Head chef at 1 star Michelin, Montagu Arms, Beualieu
Trained with Michel Guerard
Rather than undertaking conventional chef training, Matthew started his culinary career with a holiday job in a supermarket canteen while completing a degree in hospitality management. A stint in a vegetarian restaurant in his native northern England followed, cementing his desire to convert what had previously been a hobby into a vocation.
Fast forward to 2005 and, while working as junior sous at the Michelin-starred Ockenden Manor in rural West Sussex, Matthew won the UK’s premier chefs competition: the coveted Roux Scholarship. As part of his prize, he was given the chance to work at Michel Guérard’s three-star Les Prés d’Eugénie in the south-west of France – an opportunity that gave him the experience he needed to move to a head chef’s position at The Goose in Britwell Salome, near Oxford. It was here that he won his first Michelin star in 2008.
Today, Matthew oversees two restaurants at The Montagu Arms country house hotel in the heart of England’s New Forest national park. He has held a Michelin star at the hotel’s fine dining restaurant for seven consecutive years, and was named Hampshire Chef of the Year in recognition of this achievement in 2014.
Matthew on his experience of winning:
“It’s the hospitality that is the best thing I have learned from the Roux Scholarship. When I first entered the competition and turned up to cook Michel offered me a coffee and then went off to make it or find it. I’ve never forgotten that. Not many people would have that level of concern or be that hospitable. It made me feel welcome and that calmed me down.
After I won I sat down with Michel and he said it would be a great idea if I was the first chef to go back to a chef that a previous chef had been to. I wanted to go somewhere that was classical but with modern influences and he recommended that I go to Michel Guerard.
The whole experience was like going to university, it was real life, sink or swim. Michel Guerrard’s food was very refined but was also very soulful. It was rustic in a way but taken to a limit. It reflected the region with great foie gras, great beef, great poultry. It was definitely food that you wanted to it.
I keep coming back to this whole subject of hospitality, about the guest experience and how important it is to make them feel comfortable first and then the food will follow. These are the lessons I learnt from the scholarship and I draw on them every day.