100: Richard Shepherd

01 July 2010 100: Richard Shepherd

Overall ranking: 49

Restaurateur ranking: 16

Richard Shepherd - Snapshot

Richard Shepherd is the owner of Langan's Restaurants, whose flagship eaterie, Langan's Brasserie in Mayfair has proved an enduringly popular and busy landmark of the London scene. He currently oversees five London restaurants, which include Odin's and Langan's Bistro (Marylebone), Langan's Coq d'Or (Earls Court) and Shepherd's (Westminster). Shepherd has also built up a collection of floating Langan's Brasseries on 11 P&O cruise liners.

Richard Shepherd - Career guide

Richard Shepherd was born in 1945 in Weston-super-Mare, where he worked in hotels and restaurants during his school holidays. In 1960 he became an apprentice at the Mount Pleasant hotel in Great Malvern, Worcestershire, before moving to London.

He served as a commis chef at Simpsons-in-the-Strand in 1963 and, from 1964, at the Savoy, where he worked with legendary chefs Silvano Trompetto and Louis Virot.

In 1967 Shepherd became chef de partie at the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat and La Réserve de Beaulieu in the South of France. He returned to London to take the same position at the Dorchester hotel from 1969 to 1971.

He joined the Capital hotel as chef de cuisine in 1971 where, with Brian Turner as his number two, he won the hotel a Michelin star in 1974.

Shepherd left to become chef de cuisine and chef-partner at Langan's Brasserie in 1977. Having added the side-by-side Odin's and Langan's Bistro in 1987, Shepherd's in 1993 and Langan's Coq d'Or in 1998, Shepherd hung up his whites in 2001 to co-ordinate the operation.

Richard Shepherd - What we think

2010 marked Richard Shepherd's 50th year in the hospitality industry. His extraordinary longevity and achievements in the restaurant world were acknowledged in 2000 when he was appointed CBE for his services to the catering industry. He is also the recipient of three Cateys: Restaurateur of the Year in 1984; the Special Award in 1993; and - to one of the longest standing ovations ever seen at the Cateys - the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

Speaking to the audience that evening, a tearful Shepherd said: "I believe this to be a fabulous industry that has given me immense satisfaction. I have worked with some fabulous people, and at the age of 62, after 47 years in the industry, I'm now one of the old farts. I do like to think that with my colleagues and friends in the industry we have left a legacy for the future. This has been overwhelming, and I would like to thank you deeply. It's fantastic."

Shepherd was one of the first British chefs to break into the French, Italian and Swiss-dominated kitchens of the capital's five-star hotels - and one of the first to win a Michelin star.

After six years at the Capital hotel - where he picked up a Michelin star in 1974 - Shepherd quit when his plans to open the Greenhouse restaurant with hotel owner David Levin went sour. He threw in his lot with Langan's Brasserie, which had been opened just months before by hell-raiser Peter Langan and actor Michael Caine. He bought out Caine's share in 1999 to become sole owner of Langan's restaurants, Langan himself having died tragically in a fire in 1988.

Shepherd adapted his classical French training to devise a more straightforward, affordable form of haute cuisine without the frills that he describes as "basically English, respecting French tradition". The brasserie provided a less formal, less stuffy alternative to the fine-dining restaurants of the time and it was an instant hit.

Yet its future looked shaky at the start. Within months of joining, Shepherd discovered the restaurant was insolvent and was forced to trek around suppliers and the Inland Revenue with £260,000-worth of post-dated cheques begging for more time. He returned the restaurant to the black within three years and has never looked back.

During its peak period, between 1978 and 1988, Langan's Brasserie was the most fashionable destination in the capital. Its guest list included Marlon Brando, Mick Jagger, Robert de Niro, Princess Grace of Monaco and Harold Pinter - and the paparazzi, unsurprisingly, were practically glued to the pavement outside for the decade. It has never fallen out of favour since.

Shepherd was a member of the original chef's Club Nine, became a fellow of the HCIMA (now the Institute of Hospitality) in 1988, and was awarded an honorary professorship at Thames Valley University in 2005. He has been an active member of the British branch of the Academy of Culinary Arts since 1980, becoming its chairman in 1986, its president in 1990 and an honorary president in 2004.

Shepherd is fiercely passionate about his restaurants and has not been slow to take on what he perceives as unfair criticism. He famously threatened Matthew Norman with libel in 2004, after the critic described Langan's as "the eighth circle of hell" and topically referred to the soup with the lines "were it found today in a canister buried in the Iraqi desert, it would save Tony Blair's skin". And in 2009 Shepherd posted a comment on a negative AA Gill review of Langan's Brasserie, pointing out that the restaurant had never served a dish Gill claimed to have eaten there years previously.

But, the odd negative review notwithstanding, Langan's Brasserie remains one of London's most enduring institutions and, at 65, its owner shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.

Richard Shepherd - Further information

Caterersearch TV: The Cateys - Lifetime Achievement Award Richard Shepherd steals the show >>

English Restaurants >>

Read more about the 100, the list of the most influential people, here >>

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