Food & Drink

Food Critic
Edinburgh-born AA Gill is one of the most widely-read food critics in Britain, notorious for his acerbic restaurant reviews in The Sunday Times and Vanity Fair. He studied at Central St Martins and the Slade, harbouring early ambitions to become a painter, but gave up, fearing he lacked talent. Gill came to writing in his thirties, working for small art magazines before progressing to Tatler with an anonymous feature about his experience in a detox clinic. Now 30 years sober, the severely dyslexic Gill dictated his 2015 memoir Pour Me to a copy taker, documenting the year between the end of his first marriage and the end of his battle with alcoholism. No stranger to controversy, Gill was the subject of over 60 complaints to the PCC over the course of five years to 2010 and has managed to offend variously the Welsh, the English, those from the Isle of Man, Clare Balding and Mary Beard.
In 2015 restaurateur Alan Yau opened lavish new Mayfair venue Park Chinois, which represents his most ambitious project to date, spanning two floors and over 15,000 feet. It is only the latest component in Yau's restaurant empire, which began with the first branch of Wagamama in Bloomsbury in 1992. Wagamama's affordable, Japanese ramen-style food and canteen environment proved a hit with Londoners, and the chain now has over 140 branches around the world. Yau subsequently moved into fine dining with Michelin-starred restaurants Hakkasan and Yauatcha, and further openings over the last two decades have brought the best of Cantonese, Japanese and Thai cuisine to a city that, 20 years ago, was somewhat lacking in flavour.
Chef patron at the Michelin-starred Murano in Mayfair, Angela Hartnett is one of the most respected chefs in the restaurant world. The protégée of Gordon Ramsay became the first ever female chef at The Connaught when she launched the Grill Room with Ramsay in 2002, and she now owns a further three restaurants as well as Murano – Café Murano, Merchants Tavern and Hartnett Holder & Co at the Lime Wood Hotel in the New Forest. Hartnett's father died when she was eight and her Italian grandmother raised her, and taught her to cook, whilst her mother worked as a dinner lady. The Arsenal fan, once nicknamed 'Dizzy Lizzy' by Ramsay, believes food should be social and unpretentious, and her down-to-earth approach has made her a favourite on television shows such as Hell's Kitchen and Masterchef.
Chris Corbin and Jeremy King are the partners behind some of London's most iconic eateries including The Wolseley in Piccadilly and The Delaunay in the West End, and their company Corbin & King Ltd opened its first hotel, The Beaumont, in Mayfair in 2014. Partners for over 30 years, they first acquired Le Caprice in 1981, followed by The Ivy and J Sheekey, pursuing an ambition to restore neglected restaurants to their former glory. Caprice Holdings was sold to Signature Restaurants in 2001, and the pair went on to acquire the Wolseley two years later. Their next opening will be Bellanger in Islington, a classic brasserie-style restaurant which will serve food and wine originating from the Alsace region of France.
Blogger and Food Writer
Ella Woodward was at the vanguard of a new wave of 'clean eating' bloggers, establishing her name as a food and nutrition writer with website Deliciously Ella, which she started while still at university. Woodward began the blog after being diagnosed with postural tachycardia syndrome, a rare condition which prompted her to change her unhealthy student diet. Her symptoms improved dramatically, and now Woodward's healthy eating tips and recipes for carrot cake cookies and buckwheat salad generate around 2.5 million hits a month. Her first cookbook was released in 2015, and she also launched a bestselling app, on which followers can order meals from her own deli. Currently training as a naturopathic nutritionist, she also teaches cooking classes and released her second book, Deliciously Ella Every Day, in January 2016.
Chef and Owner, The Fat Duck
Culinary experimentalist Heston Blumenthal opened The Fat Duck in Bray in 1995 and it has held three Michelin stars since 2004, one of only four UK restaurants with the distinction. Determined from the outset to 'question everything', Blumenthal is a proponent of molecular gastronomy and has been made an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry for his scientific approach to cooking, with egg and bacon ice cream and snail porridge among his more curious dishes. A family meal in Provence at 16 first inspired Blumenthal's desire to create multisensory meals, billed as 'itineraries' at The Fat Duck. Blumenthal also owns The Hinds Head pub in Bray, and the two-Michelin starred Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental, once hailed by Giles Coren as the best restaurant in the world. In 2014 he opened a café at Heathrow Terminal 2 and has a string of cookery books, television shows and a range at Waitrose to his name.
Chef and Food Campaigner
Having grown up in the Essex pub run by his parents and honed his cooking skills at Carluccio's and the River Café, Jamie Oliver first appeared on UK screens as the Naked Chef of the '90s, bringing a fun, informal approach to cooking. Further TV programmes, cookery books and a chain of restaurants followed, as well as an 11-year partnership with Sainsbury's. Known today for his campaigning as much as for his cooking, Oliver continues to play a hugely influential role in forming government policy on health and nutrition education. In 2015 he presented David Cameron with his Obesity Strategy, which aims to reduce childhood obesity and diet-related disease, and his suggestion for a 20% sugar tax won endorsement from the Commons' health committee.
Food and Wine Critics
Husband and wife Nicholas Lander and Jancis Robinson are, respectively, food and wine writers for the Financial Times, as well as being authors, television presenters and consultants. Described as 'the most respected wine critic and journalist in the world' by Decanter magazine, Robinson has travelled the world in pursuit of her passion, and the prolific writer advises the Queen on her wine cellar. Lander is a catering consultant for a number of organisations and has been a critic on Masterchef. The couple, who used to own L'Escargot in Soho, have run their own television production company, Eden Productions, and are one food and wine pairing whose attributes perfectly match.
Chef and Restaurateur
Jason Atherton is the chef behind the group of Social restaurants whose flagship, Pollen Street Social, opened in 2011. He has since opened two more restaurants in London, Social Eating House in Soho and Little Social in Mayfair, with overseas venues in Hong Kong, Dubai, Shanghai, New York and Singapore. Atherton ran away from home at 16 to train as a chef while his mother and stepfather were on holiday, and in 1998 he became the first British chef to complete a stage at el Bulli in Spain, for many years regarded as the best restaurant in the world. He has also trained under chefs including Nico Landis, Pierre Koffmann and Marco Pierre White, honing his classical skills, and until 2010 he was the executive chef at Gordon Ramsay's Michelin-starred Maze. 2016 will see further openings planned for Sydney and London.
Owners, JKS Restaurants
JKS Restaurants was founded by the siblings Jyotin, Karam and Sunaina Sethi and encompasses the Indian restaurants they have created as well as concept partnerships with chefs and food entrepreneurs. Under the group umbrella, the Sethis' own restaurants include the Michelin-starred Trishna in Marylebone and Gymkhana in Mayfair, as well as critically acclaimed Hoppers, recently opened in Soho. In 2014 Gymkhana became the first Indian restaurant to win the BMW Square Meal Restaurant of the Year award and was named the UK's Best Restaurant in the National Restaurant Awards 2014 and Best Indian Restaurant at the National Restaurant Awards in 2015. The other restaurants included in the group are Lyle's in Shoreditch, Bubbledogs in Fitzrovia, the Michelin-starred Kitchen Table in Fitzrovia and Bao in Soho. Karam Sethi is responsible for food, concepts and scouting new talent for the group. Sunaina curates the wine lists, and looks after operations. Jyotin is managing director for JKS Restaurants.
Food Critic
As one of the few critics to conduct her reviews anonymously, Marina O'Loughlin ensures her restaurant experience most closely matches that of the typical customer, and her witty, incisive and evocative write-ups have made her one of the most esteemed food journalists in Britain. O'Loughlin wrote weekly reviews for the Metro until 2012 when she joined the Guardian to write for its Saturday Weekend magazine. Her identity is a closely guarded secret, but she is thought to be Glaswegian, and a recent list of her 50 favourite restaurants paid tribute to the finest food destinations across the UK.
Founders, Brewdog
Founded in 2007, Aberdeenshire eco-brewery Brewdog found a niche in an ostensibly overcrowded market. Bored with the beer offerings available on the UK market, founders James Watt and Martin Dickie decided to create their own home-brewed craft ales, which they began selling at markets out of the back of their van. Despite hostility from more established members of the industry, the brewery behind Punk IPA has been the fastest-growing UK drinks company for the past three years with bars throughout the UK and as far afield as Italy and Brazil. In 2015 Dickie and Watt launched a crowd-funding initiative to raise growth capital from fans of the business, claiming that Brewdog will hit £100million in revenues by 2017.
Food Writer and Great British Bake off Judge
Mary Berry has held a firm place in the hearts of the British public for over four decades, most recently as a shrewd but gentle judge alongside Paul Hollywood on the BAFTA-award-winning The Great British Bake Off. Although she says she was 'hopeless' at school, Berry found solace in cooking, encouraged by her Domestic Sciences teacher. Berry went on to take a cookery course at Bath College of Domestic Science before studying at Le Cordon Bleu in France. Her first book was published in the 1970s and she launched her own brand of products in the 1990s. Since then, she has published more than 75 cookery books. 2015 saw Mary Berry going stateside on a US version of Bake Off called The Great Holiday Baking Show, but she filmed her scenes in the UK so she didn't have to be away from her antiques dealer husband Paul.
Great British Bake Off Winner
Nadiya Hussain won the nation's hearts as well as The Great British Bake Off in 2015 when she was crowned the sixth champion of the popular BBC series. Hailed as a spokesperson for both Muslim women and stay-at-home mums, it was her cooking credentials that most impressed judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood when she baked a 'showstopper' wedding cake in the final episode of Bake Off. First-generation Bangladeshi, and born in Luton, Hussain's emotional winner's speech focused more on discarding the boundaries she had placed on herself than those related to race or religion. Since winning Bake Off, which attracted the biggest TV audience of the year for its final episode, she has written for The Times Magazine and secured a publishing deal for a recipe book with Penguin imprint Michael Joseph.
Food Writer and TV Chef
Nigella Lawson returned triumphantly to television screens in 2014 with US-import The Taste. Late 2015 saw the launch of her new show and its recipe book offshoot Simply Nigella. Lawson's father Nigel was chancellor of the exchequer under Margaret Thatcher and she enjoyed a privileged upbringing, though she makes no secret of the fact that her politics are very different from his. Lawson studied medieval and modern languages at Oxford and, after an early career in publishing and as a journalist, found fame in 1998 with her bestselling book How to Eat, which was shortly followed by How to Be a Domestic Goddess. Having never formally trained as a chef, Lawson advocates taking pleasure in food and the therapeutic effect of cooking, and her intimate, no-frills approach has proved an enduring hit with the British public.
Irish restaurateur and Great British Menu judge Oliver Peyton left school at 17 and began his career opening nightclubs in London with a partner before founding a company importing premium drinks, which is credited with paving the way for a burgeoning cocktail culture in the UK. He made the move to his real love, restaurants, and launched a series of venues during the '90s. His company Peyton & Byrne, which he runs together with his three sisters, was born in 2006 and is responsible for restaurants within a number of London museums and galleries including the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection, plus six Peyton & Byrne bakeries across the capital.
Owner, Caprice Holdings
2015 saw the much-hyped opening of Richard Caring's latest restaurant, Sexy Fish, in Mayfair, which boasts décor by Damien Hirst and a menu of Asian seafood that has been roundly lauded by critics. The billionaire investor in London's restaurants and members' clubs left Millfield School aged 16, where he had a ten-shilling-a-week scholarship, and started work in retail, eventually forming International Clothing Designs (ICD) in Hong Kong, which at its height supplied 70% of the UK's high street retailers. During this time he met Sir Philip Green, with whom he maintains a close relationship. Today Caprice Holdings owns some of the capital's most famous venues including The Ivy, Le Caprice, J Sheekey, Annabel's and Soho House, where the wealthy, famous and fashionable party in private.
Polpo founder Russell Norman has nine restaurants in London and one in Brighton, with Polpo Lewisham due to open soon. Norman qualified as a teacher, working in a girls' school for three years, but made better money on his weekends as a maître d' at theatre restaurant Joe Allens. He decided to enter the restaurant business full time, working as an operations director at Caprice Holdings before deciding to set up his own business with best friend Richard Beatty in 2009. His flagship Polpo opened on Beak Street in September of that year, billed as a Venetian bàcaro, a humble restaurant serving simple food and good, young wines. It was a hit with critics, described as 'simply the best value in the West End' by AA Gill. Further openings soon followed. Norman has published two books and presented documentary The Restaurant Man in 2014 for BBC2.
Having worked at various prestigious restaurants including Adlards and Rhodes in the Square, Kerridge opened the Hand and Flowers gastropub in Buckinghamshire with his wife Beth in 2005. In its first year it gained a Michelin star and in 2012 it became the first pub ever to receive two of them. In 2013 Kerridge knocked both Jamie Oliver and Bridget Jones from the top of the bestsellers list with his recipe book Proper Pub Food, and a follow-up, Tom's Table, was published in 2015. Kerridge began cooking when he was at school: after his parents divorced, his mother worked multiple jobs and Kerridge would cook for his brother. He also fronts BBC2's Food & Drink, one of the biggest cooking programmes on television.
Chef, Restaurateur and Food Writer
As chef, deli owner and food writer, Jerusalem-born Yotam Ottolenghi plays an influential role right across the food industry. In 2015 his fifth cookery book, Nopi, named after his Soho-based restaurant, joined his award-winning cannon. He discovered his passion for food after taking a course at Cordon Bleu, and he now has three Ottolenghi delis around London serving fresh salads, cakes and baked goods. An advocate of flavourful vegetarian dishes – though he eats and loves meat - he also writes weekly recipes for the Guardian. Though one of his closest collaborators, Sami Tamimi, is Palestinian, he is reluctant to be drawn on Middle Eastern politics, but is a champion of gay marriage and parenting, and he and his partner Karl are fathers to a son, Max.
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