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Trained as a lawyer and working in banking in her native New Zealand, a chance application to a chef search competition began Chantelle Nicholson's meteoric rise in the culinary world. After winning the competition and meeting Josh Emett, then head chef at Marcus Wareing at the Savoy Grill, she was offered a job and never looked back.
From the Savoy, Wareing moved Nicholson to Pétrus in 2006 as sous chef, and then the two-Michelin-starred Marcus at the Berkeley, where she was a senior sous chef-cum-operations manager. She's also credited as co-author on Wareing's book, Nutmeg and Custard.
Wareing attributes the setting up of the Gilbert Scott to Nicholson, and in 2014 she took on the role of group operations director at Marcus Wareing Restaurants, while remaining an instrumental force in the relaunch of Marcus at the Berkeley and leading the Tredwell's project. Tredwell's opened just over a year later under Nicholson's firm direction.
Her ability to nurture, manage and develop talent has led to high staff retention rates. She has headed flexible working hours and suggested initiatives including automatic 50% discounts for employees off food in any group restaurant, and a rewards programme to recognise staff loyalty.
Nicholson has also been instrumental in driving forward the company's charitable endeavours. Due to her efforts, over £10,000 has been donated to Magic Breakfast and £1,500 to the Skip Garden at King's Cross through cocktail sales at the Gilbert Scott. Tredwell's is also a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association and one of Nicholson's focuses is increasing group sustainability.
As if that wasn't an exhaustive enough extracurricular list, she also spent the summer of 2014 splitting her time between the kitchen and on set at Ealing Studios, training Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller how to convincingly play chefs on screen for the film Burnt.
Wareing said: "Chantelle Nicholson is a pioneer within this industry. Her intelligent, diligent and intent approach on achieving her goals, and more, has been rather astonishing. Her ability to develop ideas, bring people together and develop and manage business with creative flair has made her a key part of my restaurant group's growth and future."
The former Acorn Award winner (nominated by Wareing himself) was recently promoted to chef-patron at Tredwell's. She undertakes her new role alongside her group operations director position, and continues as head chef for the restaurant. She will oversee a new bar offering and develop the live music and private event opportunities.
Looking to the future, Nicholson hopes to open another restaurant and bar with members of her current team to encourage them onwards and upwards.
What the judges said
"What an inspirational personal story. I wish Chantelle well in this next phase of her career."
"An amazing, inspiring leader. Such a great journey that will inspire others into our sector."
"A most deserving, credible and inspirational winner."
- Sally Beck Lancaster London
- Erick Kervaon the Bingham, London
- Chantelle Nicholson Marcus Wareing Restaurants
- Paul Sadler Calcot Manor, Tetbury
- Peter Avis, Restaurant manager, Babylon at the Roof Gardens, London
- Silvano Giraldin, Director, Silvano Giraldin service and management consultancy
- Linda Halliday, Shareholder, Oakman Inns
- Zoe Jenkins, General manager, Coworth Park, Ascot
- Liz McGivern, Vice-president human resources, Red Carnation Hotels
- Philip Newman-Hall, Hotel consultant
- Anne Pierce, Chief executive, the Springboard Charity
- Justin Pinchbeck, Chief operating officer, Beaverbrook
- Fred Sirieix, General manager, Galvin at Windows
- David Taylor, Chief operating officer, Project 1898
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