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When Adam Smith took over the kitchens of Coworth Park in Ascot, Berkshire, he was praised by general manager Zoe Jenkins as “one of the UK’s most talented chefs” – and with good reason. Michel Roux Sr had already described him as one to watch, having built up an impressive CV full of notable kitchens, including as executive sous chef at the Ritz London and executive chef at Devonshire Arms hotel in Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire.
It is his work at the Dorchester Collection’s five-red-AA-star, 70-bedroom country house hotel that has allowed him to forge ahead with his own style of leadership – one that is as inclusive as it is accomplished. After joining the
property in 2016, Smith won a Michelin star and three AA rosettes for its jewel in the crown Restaurant Coworth Park, as well as two AA rosettes at the more informal Barn restaurant.
Aside from the stars and rosettes for the hotel, the Hotel Chef of the Year Catey (fewer than 250 covers) is the latest in a string of personal plaudits picked up by Smith – and his second from The Caterer, following his Acorn Award win in 2011.
He has also been awarded the Craft Guild’s Young Chef of the Year award 2010, and in 2012 both The Observer Food Monthly Young Chef of the Year honour and the Roux Scholarship.
More recently, arriving at Coworth Park, he was awarded the Master of Culinary Arts by the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts.
Smith is one of the few chefs to be able to say, without doubt, that his food is fit for a king – not to mention a queen and two princes. The Queen visited Coworth Park with the King of Bahrain to celebrate 75 years of the Royal Windsor Horse Show, while Prince Harry stayed at the hotel with his brother Prince William on the night before his wedding to Meghan Markle.
However, it is the wholesale change Smith has achieved behind the scenes that made him stand out to the judges. Not only is the quality of his food highly praised, but he has also managed to keep the F&B offering profitable – running ahead of budgeted revenues by 11%, while reducing food costs by 3% over the last two years.
Even more impressive is the way Smith has managed to enthuse his staff. A 48-hour working week has been introduced to promote a better work-life balance, while the kitchen has gone from being the third lowest engaged department to the second highest in the hotel.
Further, he has put hard work into developing skills across the industry, recently hosting a national skills day to showcase techniques to 42 students from nine different colleges in the UK. Such was its success, Smith has gone on to offer positions in his kitchen to three chefs over the past six months.
The judges praised Smith’s consistency and quality, achieving much in a short space of time and making his presence felt from across every area of the business, from the happiness of his brigade to the achievement of a solid bottom line.
What the judges said
“Adam has done for Coworth Park what no other chef could do before him – building a great team of chefs and achieving a Michelin star.”
Steve Munkley, executive chef, Royal Garden Hotel, London
“Adam is the real package – distinctive, intuitive, flexible, adaptive and, above all, passionate.”
James Murphy, executive head chef, Principal Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow
“Adam has taken on a big and important property that was in need of a boost. He has achieved a Michelin star, two rosettes in the second restaurant and great staff retention. A real winner.”
André Garrett, executive chef, Cliveden House
George Blogg Gravetye Manor, near East Grinstead, West Sussex
Lisa Goodwin-Allen Northcote, Langho, Lancashire
Luke Holder Lime Wood, Lyndhurst, Hampshire
Niall Keating Whatley Manor, Malmesbury, Wiltshire
Adam Smith Coworth Park, Ascot, Berkshire
2017 André Garrett Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire
2016 Phil Carmichael Berners Tavern, the London Edition
2015 Matthew Tomkinson The Montagu Arms hotel, Beaulieu, Hampshire
2014 Steve Smith Bohemia, St Helier, Jersey
2013 Sam Moody Bath Priory, Bath
2012 Richard Allen Grand Jersey Hotel and Spa, St Helier, Jersey
2011 Adam Simmonds Danesfield House, Hotel and Spa, Marlow, Buckinghamshire