Nigel Haworth is the chef-proprietor of Northcote Manor, the multi-award winning country house hotel and restaurant in Langho, Lancashire, which he has co-owned with Craig Bancroft since 1989.
Together they also run the catering contract at Blackburn Rovers Football Club and a burgeoning pub company, Ribble Valley Inns, which has just completed the purchase of its fourth pub.
Born in Lancashire, in 1958, Nigel Haworth trained as a chef at Accrington and Rossendale College. Following early jobs in the kitchens of the Royal Berkshire Hotel in Ascot and the Grosvenor House Hotel, London, he moved, in 1978, to Switzerland where he refined his cooking and patisserie skills in a succession of different establishments over four years.
Disillusioned with catering standards in Lancashire upon his return, Nigel Haworth accepted the post of a lecturer at his old college. After 18 months – in March 1984 – he was appointed as head chef at what was then called Northcote Manor by Bancroft, who had been hired by the property’s new owner, John Wolstenholme, to create one of the finest country house hotels and restaurants in the UK.
With Haworth and Bancroft appointed to their respective positions, it was soon apparent that a winning formula was in place with the hotel gaining its first entry in The Good Food Guide in 1987.
Having taken a 40% stake in the business in 1986, the partners bought the hotel outright in 1989 for £360,000. As the hotel prospered, Haworth and Bancroft invested £540,000 in the business to expand Northcote Manor to create the 14-bedroom hotel with 80-seat restaurant which exists today.
Haworth’s skills and passion for giving a contemporary twist to British classical dishes – such as Lancashire hotpot – combined with the development of a strong front-of-house team by Bancroft won the partnership a string of accolades during the 1990s, most notably the Lancashire Life Restaurant of the Year 1993, a Michelin star in 1996 and Catey Independent Hotel of the Year 1999. Haworth was also named Egon Ronay Chef of the Year in 1995.
Success at the hotel led to expansion of an outside catering company, Northcote Offsite – giving Bancroft and Haworth the platform to bid for the long-term catering contract at Blackburn Rovers Football Club in 2000 – followed by the birth of Ribble Valley Inns.
Their first pub – the Three Fishes in Mitton – was an instant success, serving up to 1,300 covers a week in the first months and scooping three awards in 2005 – the Catey Pub and Bar operator of the year, the Publican pub of the Year and the CAMRA Kid’s Food award.
There are currently two other pubs in Lancashire – The Highwayman in Kirby Lonsdale and The Clog and Billcock at Pleasington – with a fourth, The Bull opening in Broughton, North Yorkshire, in June 2009. More pubs are planned for the future.
Today Haworth and Bancroft continue to run Northcote at the Rovers, but decided to sell the wider contract catering business, Northcote Offsite, at the end of 2007 to the company’s operations director, Martin Jones, to concentrate on developing the hotel and expanding Ribble Valley Inns.
Recent developments at Northcote have included a complete rebuild of the 14 bedrooms and ensuite bathrooms, at a cost of £600,000, in preparation for a possible extension of the property to create an additional 14 bedrooms, new restaurant and kitchens capable of achieving two or three Michelin stars, improved staff facilities and landscaping of the gardens. The total project would involve an investment of £2.5-3m over five years.
Haworth helped launch the North West Chefs’ Circle and is a member of the Masterchefs of Great Britain and the Academy of Culinary Arts.
In 2004 he received The Prince Philip Medal, City & Guilds’ highest achievement in recognition of his lifelong commitment to catering and inspiration to others.
Two years later he was presented with The Lifetime Achievement Award at the Northern Hospitality Awards. In the 2009 Harden’s Guide, Northcote was rated as serving the best food in the country.
Following his success in the 2008 BBC 2 series of Great British Menu, in which he beat Anthony Flinn of Anthony’s Restaurant, Leeds, to represent the north of England in the finals, Haworth has reached the finals of the 2009 series by triumphing over Aiden Bryne of The Church Green, Lymm, Cheshire.
Haworth’s says his major inspiration as a chef has been the farmers, growers and producers who have worked with him for more than 20 years, enabling to produce a honest and hearty repertoire which is loved by customers and critics alike.
When not working, Haworth’s passions are his family, including two children and two step-children, and Blackburn Rovers FC.
Haworth won through to the finals of the Great British Feast 2009, which revolved around cooking a meal for British soldiers returning from the War in Afghanistan. His winning recipe was for a main course of Lonk lamb Lancashire Hotpot, pickled red cabbage, carrots & leeks.
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