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Matthew Tomkinson, the Montagu Arms Hotel, Beaulieu, Hampshire
The proverb, "if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again", could well have been written for Matthew Tomkinson. He has been a finalist for this award since 2013, but this year his tenacity and ability shone through, making him stand tall in this category.
Yet if this gives the impression that Tomkinson is an overtly confident chef, think again. One of the more unassuming winners of the prestigious Roux Scholarship (in 2005), Tomkinson quietly goes about his work in the delightful setting of the Montagu Arms, a quintessential country house hotel in the New Forest National Park.
What has never been in doubt is his innovative and ever-evolving menus, which is why he has held a Michelin star for no less than six years. In the confines of the three-AA-rosette Terrace restaurant, he executes a "high-flying culinary production", as the AA puts it. "Special dinners for shoot parties are a feature, and much of the organically-grown produce is sourced from the hotel's own well-maintained kitchen garden. Anglo-French dishes of refined panache show some innovative touches, but with commendable restraint."
While the Terrace may display a range of dishes intricately prepared and designed to capture a delicious and exciting range of flavours, textures and aromas, Monty's Inn offers a more casual dining setting. But Tomkinson doesn't stop there: as executive chef for the 22-bedroom hotel, banqueting is also available for weddings and events for up to 100 guests, which means that he and his brigade of 16 can cater for up to 245 covers at any one time.
Tomkinson works hard to build and maintain relationships beyond his kitchen's four walls. In addition to appointing a kitchen gardener, Barry Daniel, he champions local suppliers such as H&H Butchers in Whit- parish for the restaurant's Creedy Carver ducks and Exbury Gardens for salad.
He has implemented and continues to run a dedicated apprentice scheme with the local catering colleges in Brockenhurst, Bourne- mouth and Highbury, and hosts quarterly lunches for tutors and students.
And if this doesn't keep him busy enough, this summer he also found time to take part in the Culinary Jakobsweg event in the Paznaun Valley in Austria, accompanying Austrian chef Eckart Witzigmann, Dutch Michelin-starred chef Laurent Smallegange and three-Michelin- starred French chef Marc Veyrat, no less.
What the judges said
"Having judged this category for a few years, I am really pleased to support Matthew's nomination. He is a chef who lives for the kitchen. Chefs stay with him, he buys locally, he makes as much as he can himself on-site, and he has retained the star for six years, which is an achievement in itself."
Steve Munkley, executive head chef, Royal Garden Hotel, London
"Matthew shone brightly in a very tough class. He always thinks outside the box."
James Murphy, executive chef, Principal Hayley
"A truly deserving winner in an extremely difficult-to-judge category. To earn and hold a star is no mean feat, but to do so for six years is a true testament to Matthew and his leadership skills."
Nigel Boschetti, executive chef, the Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel, London
- Phil Carmichael, The London Edition
- André Garrett, Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire
- Robby Jenks, Amberley Castle, Amberley, West Sussex
- Matthew Tomkinson, The Montagu Arms Hotel, Beaulieu, Hampshire
- 2014 Steve Smith, Head chef, Bohemia, St Helier, Jersey
- 2013 Sam Moody, Bath Priory, Bath
- 2012 Richard Allen, Grand Jersey Hotel & Spa, St Helier
- 2011 Adam Simmonds, Danesfield House Hotel & Spa, Marlow
- 2010 Shay Cooper, The Bingham, Richmond
- 2009 Kenny Atkinson, Seaham Hall Hotel, Seaham, County Durham
- 2008 Simon Radley, The Chester Grosvenor
- 2007 Hywel Jones, Luckham Park, Colerne, Wiltshire