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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Jason Atherton, Pollen Street Social, l’esquina, Pollen, Table No 1 by Jason Atherton

Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Jason Atherton, Pollen Street Social, l’esquina, Pollen, Table No 1 by Jason Atherton

Overall ranking: 43 (ranked 62 in 2011)
Chef ranking: 9 (ranked 17 in 2011)

Jason Atherton – Snapshot

Jason Atherton is the chef-owner of Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social in London and the former chef-patron of the one-Michelin-starred Maze and Maze Grill in London, which he ran for Gordon Ramsay Holdings (GRH) from 2005 until 2010. During his tenure at Maze, Atherton oversaw GRH’s launch of Maze restaurants across the world, including in New York, Cape Town and Prague. He also has five Asian restaurants: Table No 1 by Jason Atherton in Shanghai, Pollen, Esquina and Snacks in Singapore, and no-reservation tapas bar 22 Ships in Hong Kong.

Jason Atherton – Career guide

Born in Sheffield in 1971, Jason Atherton learnt his trade working with some of the biggest names in the UK chef and restaurateur world, including Pierre Koffmann, at La Tante Claire; Nico Ladenis at Chez Nico; Marco Pierre White, at both Harvey’s and Restaurant Marco Pierre White at the Hyde Park hotel; and Stephen Terry – when Terry was at Oliver Peyton’s Coast. Then, in 1998 Atherton famously backpacked to Spain and become the first British chef to complete a stage at Ferran Adrià’s three-Michelin-starred El Bulli restaurant, after initially agreeing to work unpaid.

He returned to London to work alongside Terry again at Claudio Pulze’s Frith Street restaurant, winning a Caterer and Hotelkeeper Acorn Award in 2000 for his work at both Frith Street and as executive chef at the Cantina Vinopolis. After opening L’Anis in Kensington in 2000 with Pulze, and successfully putting his marker on the London food map, he joined Gordon Ramsay Holdings in 2001 as executive chef of the Verre and Glasshouse restaurants at the Hilton Dubai Creek, Dubai.

After returning to England in 2004, Atherton opened Maze at the Marriott Grosvenor Square hotel for GRH in 2005 having spent most of the previous year helping to develop the concept. The restaurant won a Michelin star and three AA rosettes within a year of opening. Three years later he opened the spin-off Maze Grill steakhouse restaurant next door, a concept that subsequently spread to Australia.In April 2010 Atherton announced that he was leaving GRH to start his own business, launching his first independent restaurant venture, Table No 1 by Jason Atherton, at the Waterhouse at South Bund hotel in Shanghai, while he developed and fine-tuned his plans for a flagship fine dining venture where he intended to cook. May 2011 saw him launch Pollen Street Social near London’s Hanover Square. The restaurant soon won a Michelin star and a raft of ‘”best new restaurant” awards in 2011 from the likes of Time Out, the Good Food Guide and Square Meal.

In the last 12 months Atherton has launched three new restaurants in Singapore. The bijou tapas bar, Esquina, in the city’s old Chinatown area opened its doors in December 2011: and in June 2012, Pollen in the up-market, contemporary Gardens by the Bay South area of Singapore cemented Atherton’s place on the city state’s dining out scene. These were joined more latterly by Snacks, near the new Naumi Liora Hotel. He also opened his first restaurant on Hong Kong, 22 Ships, a no-reservation tapas bar.

The summer of 2012 also saw Atherton add a personal accolade for his cheffing skills to add to those for Pollen Street: The 2012 Catey Chef Award. “It is the single most important award in my world and to win it was a dream come true,” he has said.

Jason Atherton – What we think

Jason Atherton was the first British chef to complete a stage at Spain’s iconic three-Michelin-starred El Bulli under Ferran Adrià. This helped to inform his cooking style, based around modern fusion cuisine. His contemporary awareness has never, though, led him to lose sight of his grounding in classic techniques and his great skill has always been knowing when to draw the line in culinary adventures. The result is balanced, light, clean-flavoured modern food that always seems in tune with what’s happening in the food world at large.
With the success he enjoyed at both Maze and Maze Grill in the UK and internationally – before financial problems forced Gordon Ramsay Holdings to rein in its expansion – Atherton could have been forgiven for staying within the confines of his mentor Ramsay’s restaurant group. But in May 2010 Caterer revealed he was quitting the group. Atherton’s departure was – outwardly at least – less acrimonious than former colleague Marcus Wareing’s, but GRH must have been sorely disappointed to lose him.

The plan was always to open a London restaurant of his own, says Atherton, and a few consultancy positions helped him build up capital to achieve that aim. In May 2010 Atherton opened a 60-seat restaurant in a Singaporean-owned boutique hotel, serving modern European dishes in tapas-sized portions. He told Caterer that Table No 1, which is headed up by former Maze and Maze Grill chef Scott Melvin, had been influenced by his time spent in Spain. Then in July 2010 he teamed up with contract caterer Compass’s fine-dining arm Restaurant Associates to help create bespoke concepts for individual clients – and he also consults to Hong Kong Airlines.

In May 2011, Atherton launched the eagerly anticipated Pollen Street Social on the edge of London’s Mayfair district. The restaurant, which deals in fine-dining dishes in a more relaxed, informal environment, was an immediate success, has already won many awards and is constantly busy. But with nine year’s tutelage in the art of running restaurants and building an international brand, courtesy of GRH, perhaps that’s not surprising.

Despite a busy 12 months, Atherton has no plans to slow down. He’s just announced the opening of a second London restaurant in Soho. The Social Eating House will open in Poland Street in March 2013 and will, says Atherton, “be our take on what bistro food should be”.
And he’s recently opened a new restaurant in Hong Kong. Called 22 Ships, the restaurant is a joint project with entrepreneur Yenn Wong, founder of JIA Boutique Hotels and Sheung Wan’s 208 Duecento Otto. Located in downtown Hong Kong, below Alvin Leung’s Bo Innovation, the restaurant serves a menu of modern tapas.

Given the flurry of restaurant openings Atherton has tucked under his belt in the last year, one can only assume that he has plans for more sites over the coming years. One thing is for sure, he’ll research his projects well.

Jason Atherton’s ranking in the 2011 Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 >>

The Caterer and Hotelkeeper interview: Jason Atherton >>

Jason Atherton top open second Singapore restaurant >>

Jason Atherton reveals more details on second London restaurant >>

Food at Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social includes ‘vivid and extravagant flavours’ >>

Jason Atherton gets ready for solo opening >>

Jason Atherton opens Pollen Street Social today >>

Chef revelations: Jason Atherton >>

Jason Atherton opens restaurant in Shanghai >>

Jason Atherton website >>

Pollen Street Social website >>

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