Head chef, Roots York
Nominator Victoria Chandler, head of marketing and communications, Roots York
Sean Wrest's swift career progression is testament to the fact he is not just a talented chef, but also a natural leader. He started as a kitchen porter in 2006, but took a chef de partie role at Yorebridge House in 2013, rising to sous chef in just 12 months, By 2015 he was at the Black Swan Oldstead, where he progressed to executive sous chef in just over two years and helped secure four AA rosettes – honing his skills along the way with placements at the Fat Duck and Maaemo in Oslo.
In 2019, he joined Roots York as head chef, where his determination to excel saw him lead the 11-strong kitchen brigade to win a Michelin star in 2021 – a first for both the restaurant and York.
Under his guidance, Roots has moved away from sharing plates to a tasting menu, which has increased footfall and revenue. And to help his brigade achieve their potential, he encourages them all to be innovative and work on dish development for the evolving menu.
He has also been determined to generate conversation around mental health in the kitchen, and by being open about his own struggles he promotes a healthy work environment.
To encourage future talent, he set up a stagiaire system to allow students and chefs to learn from the Roots team. He has also worked in college restaurants to give students an experience of working in a fine-dining kitchen.
What is the most positive people change you see for your sector post-restrictions?
"Lockdown has shown how resilient we are as an industry and how we can support each other to make our people feel looked after and appreciated. Hopefully, this will continue, resulting in a better work ethic, thereby attracting more people to the industry and improving staff retention."
Photography: Hospitality Media/Adrian Franklin