By his own admission, David Pitchford is not a headline-hitting celebrity chef like Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver or Marco Pierre White, but there’s no denying his considerable achievements.
Together with his wife Rona, he has successfully run Read’s restaurant – initially in Painters Forstal, Kent, before moving to nearby Faversham – for nearly 42 years, 20 of which it held a Michelin star. He was the winner of the Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year (NCOTY)in 1986 and has played an active role in the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts for years.
In his newly published book, David provides a fascinating account of how he worked as a young chef at London’s Dorchester hotel and then took a sideways move as a chef lecturer before taking the plunge to open Read’s in 1977.
Both now nearly 70, the Pitchfords continue to run the restaurant in a more reduced capacity. They have always been equal partners, which has been pivotal to their personal and restaurant’s achievements – something David believes is often overlooked: “She never gets the credit she deserves for our joint success.” He highlights that without Rona’s contribution as commis, he would never have won NCOTY.
The highs and lows of running a provincial restaurant are all here, as is the encouragement and support the Pitchfords have shown their staff over the years. Their mentorship has been second to none, as evidenced by the fact that two of their former protegés – Mark Sargeant and James McLean – were named Young Chef of the Year in 1996 and 1997 respectively, before Sargeant went on to emulate his former boss on winning the NCOTY competition in 2002.
We’re Not Keeping You Up, Are We? (the title needs no explanation to any restaurant operator who has twiddled their thumbs as guests continue to drink into the early hours) does not feature recipes – the recipe here has been provided independently of the book – but for anyone considering opening a restaurant, there is much to enjoy and learn about one of the most enduring and successful restaurant partnerships of our time.
We’re Not Keeping You Up, Are We? by David Pitchford (Live Wire Books, £15)