Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft

21 September 2006
Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft

Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft

Overall ranking: 89 (79)

Chefs ranking: 19 (12)

Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft - Snapshot

Nigel Haworth is the chef-proprietor of Northcote Manor - the Michelin-starred, three AA rosette restaurant-with-rooms in Langho, near Blackburn - that he co-owns with general manager and wine expert Craig Bancroft.

Like fellow Lancastrian chef Paul Heathcote, Haworth's cuisine has deep regional roots and Haworth was a leading light in the 1990s' reinvention of traditional British cuisine.

Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft - Career guide

Nigel Haworth was born in Lancashire in 1958. After training at Accrington and Rossendale College, he worked at the Royal Berkshire hotel in Ascot and London's Grosvenor hotel and, from 1978, spent several years in Switzerland.

Dismayed by the standard of catering he found in Lancashire on his return, Haworth became a lecturer at his old college for 18 months.

Meanwhile Craig Bancroft, who was born near Blackburn in 1961, had taken his first job as a kitchen porter at the Kensington Close hotel before joining the Trusthouse Forte management trainee scheme. He served as a chef at London's Grosvenor House hotel and the two Michelin-starred Plaza Athenee in Paris, followed by trainee roles in food and beverage, housekeeping and front of house at the five-star Browns and Westbury hotels in London.

Following stints at London's Regent Palace Piccadilly and Strand Palace and Yorkshire's Beverley Arms hotel and with just six months training left to complete, Bancroft was lured to the unimpressive Northcote Manor in December 1983 as general manager. One of his first moves was to bring Haworth on board as head chef in March 1984.

In 1986, Haworth and Bancroft acquired a stake in the business and, in 1989, bought it outright. They have since taken their award-winning food beyond their Ribble Valley base, setting up outside catering arm Northcote Offsite in 1999 (two years after Haworth became consultant chef to contract caterer Baxter & Platts) and the new Ribble Valley Inns business in 2004.

Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft - What we think

When Haworth joined Bancroft in 1984, Northcote Manor was a run-down 50-seat restaurant with four bedrooms, no reputation and an annual turnover of £76,000. New owner John Wolstenholme charged the pair with transforming the property into a first-class country house hotel with an outstanding restaurant.

It is now a luxurious and hospitable country house hotel with 14 bedrooms, and an 80-seat fine dining restaurant. In 1989, when the pair became sole owners, Bancroft won a Caterer & Hotelkeeper Acorn Award as a promising under-30.

More plaudits rolled in following a £540,000 extension and refurbishment in 1992. Local recognition came first with Lancashire Life's Restaurant of the Year award 1993/4.
In 1995, the Egon Ronay Chef of the Year and the Which? Hotel Guide's Country Hotel of the Year awards joined the trophy room, while 1996 brought the cherry on the cake in the form of a Michelin star. Northcote Manor went on to win the Catey Independent Hotel of the Year award in 2000.

Haworth is a passionately regional cook, who has researched old recipes and translated the flavours of his homeland into sophisticated modern dishes. He has worked hard to inspire local producers to supply him with top-notch ingredients, and maintains his own organic garden at Northcote.

Training remains a key focus for Haworth, who helped form the North West Chef's Circle (which brings together lecturers, professionals and students) and is a member of the Masterchefs of Great Britain and of the Academy of Culinary Arts.

Bancroft's expertise in wine and food matching has been paraded on the Richard and Judy show, leading to further spots on Sky and local TV.

Their first pub - the Three Fishes in Mitton - was an instant success, serving up to 1,300 covers a week within its first few months. It scooped three awards in 2005 - the Catey Pub and Bar Operator of the Year, the Publican Pub of the Year and the CAMRA Kid's Food award. A second venue was close to acquisition in September 2006.

This year, Haworth's role as a regional ambassador was recognised at the inaugural Northern Hospitality Awards in the form of a Lifetime Achievement award.

Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft - Further information

Nigel Haworth recipes on CatererSearch

Northcote Manor official website

The Three Fishes official website

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

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