If you ask people who only take a casual interest in restaurants whether they have heard of Clare Smyth, chances are they wouldn’t have. It is fair to say that Smyth, who is one of the most decorated chefs in the UK, has for the most part eschewed the limelight and as of yet, has not gone down the television show and cookbook route that many of her peers have chosen (aside from the odd appearance on Saturday Kitchen).
Instead, Clare Smyth very much likes to let her food do the talking and we think it’s a pretty safe bet to say that she has achieved that and then some. Smyth comes from humble beginnings, having grown up on a farm in County Antrim, Northern Ireland with her mother and father, who worked as a farmer and a waitress respectively.
In her teens, Smyth worked in the kitchen of a local restaurant during one of her school holidays and it was this position that inspired her to pursue a career as a chef. At the tender age of just 16, she packed up her bags and moved to England, where she enrolled in a catering course at Highbury College in Portsmouth, Hampshire.
After graduation, Smyth quickly notched up valuable experience at some of the most esteemed restaurants in the country. She worked at Terence Conran’s restaurant at Michelin House in London and also spent time at The Waterside Inn and Gidleigh Park. In 2002, Gordon Ramsay offered Clare Smyth a role at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and by 2007, she was the restaurant’s head chef - the first and only female chef to run a three Michelin star restaurant in the UK.
While working under Ramsay, Smyth received a number of accolades, including being named The Good Food Guide's 'National Chef of the Year' in 2013, as well as being awarded an MBE that same year for services to the hospitality industry. In 2016, Smyth left the Ramsay group to open her debut restaurant Core by Clare Smyth, which opened in the summer of the following year.
Based in Notting Hill, Core by Clare Smyth was immediately heaped with praise by critics and the restaurant was awarded 2 stars in the 2019 Michelin guide. Core was also crowned SquareMeal’s Restaurant of the Year in 2018, while Smyth herself was named The World’s Best Female Chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants that same year. In 2021 Core was awarded three Michelin stars making it one of only seven UK restaurants at the time to hold the highest accolade.
Although she often prefers to be lowkey, Smyth did put in a star turn as a judge for the UK episode of Netflix hit The Final Table. It’s yet to be seen what else Clare Smyth has in store for her culinary career, but it’s safe to say that her future is bright.