Cateys 2023: Chef Award: Gareth Ward

04 July 2023
Cateys 2023: Chef Award: Gareth Ward

Gareth Ward wins the Chef Award sponsored by Brakes

The winner of the Chef Award ripped up the fine-dining rulebook and created a destination venue that was unapologetically himself, giving Wales its first two-Michelin-starredrestaurant in the process.

In Ynyshir Gareth Ward has created a restaurant that dazzles, delights and surprises diners. Take his play on a McDonald's Big Mac, recreated out of some of the finest ingredients in the world and served in a metal custom-made Big Mac box.

When Ward, along with partner and general manager Amelia Eriksson, got the go-ahead to overhaul what was once a traditional Relais & Châteaux hotel in 2016, they were uncompromising in their vision. In a remote location on the edge of Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park in Eglwys Fach, Powys, they created a restaurant with rooms where the only dining option was Ward's 20-course menu, served to his playlist, with no one expected to stay more than one night. Rave reviews were quick to follow as a restaurant in the unlikeliest of locations refined fine dining and inspired a generation of chefs to cast aside their preconceptions.

Michelin describes Ynyshir as a "truly unique experience", while a smitten Grace Dent wrote in The Guardian: "Gareth Ward cooks for himself, not the customers, and long may his delicious pigheadedness continue."

Ward has introduced a number of initiatives at Ynyshir to ensure the wellbeing of his team, implementing a four-day working week and dropping Saturday workdays altogether in response to feedback about work-life balance.

As well as retaining two Michelin stars the chef's other recent accomplishments include opening a second venue, Gwen restaurant, a place in the La Laiste World Top 500 with a score of 95.5/100 and being named GQ Chef of the Year.

When it comes to sustainability, the chef is highly conscious of food waste and the opening of Gwen has allowed produce to be shared across venues. Products are sourced locally, including from an on-site allotment.

Ward supports a number of good causes, donating tables to charity auctions and adding an optional £2 charge to bills for Team Alfred, which supports a child who suffered a brain injury at birth. The chef also invites local colleges into the restaurant for masterclasses and hosts the local church's carol service every year.

Our judges were bowled over by the ingenuity of Ward and the culinary heights he has reached, describing him as a "worthy winner" of the 2023 Chef Award.

What the judges said

"Every so often a real maverick comes along and changes the game by doing things unapologetically their own way. When you view the criteria from a culinary perspective, and consider what Gareth has done at Ynyshir, this makes him a worthy winner." Paul Ainsworth

"Together with his partner Amelia, Gareth has not only created a world-class restaurant in a remote and surprising location, but he has earned Wales its first and only two Michelin stars. And he's done that by reimagining the experience of eating out at the very highest level." Amanda Afiya

The shortlist

  • Sally Abé, Conrad London St James
  • Mark Birchall, Moor Hall
  • Aktar Islam, Opheem
  • Chantelle Nicholson, Apricity
  • Gareth Ward, Ynyshir

The judges

  • Amanda Afiya, Sauce Intelligence
  • Paul Ainsworth, Paul Ainsworth at No 6
  • Angela Hartnett, Murano
  • Tom Kitchin, Kitchin Group
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