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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Michael Caines, Gidleigh Park, Abode Hotels

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Michael Caines, Gidleigh Park, Abode Hotels

Overall ranking: 46 (ranked 39 in 2010)

Chef ranking: 13 (ranked 10 in 2010)

Michael Caines - Snapshot

Michael Caines is the head chef at two-Michelin-starred Gidleigh Park in Devon who is also a successful restaurateur and hotelier. He is the founder of Michael Caines Restaurants and an operational partner and director of Abode Hotels, a boutique city-centre hotel group he launched in 2005 in partnership with greetings card millionaire Andrew Brownsword. The group now has six hotels, with the most recent property, in Chester, opening its doors in May 2010.

Michael Caines - Career guide

Michael Caines, who was born in Exeter in 1969, worked at the Grosvenor House hotel and Ninety Park Lane in London before spending three years with his key mentor, Raymond Blanc, at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire. He then studied under superchefs 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. In 1999 he set up Michael Caines Restaurants and took over the food and beverage operation at Exeter's historic Royal Clarence hotel in a profit-sharing deal with owner Corus & Regal Hotels in 2000.

Caines struck up his partnership with Brownsword in October 2003 to buy the Royal Clarence for £4.5m. They rescued Glasgow's Arthouse hotel from receivership in 2004, acquired Canterbury's County hotel in May 2005 and went on to launch Abode Hotels in September 2005 with the reopening of the Exeter hotel after a £3m revamp. All the properties except the Chelsea Baby Abode hotel contained fine-dining restaurants courtesy of Caines; however, the Abode Glasgow restaurant was forced to close earlier in 2011, with Caines blaming trading conditions in the city.

Brownsword separately owns the Bath Priory hotel and the Sydney House hotel in Chelsea, London. In February 2005 he snapped up Gidleigh Park hotel in Devon, where Caines first rose to prominence and has remained as head chef of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant. Since February 2009 Caines has also been executive chef at the Bath Priory, Gidleigh Park's sister establishment.

Michael Caines - What we think

The car accident happened just two months into Caines taking on the role of head chef at Gidleigh Park, an AA top-200 hotel, and yet within two weeks he was back in the kitchen part-time and working full-time two weeks after that. His courage won him a 1996 People of the Year award from the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation.

The following year he retained the Michelin star won by his predecessor, Shaun Hill. More accolades were to follow, including a Caterer Acorn Award in 1996, and a Relais Gourmand award and the Hotel of the Year Catey in 1998. The jewel in the crown came in 1999 in the form of a second Michelin star and, in 2001, Caines took home the Chef Award at the Cateys. Recent years have seen him being appointed MBE in 2006 for services to the hospitality industry and pick up the AA Chef's Chef of the Year award in 2007.

Caines's cooking at Gidleigh Park, based on modern European cuisine and utilising local and regional ingredients, is thought by many to be worth an elusive third Michelin star but - as yet - it hasn't attained the accolade. He insists he is sanguine about this, but his real feelings may have been betrayed in 2009 when he called on Michelin to be "brave" and hand out more three-star awards.

But any disappointment about not receiving more accolades from Michelin has not dampened Caines's enthusiasm for bringing his brand of cooking to a wider audience. With stated plans for Abode to add a further 10-15 properties in the next decade, there could be a dozen or so Michael Caines fine-dining restaurants across the UK in time for the 2012 Olympics.

"Food is my business - creating good food," he told Caterer in 2009. "But there's no chance of taking good food to more than a few people unless you have a solid business platform to do it on."

Michael Caines' ranking in the 2010 Caterersearch.com 100 >>

Michael Caines masterclass: Dartmoor Lamb with jus gras >>

Abode Hotels and Michael Caines Restaurants show how to run two brands together >>

Gidleigh Park tops the Sunday Times Best 100 restaurants list >>

Michael Caines on Michelin and launching at the Bath Priory >>

Michael Caines restaurant closes at the Abode Glasgow >>

Michael Caines aims for 10 restaurants by 2012 >>

Michael Caines website >>

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