“My stage was an incredible experience; a complete explosion to me of new foods, tastes, techniques and qualities that have stayed with me ever since.”
Martin Hadden won the Roux Scholarship in 1989 at the age of 19, one of the youngest ever winners. He staged with Jacques and Alain Pic at the Pic Restaurant, Lyon, France. He is now Group Executive chef for Historic Sussex Hotels.
Martin grew up in the countryside after his family left West London and moved to North Devon to buy a small holding. The family lived a self-sufficient life for five years, which engendered Martin's love of great produce and ingredients.
He started first few roles in catering included weekend jobs at butcher's shop making sausages, and at Malibu fish and chip shop in Westward Ho!, at local Italian restaurants. After completing two years at North Devon Catering College, his first step on the chef's career ladder was with David Nichols at the Brittannia Intercontinental Hotel Grosvenor Square.
While he was working at the respected three-AA Rosette hotel in Devon, The Arundell, he began to hear about restaurants winning an accolade called a Michelin star. His curiosity grew, and he did more research and discovered the nearest starred hotel was Gidleigh Park Hotel, which he felt he didn’t yet have enough experience for. Around the same time, he found the application form for the Roux Diners Club Scholarship (as it was then known) in a copy of The Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine. It was offering the chance to work in a three-star Michelin restaurant in France – and he was sold! Martin entered the competition and won. On his return to Britain after working at the Pic Restaurant, Lyon, for his stage, he took a job in the kitchen at Gidleigh Park under Shaun Hill, where he stayed for three years. From there, Martin took a role under Nico Ladenis at Chez Nico,which moved from Great Portland Street to 90 Park Lane.
In 1994, he became head chef at the London restaurant Room at the Halcyon at the age of 24, where he stayed until 1999, when he moved to Ockenden Manor in Sussex (owned by Historic Sussex Hotels), where he won a Michelin star just two days after he had exchanged contracts on the purchase of his own restaurant, The Priory House in Somerset. This also won a Michelin star within its first year in the 2003 guide.
In 2003, he returned to Historic Sussex Hotels as executive head chef, overseeing The Spread Eagle Hotel, Bailiffscourt Hotel and Ockenden Manor, which with head chef Stephen Crane held a Michelin star from 2004 for 14 years. It was while working at Ockenden Manor that 2005 Roux Scholar Matthew Tomkinson also won the Roux Scholarship.
Where did you do your stage?
With the guidance of Michel Roux, I chose to do my stage at Restaurant Pic in Valence with Jacques Pic. It was an incredible experience; a complete explosion to me of new foods, tastes, techniques and qualities that have stayed with me ever since, as of course, has the great wisdom of the sadly now deceased Jacques Pic.
What did you cook in the final?
A boned, pot-roasted poussin filled with sweetcorn mousse: we were given six to bone and stuff, but I actually made a hash of two of them and was a bit down, however half way through it was decided that we should cook 4 not 6 so I handed back the two dodgy ones!
How many times did you enter?
This was my only ever competition entry.
What do you remember most about the competition the year you won?
As a 19-year-old, who had grown up in North Devon, I remember being in awe of Michel and Albert, Gary Rhodes too.
What advice would you give applicants?
Always keep things simple, trust your instinct and taste everything, keep tasting!
Who are your culinary heroes?
Nico, Shaun Hill, and all of the young boys and girls who have worked hard for me over the years.
What is it like to be a Roux Scholar?
A privilege, you really do become a part of the family, not to mention the amazing educational trips!