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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Brett Graham, the Ledbury, the Harwood Arms

Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Brett Graham, the Ledbury, the Harwood Arms

Overall ranking: 79 (ranked 85 in 2010)

Chef ranking: 26 (ranked 25 in 2010)

Brett Graham – Snapshot

Brett Graham is the chef-patron of two-Michelin-starred London restaurant the Ledbury. He also co-owns and oversees Michelin-starred pub the Harwood Arms in Fulham.

Brett Graham – Career guide

Graham was born in 1979 in Newcastle, New South Wales, and grew up on his grandfather’s farm. His first job was an apprenticeship at a local fish restaurant called Scratchleys before he moved to Sydney at the age of 18 to take up a job with Irish chef Liam Tomlins at his restaurant Banc. His big break arrived when he won Australia’s coveted Josephine Pignolet cookery award as Sydney’s best young chef, and the prize of a flight to London brought him to the UK in 2000. He secured a job at the Square under Phil Howard and stayed there for three-and-a-half years, during which time he gained further recognition by winning the Restaurant Association’s Young Chef of the Year title.

In 2005, aged just 26, Howard and business partner Nigel Platts-Martin gave Graham the opportunity to open his own restaurant, the Ledbury in Notting Hill. After opening to rave reviews, the site gained its first Michelin star within a year, and added a second in 2010.

In late 2008 Graham opened Fulham gastropub the Harwood Arms with TV chef Mike Robinson and publican Edwin Vaux. It opened to wide acclaim and, in 2010, became the first London pub to win a Michelin star.

Brett Graham – What we think

Graham’s meteoric rise to the upper echelons of the London dining scene has as much to do with his natural talent in the kitchen as to the assured guidance of mentors such as Phil Howard.
To get through the pressures of opening a fine-dining restaurant aged 26, only five years after arriving in the country, he needed reserves of power as well as all the advice he could absorb from Howard’s and Platts-Martin’s lengthy experience.

“It was incredibly tough, both physically and mentally. Never having been a head chef before and suddenly having the responsibility of running a restaurant was very hard. What I found the most difficult was that people are so quick to knock you. Of five great reviews and one bad one, you only remember the bad one, and I took that quite hard because I felt like we were failing,” Graham told Caterer in early 2010.

Under the steady eyes of Howard and Platts-Martin, Graham grew into the role, and quickly paid back much of the faith shown in him by earning a Michelin star within a year of the Ledbury opening.
Graham’s modern French cuisine adheres to the same strict values of seasonality as his mentor Howard’s and is rooted in classical principles, with just the odd progressive technique or exotic ingredient.
Despite being tipped as a second star rising in the 2009 Michelin guide, Graham was nevertheless shocked to be immediately promoted to two full stars the following year: “It was amazing that we got to rising two-stars, and I thought that this was our limit and that we’d sit there for a few years,” he told Caterer.

Even more of a surprise was the award of one star to his Fulham gastropub the Harwood Arms, which he’d opened just over a year earlier with protégé Stephen Williams in the kitchen. It had picked up the Menu of the Year Catey, but he held no Michelin ambition for the pub whatsoever. However, the invention that marks Graham’s cooking at the Ledbury made it into the Harwood’s kitchen in sufficient strength – despite its hearty, game-led remit – and encouraged Michelin to award a first star to a London pub. With Graham aged only 32, and among an elite group of British chefs to boast three stars in their portfolio, he will surely help dictate London’s culinary future.

Brett Graham’s ranking in the 2010 100 >>

Top chefs join forces to help disaster recovery in Australia >>

Harwood Arms head chef Stephen Williams leaves London’s only Michelin-starred pub >>

Chef Eats Out: The Ledbury >>

Video: Interview with two-Michelin-starred chef Brett Graham from the Ledbury >>

Aussie rules: Interview with two-Michelin starred chef Brett Grahame >>

Menuwatch: The Harwood Arms >>

The Ledbury website >>

The Harwood Arms website >>

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