Hotel Cateys 2015: Hotel Chef of the Year (more than 250 covers)

02 December 2015
Hotel Cateys 2015: Hotel Chef of the Year (more than 250 covers)

Lewis Hamblet, South Lodge, near Horsham, West Sussex

As executive chef of South Lodge, Exclusive Hotels and Venues' five-AA-star country house hotel near Horsham, West Sussex, Lewis Hamblet has a broad remit.

He is responsible for the 32-cover, Michelin-starred restaurant the Pass, headed up by star of the 2015 Great British Menu series Matt Gillan, the two-AA-rosette Camellia restaurant, two lounges, the Billiard Bar, the 46-seat Terrace, the 18-cover Cellar, 12 function rooms and room service for 89 bedrooms.

Remarkably, Hamblet manages all this with a brigade of just 39 chefs, while also working closely with the company's Exclusively Green committee to ensure the department is working within the hotel group's green guidelines.

This year also sees the completion of the first year of graduates from the Exclusive Chefs' Academy - a two-year training programme. It culminates in the offer, hopefully, of full-time employment, which in turn reduces staff turnover and recruitment costs. Indeed, the academy has retained 80% of its first set of trainees.

Demonstrating his keen eye for figures, Hamblet's recent year-end results have been impressive. Gross profit stands at 74.3% (1% above budget), and has been achieved by his careful tracking of food costs. A spreadsheet designed by Hamblet is used to follow every dish that leaves the kitchen, and he has trained all his head chefs to use the same document so they can all be transparent with their costs.

Afternoon teas have enjoyed a renaissance at the hotel, increasing by 2,390 covers in the past year and delivering increased revenue of £48,796 - a nice boost to food and beverage revenues that in turn contributed to a record year in terms of turnover (more than £8.5m).

But what stood out most to the judges was Hamblet's selfless promotion of others. During the last two years, under Hamblet's leadership, South Lodge has produced the 2013 MasterChef: The Professionals winner Steven Edwards, 2015 Great British Menu winner Gillan, 2013 Rotary Young Chef of the Year Jordan Powell, 2014 Rotary Young Chef of the Year Tom Hamblet (his son), 2014 national winner of the ChaÁ®ne des Rôtisseurs Young Chef of the Year Ricki Weston, and 2015 Rotary Young Chef of the Year Lewis Wilson. Son Tom also scooped Springboard's prestigious FutureChef title this year.

All this serves to illustrate that Hamblet has created a truly unique kitchen environment with a wonderful family atmosphere. As South Lodge general manager David Connell says: "In Lewis we have someone who genuinely cares about all of his team."

What the judges said

"Lewis uses the strengths of his workforce and allows them to blossom, and also encourages young people to achieve while maintaining and improving standards throughout his business."

Steve Munkley, executive chef, Royal Garden Hotel

"A fantastic all-rounder. Lewis sums up what the trade needs in a chef."

James Murphy, executive head chef, Principal Hayley

"Lewis is committed and dedicated to his role. The way he runs his kitchen and team is selfless - he is more interested in the success of his hotel than himself."

Nigel Boschetti, executive chef, Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel


  • Lewis Hamblet, South Lodge, near Horsham, West Sussex

  • Ben Purton, Lancaster London

  • Matt Worswick, Thornton Hall Hotel & Spa, Thornton Hough, Merseyside

Past winners

  • 2014 James Murphy, Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow

  • 2013 Ryan Neill, Cameron House, Loch Lomond

  • 2012 Nigel Boschetti, Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel, London

  • 2011 Martyn Nail, Claridge's, London

  • 2010 Steve Munkley, Royal Garden Hotel, London

  • 2009 Simon Young, Jumeirah Carlton Tower, London

  • 2008 Anthony Marshall, London Hilton on Park Lane

  • 2007 Henry Brosi, The Dorchester, London

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