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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Alan Murchison, 10 in 8 Group

06 December 2012

Overall ranking: 93 (ranked 92 in 2011)
Chef ranking: 27 (ranked 32 in 2011)

Alan Murchison is the multi-Michelin-starred chef and chief executive of 10 in 8 Group, which operates a number of fine-dining restaurants - including La Becasse in Ludlow, Angelique in Dartmouth and Michelin-starred sites L'Ortolan in Shinfield near Reading and Paris House in Woburn, and- a cookery school, an outside catering company, and a wine, spirits and fine-food club.

Alan Murchison - Career guide

Murchison got his first taste of Michelin-starred cooking at Inverlochy Castle in Fort William, working there in 1990 at the age of 19 and again in 1996.

His next stop-off, between 1996 and 1998, was two-Michelin-starred L'Ortolan, where he rose to junior sous chef under John Burton Race.

From early 1998 to mid-2001, he rose through the ranks at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire, to senior sous chef and acting head chef. For his last two-and-a-half years there, he headed Blanc's Ecole de Cuisine.

Alan Murchison took over the formerly two-Michelin-starred L'Ortolan in Reading, Berkshire, in 2001, as chef-director for owner Peter Newman after it had been closed following John Burton Race's departure 18 months previously. The partnership achieved a Michelin star for the rejuvenated restaurant in 2003.

However, Murchison quit his role in the summer of 2003 concerned about the direction the business was heading in. Newman closed the restaurant for a £250,000 refurbishment at the start of 2004 and then surprised many by putting it on the market.

In autumn 2004 it was Murchison that returned to head the business under a management service contract with Newman. Since June 2003, the route back to L'Ortolan had taken Murchison through Hampshire, where he worked as head chef at Chewton Glen and helped set up the Running Horse gastropub in Littleton.

Six years later he repeated the trick of relaunching a renowned restaurant by buying Claude Bosi's Hibiscus site in Ludlow and opening it as La Becasse in July 2007.

At the start of 2010 Murchison confirmed he had bought Paris House in Woburn, Bedfordshire, previously owned by the late Peter Chandler. Paris house was awarded a Michelin star at the start of 2011.

In September 2010 Murchison purchased another former John Burton Race restaurant, the New Angel in Devon, which now operates under the name the Angel. In May 2012, 10 in 8 merged with Nina and Gerard Basset's Hotel TerraVina in the New Forest, a move which saw Nina become managing director of the group. The same month, the group teamed up with Macdonald Hotels & Resorts to open its sixth restaurant at the Macdonald Bear Hotel, a 13th-century coaching inn in Woodstock.

Alan Murchison - What we think

So called because of its aim to open 10 financially sustainable Michelin-standard restaurants in 8 years, Murchison's group has become a growing force in the industry. Its recent merger with Hotel TerraVina and addition of a sixth restaurant shows that this influence is in no danger of slowing down.

A mix of savvy recruitment - including Steve Bulmer, former chef-director of the Raymond Blanc Cookery School at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, as director of the Fine Dining Academy cookery school - and the internal promotion of talented young chefs such as La Becasse's Will Holland and Paris House's Phil Fanning has given the group a strong framework with which to move forward.

Meanwhile, the merger with Hotel TerraVina has not only added world-renowned sommelier Gerard Bassett to the group but another strong business mind in the shape of his wife Nina. The newly merged company intends to extend the Hotel TerraVina concept to 10 in 8's existing properties. Behind the scenes, the group's apprenticeship scheme is a commendable effort to produce future kitchen talent.

Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 2011: Alan Murchison, 10 in 8 Group >>

10 in 8 Fine Dining Group merges with Hotel TerraVina >>

10 in 8 Fine Dining Group teams up with Macdonald Hotels >>**

Video: Alan Murchison masterclasses >>

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