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Cateys 2011: Chef Award – Brett Graham

15 July 2011

Sponsored by Fairy Professional

Now in his sixth year at the Ledbury, the hard work of chef Brett Graham is paying dividends.

He also has the admiration of his mentor Philip Howard, chef-patron, at the Square, who said: "Graham is now in my opinion, the finest chef in the country. His cooking displays an effortless creativity, but is reassuringly classical in its roots. His cooking has turned the Ledbury into a phenomenal success."

Praise indeed. Considering Graham began life in a remote Australian backwater, his culinary achievements are astonishing. Graham's cooking career kicked off in Newcastle, Australia, aged 15, working in a simple fish restaurant. His talent caught fire, however, during his three-year stint under Liam Tomlin at the acclaimed Banc restaurant in Sydney, where he won the Pignolet Award. It took him to London, where he secured a job at the Square, under Philip Howard. Further awards followed, including Young Chef of the Year, and the rest, as they say, is history.

After Graham had spent three years at the Square, owners Nigel Platts-Martin and Howard decided to give him the opportunity to front his own business, the Ledbury, which opened in 2005. By 2010, he had secured his second Michelin star for the restaurant.

His food is described by the AA Restaurant Guide 2010 as "Skilful French-accented contemporary cooking that pulls off adventurous ideas with interspersing mixes of flavours and texture and razor-sharp presentation."

In 2008, he also took on the kitchens at the Harwood Arms, which won the 2009 Menu of the Year Catey and a Michelin star in 2010, making it the first pub to do so. It is described by Michelin as a "proper busy London pub that happens to serve exceedingly good food".

The Ledbury is now so busy that Graham closes for Monday lunch. Ever striving for improvement, he uses this time to develop new dishes and consolidate staff training. Indeed, what sets Graham apart from many chefs is that he is generous with his knowledge and that he believes he still has much to learn. It's this that prevents him from being arrogant and complacent. "If each of us improves by 5% a year, then I will be a happy man," he has said.

ShortlistedBrett Graham, chef-owner, the Ledbury
â- Chris Galvin, chef-patron, Galvin Restaurants
â- Michel Roux Jnr, chef-patron, Le Gavroche

The JudgesJohn Campbell, consultant, Coworth Park
David Everitt-Matthias, Le Champignon Sauvage
Angela Hartnett, chef-patron, Murano
Philip Howard, chef-proprietor, the Square
Bruce Poole, chef-director, Chez Bruce
Simon Wright, restaurateur/consultant, Y Polyn

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