Nigel Haworth is to change his role from chef-patron and joint managing director of luxury country house hotel Northcote to ambassador.
Haworth, who has worked alongside partner and joint managing director Craig Bancroft for 33 years, will retain his shareholding in the Lancashire property and its sister business Ribble Valley Inns, but will resign as a director with immediate effect.
Speaking exclusively to The Caterer, Haworth said: “I have been considering the move for the past two or three years, but when Northcote has been in your life for so long it’s hard to change direction, personally, and do different things. Over the last six or seven years, Northcote has progressed as a hotel and I felt the platform was right for me to do other things such as giving something back to my family while staying on as an ambassador.”
Haworth, who has recently turned 59, will be contracted to do 50 days a year for the four-AA-red-star, Langho-based property and will continue to oversee the internationally recognised Obsession festival, which is entering its 18th year. Lisa Goodwin-Allen will continue in her role as executive head chef.
As one half of one of the most successful partnerships in the history of the UK hospitality industry, Haworth joined the property in 1984, one year after Bancroft arrived at the hotel as general manager. Northcote was awarded a Michelin star in 1996, which it has retained it ever since, and was awarded four AA rosettes in 2010. Meanwhile, Haworth’s proteges include some of the most respected chefs on the UK dining scene including Northcote’s executive chef Allen, who has been at Northcote for 16 years, Mark Birchall, who opened his own restaurant with rooms, Moor Hall in Aughton, Lancashire, earlier this year, and Danesfield House’s Billy Reid.
As one of the North-west’s most famous chefs, he has won numerous accolades during his 33-year tenure including the Special Award at the Craft Guild of Chefs Awards 2017 and Egon Ronay Chef of the Year 1995. Alongside Bancroft, he was the recipient of the Special Achievement Award at the NRB Top 50 Awards in 2015 and three Cateys – the Special Award in 2009, Pub and Bar Operator in 2005, and Hotel of the Year – Independent in 1999.
In 2009, at a banquet to celebrate the 70th anniversary of D-Day and to honour those who had fought in the Normandy landings, he cooked the main course for BBC2’s Great British Menu, bringing his famous dish of Lonk lamb Lancashire hot pot, roast loin, pickled red cabbage, organic tangled garden carrots and leeks to the venue of St Paul’s Cathedral.
As an ambassador of Northcote, Haworth said he would be representing Northcote in various countries and taking part in special dinners as well as conducting development work for the 26-bedroom property. “Northcote is such a fabulous platform and I think the kitchen there now is definitely capable of getting a second Michelin star. I have said to the team, if they don’t do it for anyone else, do it for me.”
He added: “Northcote is about a co-operative of things, and while I still have the energy I want to do other things for Nigel Haworth, but Northcote has always come first. This decision works well for both Craig and I. I’m still in Northcote as an ambassador and when you look at it, it’s so strong, the platform is right, the staff are right and this decision gives Craig the opportunity to run it as a hotelier rather than me as a restaurateur.
“I have been fortunate in a partnership of nearly 40 years and I have enjoyed every minute. I know the kitchen is in safe hands, which is another big relief – Lisa is a great chef. Northcote is all about the team and it’s a great team. But I would also like to say a thankyou to all suppliers who have supported me for 30-plus years – as we all know the key to successful dishes is the ingredients and they have supplied me with amazing produce through the years.”
Having joined the property in 1983 and 1984 respectively, Bancroft and Haworth acquired a stake in the business in 1986, buying the hotel outright three years later. Together they set up outside-catering arm Northcote Offsite in 1999, before going on to sell the catering firm in 2007 to the company’s operations director, Martin Jones, so that they could concentrate on developing the hotel and expanding Ribble Valley Inns which they had launched three years earlier. However, they continued to run Northcote at the Rovers, the corporate hospitality at Blackburn Rover’s stadium.
Ribble Valley’s first pub, the Three Fishes in Mitton, Lancashire, was an instant success on opening in 2004, scooping the Catey for Pub and Bar Operator of the Year in 2005. The Three Fishes was later joined by the Highwayman in Kirby Lonsdale, Cumbria (opened in 2007), the Clog and Billycock at Pleasington, Lancashire (2008), the Bull in Broughton, North Yorkshire (2009), the Nag’s Head, Haughton Moss, Cheshire (2013), and the Stag’s Head in Great Alderley Edge, Cheshire (2016).
In 2012, investors Richard and Lynda Matthewman became majority shareholders which brought about the restructuring of Northcote Leisure Group and resulted in a £7m redevelopment and refurbishment, completed in 2014.
Today the business employs 320 staff and encompasses Ribble Valley Inns, Northcote at the Rovers and Café Northcote at the Cathedral.
Northcote will continue its development with current Hotelier of the Year and the recent winner of the Wine and Spirit Ambassador Catey, Bancroft, at the helm as managing director of the Northcote Leisure Group.
Bancroft commented: “After such a fantastic partnership, creating something quite amazing together, it is certainly a serious change in the day to day but one I believe we will all relish.
“First, it is great to see the company continue with its philosophy of developing young and creative people giving the opportunity for Lisa and Craig Jackson, general manager, to develop further within their roles.
“We will continue to create an award-winning property that wholeheartedly wants to continue to deliver excellence to all its regular and loyal clientele. Our ambitions are as clear as ever, the development of a strong focused team to achieve even more than Nigel and I have. It will be a delight for me to steer the future of Northcote and the team who make all this possible”