Overall ranking: 56
Chef ranking: 15
Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft – Snapshot
Nigel Haworth is the chef-proprietor of Northcote – the Michelin-starred, three-AA-rosette restaurant with rooms in Langho, near Blackburn – which he co-owns with general manager and wine expert Craig Bancroft. Under the umbrella of Ribble Valley Inns, the duo have also opened the Three Fishes at Mitton, the Highwayman at Burrow, the Clog and Billycock at Pleasington – all in Lancashire – and the Bull at Broughton in North Yorkshire.
Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft – Career guides
Nigel Haworth was born in Lancashire in 1958. After training at Accrington and Rossendale College, he worked at the Royal Berkshire hotel in Ascot and London’s Grosvenor House hotel and, from 1978, spent several years in Switzerland.
Dismayed by the standard of catering he found in Lancashire on his return, Haworth became a lecturer at his old college for 18 months.
Meanwhile, Craig Bancroft, who was born near Blackburn in 1961, had taken his first job as a kitchen porter at the Kensington Close hotel in London before joining the Trusthouse Forte management trainee scheme. He served as a chef at the Grosvenor House hotel and the two-Michelin-starred Plaza Athénée in Paris, followed by trainee roles in food and beverage, housekeeping and front of house at the five-star Brown’s and Westbury hotels in London.
Following stints at London’s Regent Palace Piccadilly and Strand Palace and Yorkshire’s Beverley Arms hotels and with just six months’ training left to complete, Bancroft was lured to the unimpressive Northcote Manor hotel in December 1983 as general manager. One of his first moves was to bring Haworth on board as head chef in March 1984.
In 1986 Haworth and Bancroft acquired a stake in the business and, in 1989, bought it outright. The duo set up outside catering arm Northcote Offsite in 1999, two years after Haworth became consultant chef to contract caterer Baxter & Platts, now BaxterStorey. They sold 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, which they had launched three years earlier.
Ribble Valley Inns’ 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 for Pub and Bar Operator of the Year, the Publican Pub of the Year and the Campaign for Real Ale’s Kids’ Food award.
The company currently operates two other pubs in Lancashire – the Highwayman in Kirkby Lonsdale and the Clog and Billcock at Pleasington – while a fourth, the Bull, opened in Broughton, North Yorkshire, in June 2009.
Following his success in the 2008 BBC2 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 reached the finals of the 2009 series by triumphing over Aiden Byrne of the Church Green in Cheshire.
Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft – What we think
It’s become commonplace to talk about local sourcing in UK food circles, but Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft have been championing Lancashire produce since long before it was fashionable to do so.
Over the past 25 years at their flagship hotel restaurant Northcote (formerly Northcote Manor), menu items such as Lancashire hotpot and Herdwick lamb have become as established as the Edwardian detailing and the array of fireplaces.
The creation of the Ribble Valley Inns pub brand has taken the pair’s food to a wider audience. Northcote was awarded a Michelin star in 1996, but in the decade that followed they’ve opened a pub, the Three Fishes, in Mitton, Lancashire, in 2004; launched the nearby Highwayman late in 2006; and opened the Clog and Billycock in Pleasington, near Blackburn, in 2008. Then, in June 2009, Haworth and Bancroft took the lease for a site near Skipton, North Yorkshire, at the Bull at Broughton.
Haworth is involved in Chefs Sans Frontiers, a group of chefs who promote the North-west of England with demonstrations in Paris, Barcelona and London, as well as being a member of the Academy of Culinary Arts and of the Masterchefs of Great Britain. Warrick Dodds, Northcote’s former head chef, has won the Young Chef of the Year award and was a finalist in the Roux Scholarship. Northcote’s former sous chef, Jason Birkbeck, has also won the Young Chef competition. Current head chef, Lisa Allen, was a winner in this year’s Great British Menu dinner, which saw the young chef cooking for Prince Charles.
Haworth’s skills and passion for giving a contemporary twist to classic British dishes such as Lancashire hotpot, combined with Bancroft’s development of a strong front-of-house team, 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 the Independent Hotel of the Year Catey in 1999. The topping on the cake was the well-deserved Special Award won by the duo at the Cateys in 2009.
Haworth 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 him to produce an honest and hearty repertoire that is loved by customers and critics alike. Long may it continue.
Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft – Further information