Skye Gyngell is the winner of the 2019 AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year

The chef-patron of Spring and culinary director of Heckfield Place becomes the second winner of this major industry award, following Angela Hartnett in 2018.

Updated on 21 October 2019 • Written By Ben McCormack

Skye Gyngell is the winner of the 2019 AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year

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Champagne AYALA and SquareMeal are proud to announce that Skye Gyngell is the winner of this year’s AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year award.

This major industry award was launched in 2018 to celebrate the huge contribution female chefs are making to the UK restaurant industry. The AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year award shines a spotlight on the women whose achievements are an inspiration to everyone involved in this vibrant sector, from school-leavers beginning their career as a chef to diners choosing where to eat.

Commenting on Gyngell’s win, SquareMeal editor Ben McCormack (pictured above with Gyngell and Ayala chef de cave Caroline Latrive) said: “Skye Gyngell is no stranger to London diners, having won a Michelin star at Petersham Nurseries Café and then making a solo success out of Spring for the past five years. Recently, however, she has proved that she is much more than a chef by leading the way on environmental issues such as eliminating single-use plastics, reducing food waste and committing to sustainable farming methods.”

Skye Gyngell's food at Heckfield Place

Gyngell's cooking at Heckfield Place focuses on seasonal, biodynamically farmed ingredients 

Spring stopped using plastic straws in 2017 and six months later eliminated single-use plastics. What’s more, the restaurant’s early-evening Scratch menu serves up three courses of food that would otherwise go to waste for £20. And Heckfield Place, the luxury Hampshire hotel that opened in 2018 where Gyngell is culinary director, will soon have the largest biodynamic farm in England.

Gyngell has championed sustainability since she pioneered the use of local and seasonal ingredients when Petersham Nurseries Café opened in 2004. Since launching Spring in 2014, she has relied heavily on produce from Fern Verrow, Jane Scotter’s biodynamic farm in Herefordshire.

At Heckfield Place, meanwhile, Gyngell has planted a biodynamic vegetable farm, orchards and woodland, as well as installing a dairy for raw milk. There are plans to introduce an educational programme to help students understand the connection between the earth and the plate.

But it’s not just the land that Gyngell wants to nurture – she is keen for her team to flourish, too, by closing on Sundays and giving staff a 44-hour working week with two weekends off a month.

Pip Lacey, Angela Hartnett, Skye Gyngell and Nieves Barragan Mohacho at the 2019 Ayala SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year award

Skye Gyngell with three of the other shortlisted chefs (left to right) Pip Lacey, Angela Hartnett and Nieves Barragan Mohacho 

McCormack added: “Skye Gyngell used to be famous as the chef who walked away from a Michelin star. These days, however, the chef-patron of Spring and culinary director of Heckfield Place is renowned for being one of the most forward-looking chefs in the country.”

Commenting on her win, Gyngell said: “I am so honoured and thrilled to receive this award. There are so many wonderful creative and talented women working in our industry and it’s just so wonderful to be even included among them, thank you!”

Gyngell was presented with her award at a Champagne reception at The Goring in Belgravia for the shortlisted chefs, which coincided with the UK launch of the AYALA Le Blanc de Blancs 2013. The full shortlist of chefs can be seen below: 

Want to find out more about the UK's best female chefs? Click here and read on. 

About Ayala

With its longstanding commitment to the restaurant industry, Champagne Ayala is proud to be the title sponsor in this series of interviews with inspirational female chefs. It is also the sponsor of the SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year award, which was launched in 2018.

Now restored to its former glory by its new owners the Bollinger family, Champagne AYALA is known for its fresh and elegant wines, made with precision and delicacy, and crafted on a boutique scale by winemaker Caroline Latrive. The wines have been served in the UK for over 100 years in many of London’s most prestigious establishments, and AYALA has been the house Champagne for many a British institution, from The Ritz to The Goring. AYALA’s well-balanced Chardonnay-focused blends and low dosage make it a terrific epicurean pairing. 

For more information click here.

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