Acorn winners 2016: Paul Matthews, 28

01 July 2016
Acorn winners 2016: Paul Matthews, 28

Head chef, Vacherin

Nominated by Mark Philpott, owner and managing director, Vacherin

Proudest moment "Winning the Roger Naylor Hospitality Skills competition, judged by Albert Roux, Michel Roux Jr, Chris and Jeff Galvin and Nathan Outlaw, when I was 18."

Greatest inspiration "Daniel Cox (now executive chef at Fera) and David Simms (now managing director of Umbel Restaurant Group)."

Ambition "My aims are to have my own business, to support the industry and to give young chefs the inspiration and knowledge that I had as an apprentice."

Paul Matthews' CV is pretty punchy. He started in 2005 with a chef scholarship from the Academy of Culinary Arts at Bournemouth & Poole College. A subsequent apprenticeship placement with Compass Roux Fine Dining at UBS led to a job there as chef de partie, serving under Daniel Cox.

Needless to say, he gained a distinction in his diploma in professional cookery. By 2009, he was in a head chef role and was helping Cox to open Roux at Parliament Square. In 2014, a few more promotions later, Matthews joined Vacherin as head chef at its Fieldfisher contract.

Here, his commercial acumen has shone, leading a permanent team of five to increase all sales categories by at least 50%. Last year, for instance, breakfast volume sales rose 50%, while sandwich volumes surged by 82% and canapés by 168%.

He also designed a new kitchen layout and scooped the fine-dining contract at Fieldfisher, which now does 2,500 covers a year. He also helped win the Royal Bank of Canada contract for a brasserie in the same building.

Recent triumphs include third place in the 2012 National Chef of the Year, and first place with his chef de partie in the 2014 Association of Catering Excellence Ready Steady Cook competition. He was also a finalist in this year's Roux Scholarship.

Most importantly, he trains his own staff. A case in point is his sous chef, who despite having no experience of fine dining, became head chef at another Vacherin site within a year.

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