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Who are the next culinary stars? Around Britain, young chefs are bagging head-chef positions thanks to steely determination, a commitment to hard graft and bags of natural culinary talent. In a field with some stiff competition, here are five whizz kids to watch.
Heading up the kitchen in one of Cumbria’s most beautifully situated restaurant-with-rooms, Ryan Blackburn really is sitting pretty. Cumbrian born and bred, he is passionate about his native county’s produce and supports local farmers and producers whenever he can.
Blackburn has cooked at Michelin-starred Restaurant Martin Wishart in Edinburgh, but his talent for producing modern food with startling flavours is really starting to shine through at this former 17th-century coaching inn. His daily changing menus feature the likes of Morecambe Bay shrimps, Cartmel Valley wood pigeon and Herdwick lamb, as well as foraged food and a burgeoning selection of Cumbrian cheeses.
Dorset-born George Blogg is the classic example of a young chef who is climbing the career ladder thanks to hard work and a real devotion to duty. He honed his skills under top British toques Philip Howard (The Square) and David Everitt-Matthias (Le Champignon Sauvage), but as executive chef at Gerard and Nina Basset’s highly acclaimed Hotel Terravina, he brings an altogether different vibe to this famous New Forest bolthole.
Blogg oversees the main hotel restaurant but concentrates primarily on the 24-seater Dining Room, and is garnering rave reviews for his multi-course tasting menus highlighting produce sourced from Hampshire and Dorset (including some wild foods).
The Chapman family has run the Castle Hotel at Taunton since 1950, and their very accomplished restaurant is famed for launching the careers of Gary Rhodes and Phil Vickery. Now Liam Finnegan has a chance to bask in the limelight – having honed his skills at the George Hotel on the Isle of Wight, before working with Michael Caines at Gidleigh Park and the Bath Priory.
The Castle has always prided itself on using only the best West Country ingredients – a viewpoint the young Irishman has embraced wholeheartedly, while taking the food in a thrilling new direction. His highly accomplished, seasonally aware cooking has already earned him a steady following.
The facade of this imposing 17th-century house gives way to a suitably smart and updated interior, and its casual Garden Room restaurant provides an understated backdrop for the thoroughly modern cooking of South African chef Craig Van der Meer.
As the main man since 2008, he is now finding his groove with a reworked repertoire that pushes the boundaries of so-called country-house cuisine. He is currently wowing a band of loyal followers with seasonally inspired dishes such as seared lamb cannon served with basil, homemade feta, wild garlic and chakalaka (a spicy South African speciality of onions, tomatoes and beans).
A former protégé of David Everitt-Matthias at Le Champignon Sauvage, Matt Worswick’s early career also involved spells with stellar chefs Kenny Atkinson (when he presided over St Martin's on the Isle) and Simon Hulstone at The Elephant in Torquay – as well as time at the Lords of the Manor in Gloucestershire.
Worswick succeeded Michelin-starred Adam Stokes as head chef at the stunningly located Glenapp Castle in January 2013, and is determined to build on his predecessor’s good work. He is certainly starting to make a name for himself, showing a particular fondness for seafood and foraged pickings on his daily fixed-price menus (three courses at lunch, six at dinner).