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Jason Atherton has successfully made the jump from being a chef to becoming one of the most admired restaurateurs of his generation. In doing so, he has created a group of restaurants that cater perfectly to the changing tastes of British diners.
Commenting in his review of one of Atherton's latest openings, Hai Cenato in the Nova development in London's Victoria, The Times restaurant critic Giles Coren remarked: "We can't all be Jason Atherton, a brilliant chef who has opened nearly 20 restaurants in the past seven years, of which not one has been a dud. Just as James Joyce is unique among novelists, it is said, in having produced only masterpieces, so Jason is surely alone in having opened only successful restaurants."
Having worked under great chefs, including Pierre Koffmann, Nico Ladenis and Marco Pierre White, Atherton joined the Gordon Ramsay Group in 2001 as executive chef for Verre in Dubai. In 2005, he returned to the UK and opened Maze, launching what would be the most successful brand in the group. He went on to oversee further restaurant launches under the Maze brand in London, Prague, Cape Town, Melbourne and Qatar.
He left Gordon Ramsay Holdings in 2010 to launch his own restaurant company, now known as the Social Company. In an unexpected move, he launched his first independent restaurant venture, Table No 1, at the Waterhouse at South Bund hotel in Shanghai in May 2010. His flagship London restaurant, Pollen Street Social, opened in April 2011.
The group now numbers 17 restaurants worldwide, with more in the pipeline. Among them are the hugely successful, 140-cover Berners Tavern, which launched in the London Edition hotel in London's Fitzrovia to great acclaim in autumn 2013, and the grand City Social, atop the 24th floor of Tower 42, in partnership with Restaurant Associates, with its 360-degree views across the City of London.
In January 2016, Atherton launched his debut restaurant in Sydney, Kensington Street Social, followed by his seventh site in London, a Japanese izakaya-style restaurant, Sosharu.
Atherton has developed his restaurant empire over the past seven years, with each new opening unique in its concept and identity and yet with a common thread making them all recognisably part of the same stable.
Winning this category also makes him the only person ever to do the double and win both a Restaurateur of the Year - Independent Catey (2014), as well as taking the title of Restaurateur of the Year - Group.
What the judges said
"A hugely respected, talented individual who has done it the hard way. His passion for his people has allowed him to grow this business into a world-leading restaurant empire."
"I am in awe of what he has created. Against every measure he has succeeded and he continues to be humble and give back to the industry."
Jason Atherton, The Social Company
Will Beckett and Huw Gott, Hawksmoor
Kavi and Shamil Thakrar, Dishoom
Iain Donald, Iain Donald Restaurant Consultant
James Horler, 3Sixty Restaurants
Noel Mahony, BaxterStorey
Peter Martin, CGA Peach
John Nugent, Green & Fortune
Robin Rowland, YO! Sushi
Mark Selby, Wahac