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Top 100: Michael Caines, Lympstone Manor

19 April 2018 by
Top 100: Michael Caines, Lympstone Manor

Overall ranking: 78 (52 in 2012)

Chef ranking: 18 (14 in 2012)


Michael Caines is chef-patron of the 21-bedroom, Michelin-starred Lympstone Manor country house hotel, which he opened in April 2017 as his "dream hotel". His new role came after a 21-year career at the five-red-AA-star, 24-bedroom Gidleigh Park hotel, where he held two Michelin stars for 18 years. Lympstone Manor, a member of the Relais & Châteaux marketing consortium, was awarded a Michelin star in the 2017 guide.

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Caines was born in Exeter in 1969 and worked at the Grosvenor House hotel and Ninety Park Lane in London before spending three years at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire. He then studied under Joël Robuchon and the late Bernard Loiseau in France.

He returned to the UK in 1994 as head chef of Gidleigh Park country house hotel in Chagford, Devon. Just two months into the role, Caines was involved in a devastating car accident in which he lost his right arm, yet, just two weeks later, the determination and ambition that has stuck with him throughout his career ensured he was back in the kitchen part-time. He returned to work full-time four weeks later and the following year retained the Michelin star won by his predecessor, Shaun Hill. The second star followed in 1999.

While remaining as executive chef at Gidleigh Park, Caines branched out in 2002 with the launch of Michael Caines Restaurants, which saw him take over the food and beverage operation at Exeter's Royal Clarence hotel, then owned by Corus & Regal Hotels. He later went into partnership with entrepreneur Andrew Brownsword to acquire the Royal Clarence hotel and he launched Abode Hotels, with hotel restaurants opening in Glasgow, Canterbury, Chester, Manchester and Exeter. In 2005 Brownsword went on to acquire Gidleigh Park and Caines was appointed food and beverage director of Andrew Brownsword Hotels, which eventually comprised 12 properties.

He resigned from Brownsword Hotels in 2014 and left Gidleigh Park as executive chef in early 2016, having acquired Lympstone Manor in September 2015.

"The best way to describe Gidleigh is that it was like a wonderful love affair and then, when I asked it to marry me, it said no," Caines told The Caterer on the opening of Lympstone Manor. Rejection is what drove him to search for a property of his own, eventually leading him in July 2014 to the house that was then known as Courtlands overlooking the River Exe estuary.

It has been a long haul, but Caines has been involved every step of the way and with every detail, from drawing up the room layouts to selecting key items of art and furniture. He even became the principal contractor halfway through the project because he was unhappy with how it was proceeding.

In addition to running Lympstone, Caines has been the co-host of the Channel 4 programme My Kitchen Rules, as well as appearing on the BBC's Saturday Kitchen, MasterChef, Great British Menu and Channel 4's Sunday Brunch. He also consults on the food and beverage operations at Kentisbury Grange, near Barnstable, Devon, and Palé Hall in Llandderfel, Gwynedd. He also provides food for the Williams F1 team at its motorhome facility during race weekends.

To encourage the next generation into the hospitality industry, he created the Michael Caines Academy at Exeter College in 2011, and the Michael Caines Foundation supports charities including Families for Children, Farms for City Children, the Exeter Foundation, One for the Boys, and Devon Wildlife Trust.

Looking ahead, Caines is determined that he will achieve the two stars he retained for so long at Gidleigh Park, but he admits that his ultimate ambition is for a third.

Further information

Lympstone Manor to plant its own vineyard >>

Kitchens by design: Lympstone Manor >>

Living the dream: Michael Caines shows us round Lympstone Manor, his new hotel >>

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