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The Caterer

John Campbell

12 May 2005
John Campbell

Overall ranking: 98

Chef ranking: 18

Snapshot

John Campbell is the Michelin-starred executive chef at the 31-bedroom Vineyard at Stockcross near Newbury in Berkshire, which is the smallest of the AA's top 200 five-red-star hotels and is owned by Classic FM owner Sir Peter Michael.

Campbell is one of the UK's most cutting-edge chefs with an international reputation for innovation, expertise and flair. Like Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck and Ferran Adria of Spain's El Bulli, he has been influenced by the scientific approach to cooking popularised by Harold McGhee.

Career guide

Campbell, who is in his mid-thirties, left school at 15 to take up an apprenticeship at Forte's Haydock Posthouse in Merseyside. After three years, he was granted a scholarship as a graduate chef, which involved placements around the world.

His next move was to London's Grosvenor House hotel as senior sous chef. He took on his first head chef job in 1995 at the BBC's residential training centre, Wood Norton Hall in Evesham, Worcestershire.

In 1997, Campbell became head chef at Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter, Gloucestershire, where he held on to the Michelin star acquired by former head chef Clive Dixon and upgraded the restaurant to four AA rosettes. In 2000 he took on additional responsibilities as director of food and beverage.

He moved to the Vineyard in 2002, retaining the Michelin star acquired by his predecessor Billy Reid and adding a fourth AA rosette.

What we think

Despite leaving school with no qualifications, Campbell is now one of the UK's best-qualified chefs. In 1999, he became one of a select handful of British chefs to achieve a BSc diploma in International Culinary Arts. He has spent years studying the gastronomic arts and sciences and was dubbed "the cerebral chef" after the publication of his award-winning book Formulas for Flavour in 2001.

Campbell's cuisine is marked by modern techniques allied to traditional culinary lore, contrasting textures and temperatures, and sometimes unexpected but carefully considered flavour combinations.

He won a Caterer Acorn award for high-achievers aged 30 or below in 1998 and his cooking was one of the reasons for the Vineyard winning the Catey Independent Hotel of the Year award in 2003.

"My job is 10% food, 90% infrastructure," Campbell told Caterer in 2002 and his list-making, analytical approach was regarded as a de-risking benefit by Wilson Storey Halliday (now BaxterStorey), which signed him up as a consultant in early 2003. The contract caterer found its chefs could "think smarter" and be more innovative after training in the Vineyard kitchens.

Campbell's passion for training has seen him develop his Academy programme over the past four years to enable students and existing chefs to learn alongside his brigade.

This year, the Vineyard was accepted for externships for the Culinary Institute of America, which will involve 18-week placements for US chefs in the hotel kitchens.

Two of Campbell's junior chefs are already making big waves. Nathan Outlaw has won a Michelin star for the Black Pig in Rock, Cornwall, which he opened in 2004 at the age of 25. Molecular chef Anthony Flinn of Anthony's Restaurant in Leeds last year became the youngest winner at 24 of the Excellence Award in the Restaurant Rémy Awards.

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