At the award ceremony for the 2023 competition, our Honorary Judges Michel and César Troisgros opened the gold envelope to announce that April Lily Partridge had won The Roux Scholarship. As she covered her eyes in disbelief, the five other finalists applauded her with the utmost respect and admiration. While she may not have believed she could win it, everyone around her – who had shared the kitchen with her that day - had seen that she was a truly talented chef who had excelled in the final.

April first realised she wanted to be a chef when she did her work experience aged 15 at The Reform Club in London. The placement was her ‘lightbulb moment’: she loved the camaraderie of the kitchen and how a mix of different people all came together as a team. After this, she was encouraged by her teachers to take part in the Springboard Futurechef competition as well as the Rotary Club Young Chef competition, for which she won the London heat.

Part of the prize was a day’s work placement at The Ivy (the original restaurant in its pre-chain days). April continued to work there on Saturdays and in school holidays and fell in love with working in the kitchen. After a year of sixth-form college, she transferred to work at The Ivy while simultaneously training at Westminster Kingsway College on a scholarship placement. This turned into a full-time job, during which time April was nominated for the Observer Food Awards Young Chef of the Year award 2014, which she won.

Around this time, April also entered the Young National Chef of the Year competition three times. On her second try, she was competing against Luke Selby and was hugely inspired by his cooking; seeing him work she ‘wanted to be as good as him’. On her third and final try, she was runner up.

April was keen to experience working in other kitchens, so used her savings to live while she staged in different restaurants around the country including The Hand and Flowers in Marlow, Paul Ainsworth at No. 6, The Ledbury and The Clove Club, where she went on to work for 18 months.

A chance meeting with American chef Dan Barber while at The Clove Club led to her being invited to eat at his restaurant while she was in New York on holiday. Seeing Barber’s clever use of vegetables was life-changing – especially as she had hated eating vegetables as a child. She was determined to understand more and went to work at his Blue Hills Stone Barns for a year on a J1 visa. On her return from the US, April was ready for a new challenge and applied to The Ledbury which she had always admired and hoped to work at.

Under the tutelage and mentorship of Brett Graham, April thrived at The Ledbury, and particularly loved cooking meat. However, after 18 months, the world came to a standstill due to the Covid 19 pandemic. While The Ledbury was closed, April worked in a Notting Hill fish shop, started her own catering business Pril’s Pantry and worked at The Harwood Arms. When The Ledbury reopened in February 2022, April re-joined the brigade as sous chef and went to on compete once again in the National Chef of the Year award 2022, coming in third place, having also been third in 2020 – the highest placed female in the history of the competition. She also won an Acorn award in 2022 and has many other accolades.

However, there was one key competition she hadn’t yet tried for: The Roux Scholarship. With the changes to the format for the final recipe and an alternative star prize option, April decided to send in a last-minute entry on her last year before passing the age limit. She sailed through the blind-judged recipe application and then the regional finals with her recipe of striploin of dry-aged heritage beef with endive, chervil root, BBQ beef heart, ponzu hollandaise and Kampot pepper sauce.

On the 3rd April 2023, April became the second ever female chef to win The Roux Scholarship.