Head chef, Tuddenham Mill, near Newmarket, Suffolk
Nominated by Malcolm Wise, general manager, Tuddenham Mill
Proudest moment “Becoming head chef at Tuddenham Mill. It was a massive step for me at the time and I wasn’t very old, but I wanted to take on that pressure.”
Greatest inspiration “My family, the brigade at work, and the produce we cook with every day all have a massive influence on my way of thinking.”
Ambition “My long-term goal hasn’t changed from when I set out on my culinary path. I want to have my own restaurant. I look forward to it and continually plan for it, but I won’t rush this process as timing is key.”
Despite being ambitious, when Lee Bye started as a commis chef at Tuddenham Mill in 2007, he probably didn’t imagine he would be back as its head chef a mere seven years later, leading a brigade of 10.
It’s certainly been a swift rise – working his way through kitchens at Sanctuary Cove in Australia and the Merry Monk in Isleham, Cambridgeshire – but he has proved he is more than ready for the responsibility. Since taking over at Tuddenham in 2014, he has exceeded gross profit targets, with an average for last year of 71.1%, and is retaining staff for longer than the national average.
His achievements have not gone unnoticed. In 2014, he won the Bury Free Press Business Awards’ Employee of the Year and last year was named East Anglian Daily Times’ Chef of the Year.
As for food quality, Bye retained two AA rosettes and won an AA Notable Wine List award in 2015. He also scooped the Waitrose Good Food Guide Editor’s Award for Best Set Lunch 2015, and maintained a 5/10 score in the guide.
Bye clearly pours energy and enthusiasm into every aspect of this industry. As well as offering students stages, he is mentoring a second-year student who will join Tuddenham full-time when qualified. Bye has also created recipes for endurance athletes to support the RNLI’s Superhero 2015 sports event.