Cateys 2022: Lifetime Achievement Award: Jeremy King

05 July 2022 by
Cateys 2022: Lifetime Achievement Award: Jeremy King

Jeremy King wins the Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Bizimply

Hand in glove with Chris Corbin, his business partner for more than 40 years, Jeremy King, often dubbed the Rolls-Royce of restaurateurs, has launched some of the most august restaurants to have ever graced this planet.

In 2015, the exemplary entrepreneurs joined an elite group of hospitality professionals to be inducted into the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame. But for all their success, they are respected because they act as restaurateurs, not restaurant owners.

"Restaurateurs roll up their sleeves, they get their hands dirty, they are seen in their restaurants every day," King told The Caterer in 2016 – a philosophy that goes some way towards explaining why men's luxury lifestyle magazine Gentleman's Journal says King "has done more to influence the way Londoners eat than perhaps anyone else in recent history".

King was born in 1954, grew up in Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset, and was educated at Christ's Hospital school. His introduction to the trade came about with a part-time job at a celebrity haunt just off the King's Road in London, and within a month of his 21st birthday he was promoted to manager.

King then moved on to a maître d'hôtel role at Joe Allen in Covent Garden, often popping over to Langan's Brasserie after work where he developed a strong friendship with then general manager Chris Corbin. When they were still in their 20s, the pair decided to open their own restaurant and were approached by designer Joseph Ettedgui to join his takeover of the faded Le Caprice in 1981.

Not long into their new partnership, however, Corbin and King fell out with their financial backers, unable to agree on how to run a modern restaurant. King persuaded his parents to back him instead: "My parents mortgaged their house and we bought the lease. We were young with 100% control. No one could tell us what to do," he told The Guardian.

Within a few years, Le Caprice was the toast of London. In 1990 it was followed by the Ivy, which went on to be voted "favourite restaurant" for nine consecutive years by Harden's, and J Sheekey in 1998. In 2003 the restaurateurs acquired the site of 160 Piccadilly, fulfilling their lifelong ambition to open an all-day brasserie in the grand European style. The Wolseley, nearly 20 years on, remains one of the capital's most-loved dining rooms.

In the intervening years, the pair added Colbert, Brasserie Zédel, the Delauney, Fischer's and Bellanger, all in London. In June 2018 they opened Café Wolseley at Bicester Village, followed by Soutine in St John's Wood in April 2019. Slowly but surely, Corbin and King – both awarded OBEs in 2013 – had created the UK's most iconic restaurant group, joined by their first hotel, the Beaumont, in 2014, which won Hotel of the Year – Independent at the 2017 Cateys.

Though his exit from Corbin & King and the high-profile falling out with majority shareholder Minor Hotels was not the way King would have liked to leave the business he built, his impact on the world of hospitality is undeniable.

"Jeremy has inspired armies of restaurateurs and chef-patrons and created establishments with Chris Corbin that have been nothing short of impeccable," comments The Caterer editor James Stagg. "I think the UK hospitality scene will be forever in his debt."

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