Sponsored by Fairy Professional
The winner of this year's Chef Award would probably describe himself as a straightforward kind of guy. But many would argue that's far from the truth. A thoughtful, assured and measured chef, his cool exterior masks his focused ambition, steely determination, obsession with detail, solid business acumen, and the fact that he's got his finger well and truly on the pulse of global culinary trends. You've got to get up early to catch Jason Atherton out.
Atherton has long been one to watch. With a CV that includes periods with kitchen heavyweights Pierre Koffmann, Nico Ladenis and Marco Pierre White, he famously became the first British chef to complete a stage at Ferran Adria's three-Michelin-starred El Bulli back in 1998, well before the restaurant had established its international following.
Having worked with Stephen Terry prior to his trip, he returned to work alongside Terry at Claudio Pulze's Frith Street restaurant, before heading up a kitchen of his own at Cantina Vinopolis, and, later L'Anis. He stayed in the Pulze stable of restaurants until 2002, when he was courted by Gordon Ramsay to go and work at the Hilton Dubai Creek.
While Atherton worked in Dubai for three years, he kept his eye on the London restaurant scene, keen to return to make his mark and in 2005 he did just that, creating the Maze concept for Ramsay at the London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square.
Fast forward a few years and all eyes are now on his eagerly anticipated first solo venture in the UK, Pollen Street Social, which opened last year. The awards flooded in fast and include London's Best New Fine Dining Restaurant in the Time Out Eating & Drinking Awards 2011, BMW Square Meal Restaurant of the Year 2011 and Good Food Guide Restaurant of the Year. These, of course, nestle against a Michelin star.
While Pollen Street Social is Atherton's main focus - and the only place in which he cooks full-time - he has many other high-profile restaurants. With more than a keen interest in South-east Asia (Atherton's wife, Irha, is from the Philippines), Pollen Street Social was actually preceded by openings in Shanghai (Table No 1 at the Waterhouse at South Bund Hotel) in May 2010, a modern European restaurant serving tapas-sized portions, and in Singapore (Esquina), a tapas bar which opened in December 2011 .
Last month, the Asian arm of his business expanded further with the launch of Pollen at the Gardens by the Bay, also in Singapore, headed up by former Zuma chef Colin Clague.
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
"It not only has fantastic food, but Jason wasn't afraid to listen to comments and tweak things when he opened Pollen Street Social. He was a clear winner."
Danny Pecorelli, Exclusive Hotels
â- Tom Kerridge, chef-proprietor, Hand & Flowers
â- Michel Roux Jnr, chef-patron, Le Gavroche
Elizabeth Carter, consultant editor, The Good Food Guide
David Everitt-Matthias, chef-patron, Le Champignon Sauvage
Brett Graham, chef, the Ledbury
Angela Hartnett, chef-patron, Murano
Shaun Hill, chef-patron, the Walnut Tree
Danny Pecorelli, managing director, Exclusive Hotels
Marcus Wareing, chef/restaurateur, Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley