the near overwhelming sense of history of the main building.

Top Left and Right in the images above is the courtyard situated behind the main road, with (left) the main building and (right) the courtyard suites. Bottom right is a depiction of Oliver Cromwell from 1651, standing in his now eponymously named room, at the open fire, prior to The Battle of Worcester that saw the demise of King Charles I cause. Two years previously the King had visited the hotel on numerous occasions for meetings with his noble staff and likewise now has a room named in his honour.

The sense of history is apparent, as you walk through hobbit like higgledy-piggledy corridors, stairs and ultimately tiny doors and onto floorboards that were clearly built to last – undulating through the rigours of time – to peer through tiny mullioned windows. Grade listed and untouchable, the architecture and the stories that may be told are priceless.  A little tour of these – if unoccupied – is a must.

Executive chef Ales Maurer delivers delicious food on a consistent basis across the property. The main restaurant is the Lygon Bar and Grill with its relaxed but friendly service, which is situated in a vaulted ceiling spacious room with pre-dinner bar. This is supplemented by a relaxed Wine Bar with food menu next door to the hotel (above left). There are also the Lounges which are found numerously around the hotel (bottom left), each replete with an open fireplace and staffed by the well trained, enthusiastic and amenable front of house serving food and drink, there is afternoon tea available (bottom right) plus an impressive cocktail bar (above right).

Highlights of an evening meal on a busy Wednesday evening in late March – the number of covers served was indeed impressive in the main restaurant – included a twice baked cheese souffle starter, that at the time of writing was an ‘iconic dish,’ meaning that it may be found on the menus of other properties in the group (quite famously at Chewton Glen but also recently at Cliveden House.) The notion of ‘Iconic dishes’ is that they have been selected as the chef’s and/or customer’s favourites by each property and are replicable across the group. This concept is fluid and the dishes may change by the time of a future visit. Also enjoyed was a hearty pie with creamy mash and a side of carrots.

The spa tucked away in the property is a bonus should you want to relax and unwind beside a pool, enjoy a treatment or two or alternatively work out in the gym.

Overall the Lygon Arms is a real hit! For a couple of decades post WWII, the property enjoyed glory days with visits recorded in the famous Guestbook from an array of Hollywood royalty and indeed British Royalty. Being the countryside outpost of The London Savoy, the old Inn naturally attracted the good and great. Sadly, a succession of unfortunate ownerships followed that led the hotel into disrepair and in need of some much deserved tender loving care. Since 2015 L+R have made that significant investment and continue to do so, restoring and reviving the fortunes of this historic Inn.

Currently scoring 4.5 on Trip Advisor and receiving the number one rating for best value in the area, the ratings, awards and customers will come in their number as this great institution sings proudly once more.

Roux Scholarship Announced Press Release April 2019

Posted on: April 2nd, 2019 by Simon Carter

Spencer Metzger crowned 36th Roux Scholar

Spencer Metzger has won the 2019 Roux Scholarship. The premier sous chef from The Ritz beat five other finalists in a fiercely contested final held at Westminster Kingsway College, London, on Monday 1st April, where they were asked to prepare and serve Monkfish blanquette and langoustines with saffron basmati rice, garnished with seasonal vegetables and asparagus subrics.  

The winning dish from Spencer Metzger

The 26-year-old chef was battling it out against his colleague Ryan Baker also from The Ritz, Olivia Catherine Burt from Claridge’s, Lewis Linley from Vacherin, Adam Harper from The Cavendish Hotel Baslow in Derbyshire, and Michael Cruickshank from Bohemia in Jersey. It was Spencer’s first time entering the competition.

Commenting on the 36th national final, Michel Roux Jr said: “It’s been a fantastic event as usual, but this year is more poignant with the passing of the first Roux Scholar, Andrew Fairlie. The feeling among the judges and the Roux family too is that this year had to be very special and we do have a very special Roux Scholar this year. The winning dish was exceptional, the monkfish was beautiful, the sauce was indulgent but not rich, creamy but not heavy. In fact, we were fighting over the last of it once we’d all had a tasting!”

Alain Roux added: “Not all the chefs utilised all the ingredients, which was surprising. However, overall it was a very good standard, it really does get higher and higher every year. The winning dish was chosen by a unanimous decision among the judges, the fish was cooked perfectly.”

Peter Gilmore (Honorary President of Judges 2019) said: “Overall I was really impressed. The organisational skills showed they were well prepared. Nerves did get to some of them near the end but the winner was outstanding. Every element of the dish was right, the flavours and textures were spot on. There was very little to find any fault with.”

Winner Spencer Metzger said: “I was very happy with what I produced. I was a bit rushed and stressed at the end of the cooking time, but all the components were there and I was pleased with their flavours and the dish overall. I really don’t know where I’ll choose for my Stage, but I would want to go somewhere really different, maybe somewhere with a farm or something like that.”

The six chefs, all under 30 years old, had 2.5 hours to cook the Antonin Careme-inspired recipe in front of the judges. Acclaimed Australian chef Peter Gilmore was invited over from Sydney to be honorary president of the judges, and led the panel alongside joint chairmen Alain and Michel Jr. They were joined by Brian Turner, James Martin, as well as previous winners Sat Bains (1999 scholar) and André Garrett (2002 scholar) and Clare Smyth.

The winner was announced at a glittering awards ceremony at The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, in front of an audience of top chefs and prestigious guests from the world of hospitality.

The winning chef receives £6,000, and an invitation to cook and train under the supervision of a leading chef at a prestigious three-star Michelin restaurant anywhere in the world for up to three months. This is in addition to an impressive list of prizes and culinary experiences provided courtesy of our sponsors.

Our sponsors

The Roux Scholarship is sponsored by a number of companies, whose support is much-appreciated: Aubrey Allen, Bridor, Cactus TV, The Caterer, Direct Seafoods, Global Knives, Hildon Natural Mineral Water, Champagne Laurent-Perrier, L’Unico Caffe Musetti, Mandarin Oriental, Mash Purveyors, Oritain, Qatar Airways, Restaurant Associates, TRUEfoods, and Udale Speciality Foods.


The Roux Scholarship would like to thank the Institute of Hospitality, HALM (Hospitality and Leisure Management), University College Birmingham, University of West London and Westminster Kingsway College for their support. Details of all sponsors and supporters are included on the website:

Go to for more information about the Roux Scholarship competition and details of the long list of prizes the winner and finalists received courtesy of our sponsors.

Further information:

  • Roux Scholar 2012 Adam Smith also worked at The Ritz under Executive Head Chef John Williams, who had two chefs from his brigade in this year’s National Final.
  • Five out of the six finalists reached the final the first time on entering. Only Michael Cruickshank has reached the final before, in 2017 (and competed in regional finals in 2018 and 2016).
  • The film of the Roux Scholarship 2018 will be broadcast as part of Saturday Kitchen on Saturday 13th April on BBC1.

Interview: Ed Fitzpatrick, Dep General Manager, Lygon Arms (April 2019)

Posted on: April 2nd, 2019 by Simon Carter

Ed Fitzpatrick has been on the hospitality fast track since participating in the ten out of ten programme, subsequently a recipient of the prestigious Acorn Award, Ed has consistently displayed a driven loyalty while achieving success in his field. Here he chats with Simon Carter about his experiences to date.

Ed Fitzpatrick

At the age of fifteen I was beginning to consider work options for life after school. I may not have been the strongest academically but was good at anything practical or hands on.  One day the opportunity arose to work part time at Manor House Hotel in Castle Coombe, I enjoyed the work, interacting with people and understanding a very basic level of hospitality, so when it came time to leave school, it felt like a natural next step to go full time. 

My first role was in concierge services, so taking bags, parking cars or taking guests to their rooms.  I got wrapped up in the real buzz of how a hotel works, gaining insights into experiences that would have been new to any young person just starting out in their career. In total, I worked there for three and a half years before a fresh challenge at Lucknam Park Hotel.

Lucknam Park had just opened a new spa at the time and provided an insight into a five red star hotel, one of the essential differences was the level of formality in the front of house; staff would wear lounge suits by day and come five o’clock change into black tie.  This provided a real sense of occasion every day, a level of excitement and a feel good factor in a truly beautiful property.

My family home was close to Lucknam Park so I was able to live at home and walk to work, indeed a workplace where inspirational figures such as Harry Murray MBE and Claire Randall were at the helm.  This period triggered early ideas of what a career in hospitality might look like: I could see role models in management positions and really aspire to career development from being a new team member, along a path into more senior positions.  When I was approaching five years into my career (at the ripe old age of 21), I was ready to knuckle down and think about where I wanted to be by the age of say 30.  Claire Randall was inspirational in offering encouragement to set goals and be clear on taking career steps to push forward with direction and focus. 

At the same time ten out of ten was being conceived.  Spearheaded by Sue Williams and supported from an HR perspective by Anita Bower, this early incarnation of ten out of ten, provided an extraordinary platform for the candidates with not only knowledge, learning and appreciation of the industry but also access to some incredible mentors and industry figures who willingly gave support and guidance. The principle was to see 10 otherwise competing luxury properties come together to assist the rapid development of 10 promising young hospitality professionals who displayed management potential.

The practice was that over two and half years participants would work five months in each of (at least) five different departments across five different properties.   During this investment of time you see all the workings right across a luxury hotel: housekeeping, front office, kitchen, maintenance, human resources and sales.  The emphasis was on working your way up, starting in each department at team member level and finishing each placement, where possible, working along side the head of department.  In this way you could see how each department of the hotel worked from the ground up and from every angle.

I was lucky enough to have my first placement at Chewton Glen, which was followed by five months working in the kitchen of Gidleigh Park in Chagford, Devon, where Michael Caines was Head Chef of the two Michelin star restaurant.  Next was the Fat Duck Group which worked between the Hind’s Head and The Fat Duck in Bray, this was followed by the Vineyard at Stockcross and finally to Mallory Court Hotel in Bishops Tachbrook near Leamington Spa. 

Ed Fitzpatrick (Second Left) with ten out of ten candidates

The programme finished in September 2013 but I had been having conversations toward the end of the process with Claire Randall, Andrew McKenzie (MD Vineyard Group) and Andrew Stembridge (MD Iconic Luxury Hotels) about ideas of what I might be focused on doing moving forward.  My final chat with Andrew Stembridge turned into an interview and I was offered the position of deputy reception manager at Chewton Glen. 

A short time into the role I was promoted to assistant manager and at this time Mark Bevan was promoted from Operations Manager into the newly formed General Manager position after Ashley Ely had left Chewton Glen to move to London.  In this restructure I took the role of Food and Beverage Operations Manager, which controlled bars, restaurants, conference and banqueting and room service which was a wonderful opportunity and a big role at Chewton Glen.  After eight months I was promoted to Operations Manager, so effectively the number two to Mark Bevan in the hotel and carried out this role for three years. 

Mark Bevan nominated me for an Acorn Award when the recipients’ weekend was actually hosted at Chewton Glen.  The aim of the Acorn Awards is to recognise young talented people from every sector of the hospitality industry. The Acorn’s inception was 1986, and the year I received the award coincided with the 30th Anniversary of thirty winners under the age of thirty.  Amanda Afiya and Giovanna Grossi were key figures driving the process and a panel of industry figures assessed the nominations and made the awards.  This was a great honour and something I look upon with pride. 

Andrew Stembridge has always been a strategic leader who thinks not just one or two but five years ahead.  We all have a goal today but know tomorrow and the day after we will have moved ahead into new positions as a group offering.  As an example within my three years tenure in the Operations Manager role at Chewton Glen, the hotel had built and launched another restaurant called The Kitchen, along with the James Martin cookery school.  In addition two new treehouses were delivered each equipped with their own kitchen to allow a chef to cook privately for guests.  All these concepts were operationally formulated and delivered in a short space of time.  It was sometimes hard to take in how much was operationally being delivered at Chewton Glen so quickly.  They have each proven a great success to the benefit of guests as well as to the continuous evolution of the property.

Lygon Arms, Broadway

One Friday evening Andrew (Stembridge) called me into his office and explained that there was an opportunity to stay within the group and take the Deputy General Manager role at The Lygon Arms. The Chewton Glen role had predominantly been focused on food and beverage operations, the role at Lygon Arms was to include management of all operational departments so front office, maintenance, housekeeping as well as bars and restaurants.  

Where guests are concerned my philosophy of hospitality is to keep it simple – we are Inn Keepers first and foremost – which means serving guests to an acceptable standard and exceeding their expectations while doing so.  This can lead to reliable repeat custom and effectively deliver more than analysing any amount of complex data can provide.  Where hiring staff is concerned, having the right character and attitude, giving the company two or more years of solid enthusiastic loyalty are traits sought in recruitment and will lead to the hospitality managers of tomorrow.

The hotel has a guest book that has seen King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell through to the Oscar winners of the day post WWII.  For a period of time the hotel was the countryside outpost of the London Savoy but since the turn of the century had fallen into a string of unfortunate ownerships.  L+R have done an outstanding job since 2015, providing for a sympathetic restoration, refurbishment and development phase, which was completed by the end of 2017.  The near future will see additional investment in delivering a significant wedding, conference and banqueting facility as well as the ability to provide for staff new, attractive, live-in accommodation.  Customers of Chewton Glen and Cliveden House now come to The Lygon Arms with an expectation of the product.  It has taken time to operationally build a team to match the level of refurbishment investment made by L+R (In excess of £10m) so that we now do justice to the new, invigorated, all round quality of the property. 

Broadway is nestled in this Area of Natural Beauty (The Cotswolds) and has a tremendous throughput of visitors to the village.  The road ahead is full of opportunity! The Lygon Arms will continue to grow and evolve as a quality product offering.  The journey of my career to date has been blessed with good fortune to work for some great people in some great properties and I will always look to continue personal growth while supporting those around me to achieve their goals and ambitions.