Kenny Atkinson is head chef of The White Room restaurant at Seaham Hall, a small luxury hotel in Seaham, County Durham. He retained the hotel’s Michelin star in January 2009, just six months after being appointed to the post.
Atkinson achieved wider acclaim when he beat off stiff competition to create the starter at the homecoming banquet to welcome home members of the British armed forces returning from Afganistan on the 2009 series of the BBC2 TV show, Great British Menu. Atkinson’s salad of Aberdeen Angus beef, carrots, horseradish and Shetland black potato crisps was narrowly voted into second place by the panel of three judges, but with the votes added from the viewers, the dish moved into first position.
Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in December 1976, Atkinson left school at 16 with six GCSEs and no ambitions. However, after a stint working with his uncle in the kitchens of the Ravensdene Lodge Hotel, Gateshead, he decided to pursue a career as a chef. He continued to work at the hotel for nearly two years as a YTS trainee chef whilst studying catering and hospitality, good preparation and cooking NVQ 1 & 2 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne College.
After a five month stint working in Malia, Crete, in 1996, Atkinson moved through the kitchen ranks in a number of different hotels. He was appointed commis chef at The Vermont Hotel in Newcastle-upon Tyne in 1996, chef de partie at Wood Norton Hall in Evsham, Worcester, in1997, first commis chef at The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel, London, in 1998, junior sous chef at the London Marriott County Hall Hotel, in 1999, junior chef at the Hotel Kandinsky, Cheltenham, in 2000, sous chef at The Greenway Hotel, Shurdington, Gloucestershire, in 2001, and sous chef at The Cotswold Hotel, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, in 2002.
Atkinson took on his first head chef position when he returned to The Greenway Hotel in 2003, a post he remained in for nearly three years, winning three AA rosettes and 5/10 in the Good Food Guide. He then took the major step of moving to St Martin’s on the Isles of Scilly, in 2006 when he was appointed executive head chef of St Martin’s on the Isle. During his stay on the island, the hotel was named Cornwall restaurant of the year by the Good Food Guide and achieved a Michelin star – the first for an establishment on the Isles of Scilly.
In July 2008, Atkinson returned to his roots to take over the executive head chef role at Seaham Hall Hotel.
Atkinson, is a keen footballer and a freeman of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He and his wife, Abbie, have a young son.
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