Groundbreaking chef Joyce Molyneux dies aged 91

31 October 2022 by
Groundbreaking chef Joyce Molyneux dies aged 91

Joyce Molyneux, one of the first British female chefs to earn a Michelin star, has died at the age of 91.

During a period when the Roux brothers, Pierre Koffmann, Nico Ladenis and Raymond Blanc were transforming the culinary landscape of Britain, Molyneux was a lone female figure at the forefront of the revolution. She was a homegrown talent, without classical French training, but in possession of an instinctive understanding of ingredients and what worked.

In 1974 Molyneux assumed the role of head chef at the Carved Angel in Dartmouth, Devon, when her friend, colleague and acclaimed post-war chef George Perry-Smith bought the property.

She went on to make the Carved Angel – now the Angel – her own until her retirement in 1999, and famously became one of the first British female chefs to earn a Michelin star while there. In doing so she put the restaurant, and herself, at the forefront of the growth of modern British cookery in the 1970s and 1980s.

Before securing her place in British culinary history at the Carved Angel, Molyneux had worked at the Mulberry Tree in Stratford-upon-Avon and the groundbreaking Hole in the Wall in Bath, which had also been owned by Perry-Smith.

Joyce Molyneux
Joyce Molyneux

In the 1980s The Carved Angel Cookery Book by Joyce Molyneux was published, becoming an instant classic.

Paying tribute chef and restaurateur Rick Stein said: "I was very sad to hear of Joyce's death. I used to go to the Carved Angel in Dartmouth a lot when she was cooking, and Tom Jaine was front of house.

"It was a great combination, but more than that Joyce was a valuable source of advice, understated, as was everything about her but always wise. It was also the first restaurant I had been to where the kitchen was open to the diners, very trendy in those days.

"I loved her cooking, lots of kidneys, oxtail, brain fritters, rabbit, saddles of hare as well as great scallop dishes and wild salmon, in short a real understanding of good English cooking, for which she was awarded a Michelin star. She was great British cook. After she sold the Carved Angel, she used to come to the Seafood quite often and we would sit and chat about local suppliers more than anything else."

Bath-based baker Richard Bertinet, said: "Sad to hear that the legend and our neighbour in Bath has passed away, I'll miss her stories and smile."

Elly Wentworth, head chef of the renamed Angel, posted on Instagram on behalf of herself and the restaurant: "Joyce was a great inspiration for many of today's top chefs and highly regarded by her peers from the 1970s through to her retirement in 1999. I will always fondly remember her visit for lunch in 2018."

TV chef James Martin described her as "a pioneer of the UK food scene" while HOSPA president Harry Murray said she was "a true legend of the culinary arts".

"Her contribution to Britain's WWII food culture really can't be overstated," said Observer restaurant critic Jay Rayner.

"Sad to hear of the passing of Joyce Molyneux, who influenced so many of us and made the Carved Angel one of the most exciting, but also reassuring, places you could ever wish to eat," TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall posted on Twitter.

Chez Bruce owner Bruce Poole said: "Joyce was a true titan of British cooks. A couple of dinners cooked by her at The Carved Angel are amongst the most memorable of my life. A great loss."

Bryan Webb, chef-patron at Tyddyn Llan in Llandrillo, Denbighshire, described her as "a fantastic cook" and "a great inspiration to all of my generation".

Photo: Barry Marsden/National Portrait Gallery

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