Executive chef, Hermitage Rd Bar & Restaurant, Hitchin, Hertfordshire (Anglian Country Inns)
Nominator James Nye, managing director, Anglian Country Inns
Proudest moment "Becoming executive chef at Anglian Country Inns by the age of 21."
Greatest inspiration "My daughter. I strive to make her proud of everything I achieve. Industry-wise, Phil Howard at Elystan Street inspires my cookery style. It's honest cooking with the ethos of letting the produce and flavours do all the talking."
Why hospitality is a great career "It can take you all over the world, showing you new cultures and cuisines, and as a chef you can express yourself and your palate through your food. Not least, every day brings new knowledge and challenges."
By 21, Joe Walker was executive chef of Hermitage Rd having worked up through the ranks from commis chef aged 16. In two years, he has built a solid team around him and implemented new organisational systems, all of which has helped deliver sales of £60,000 a week.
Underpinning everything are Walker's culinary skills. His food earned a three-star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association in 2018, while entries into The Good Food Guide, Michelin Guide and Harden's are testament to the quality of his cooking. One of his greatest triumphs has been hosting the Top 50 Gastropub awards from 2014 to 2017, cooking for more than 20 Michelin-starred chefs.
Walker sets a good example of what is possible. Having come through the college system himself, he understands the journey students take to full-time employment and has forged strong links with the local college. Here's a leader who looks after his brigade, insisting on paying above the industry norm.
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