Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Philip Howard, the Square, the Ledbury, Kitchen W8, Sonny's

06 December 2012
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Philip Howard, the Square, the Ledbury, Kitchen W8, Sonny's

Overall ranking: 37 (ranked 51 in 2011)
Chef ranking: 8 (ranked 15 in 2011)

Philip Howard - Snapshot

Philip Howard is the head chef and co-owner, with Nigel Platts-Martin, of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant the Square in Mayfair, London. He also co-owns the two-Michelin-starred Ledbury restaurant in Notting Hill, with Platts-Martin and Brett Graham, and the one-starred Kitchen W8, in Kensington, with Rebecca Mascarenhas - and he and Mascarenhas have just teamed up again to revamp and relaunch Sonny's in Barnes as Sonny's Kitchen.

Philip Howard - Career guide
Born in 1967, Howard studied microbiology at Kent University, during which time he discovered his passion for cooking. After a summer of cooking in the Dordogne he enrolled on an apprenticeship with Roux Restaurants. Nine months later he landed a job at Marco Pierre White's iconic Harvey's restaurant in Wandsworth, south-west London, co-owned by Nigel Platts-Martin, but Howard fell out with White after just nine months and the pair parted company.

An influential spell under Simon Hopkinson at Bibendum followed, where he worked alongside chefs such as Bruce Poole and Jeremy Lee before patching up his relationship with White and returning to Harvey's. When Platts-Martin planned another site in St James's he asked Howard to be head chef, and the pair opened the Square in 1991. It gained its first Michelin star in 1994 and added a second a year after relocating to Mayfair in 1996, where it stands today.

Sonny's in Barnes - and the Phoenix in Putney. With another former Square sous chef, Mark Kempson, in the kitchen, the restaurant won its first Michelin star in January 2011.Howard's award list includes two Cateys. The Catey Chef Award in 1998 and Catey Independent Restaurateur of the Year in 2011. In that same year, 2011, he also picked up the Craft Guild of Chefs' Special Award.

Philip Howard - What we think

Howard remains one of the most widely respected chefs in the industry, and his calm, patient and intelligent approach to mentoring young chefs sets exemplary standards to the rest of hospitality. As his former sous chef Brett Graham puts it: "Phil is one of the very few true gentlemen in this trade. He is very respectful of his staff and always treated me like an equal. He never talked down to me and we formed a very special relationship."

Howard had never even held a sous chef position before taking the helm at the Square - he had no formal training (just a biochemistry degree under his belt and three years' experience in the kitchen) - but his academic background helped form his intelligent, measured approach to cooking. His seasonal, intuitive French cuisine never overcomplicates dishes and he approaches cooking in a thoughtful, scientific manner, without any of the overt technological wizardry involved in molecular gastronomy.

Despite a chaotic start, when Howard fell into and - with the help of Platts-Martin - recovered from drug and alcohol addiction, the Square soon started to pick up awards. It was voted Best Newcomer by Time Out - in its first year of business and won its first Michelin star in 1994, netting a second in 1998. And it has never fallen from that early, hard-achieved pedestal of excellence.

Given his own conquered addiction struggle, Howard is a steadfast supporter of industry charity Hospitality Action which helps hospitality workers who have fallen on difficult times; in November 2012, Howard, Angela Hartnett and Kempson hosted a Christmas dinner at Brasserie Joel in Westminster to raise funds for the charity.

His skills as a mentor have seen young charges such as Graham and Kempson thrive under his guidance and he has always been actively involved in nurturing young talent beyond his own kitchen through events and competitions such as Young Chef Young Waiter (whose chef judging panel he chaired for many years). Elegant rather than flamboyant in his cooking, management and lifestyles, Howard is famously most at home behind the stove and over the years has rarely taken time out to appear on television or write cookbooks, leading Platts-Martin to comment once that the chef "turns down a dozen book deals a year". However, he was prised out of his kitchen to take part in the 2012 Great British Menu series for BBC2, with spectacular success - his turbot dish being chosen as one of the courses for the programme's banquet at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.

Moreover, the autumn of 2012 saw the launch of his first cookbook. Published by Absolute Press, The Square: The Cookbook (Volume 1: Savoury) is the first of two instalments laying out the definitive recipes that continue to win the Square renown. The second book is due out in 2013.
Philip Howard's ranking in the 2011 Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 >>

Chef revelations: Phil Howard >>

Philip Howard picks up Special Award at Craft Guild of Chefs Awards >>

Exclusive video interview: Michelin-starred Phil Howard on his battle with drugs >>

Phil Howard - the drugs don't work >>

Phil Howard and Rebecca Mascarenhas to launch second restaurant >>

Book review: The Square, The Cookbook >>

The Square website >>

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