Head chef, Pollen Street Social, London
Nominated by Jason Atherton, owner, the Social Company
Proudest moment “Being awarded five AA rosettes last year. To receive the accolade was an amazing feeling for myself and the whole team, who work hard, day in and day out, to provide high-quality food and service.”
Biggest inspiration “My fiancée, Simona, who has given me our twins and my stepson, plus the drive to improve myself. Also, Jason Atherton has helped me to better my cooking and staff management skills, to see the bigger picture, and to create a better work-life balance.”
Ambition “To own a restaurant that involves and supports my family, while retaining high standards and inspiring the next generation.”
Dale Bainbridge has learned from the best. From potwasher to commis chef under head chef Roy Brett at Dakota Hotels, he then honed his craft across high-profile hotel restaurants before working his way up to sous chef at Corrigan’s in London. He joined Atherton’s flagship restaurant, Pollen Street Social, in the same role in August 2013 and was promoted to head chef less than 18 months later.
Since taking charge behind the stove, Bainbridge has boosted spend per head by 14% for lunch and 11% for dinner. He works with the HR department to ensure the right people are recruited. Testament to his management skills is that staff retention has risen by 29% in the past year, slashing agency fees by 78%. He has also built up a kitchen porter team, saving more than 18% on temporary agency fees.
Keen to develop talent, Bainbridge has implemented a programme to ensure his 30-strong brigade get the training and development they need, and he is working with Westminster Kingsway College to co-ordinate the restaurant’s new apprenticeship scheme.
Underpinning everything, of course, is Bainbridge’s cooking. In addition to the five AA rosettes achieved in 2016, he has helped the restaurant retain the Michelin star it earned in 2011, as well as scooping first place in Square Meal’s Hot 100 London Restaurants list.