The EP Weekend People Story: John Campbell

John Campbell, sometimes known as the ‘Cerebral Chef’ is an internationally acclaimed fine-dining chef. During his thirty years in the industry has written numerous cookbooks for the industry and domestic markets, he also held various positions at Michelin-star establishments. He recently spoke at a WMT Hospitality & Leisure event about his plans for a new set of ventures under the name of John Campbell restaurants. EP was present to hear about the story so far

“Does anyone know what Tyre Pressure means?”

John is referring to the PowerPoint slide behind him. It has a simple background with those two words and nothing else. His audience isn’t given much time to guess but it’s clear that no one seems to know the answer.

“It’s the pressure most chefs feel to achieve a Michelin star. Do you know how Michelin started? It was started by Andre and Edouard, two brothers who were tyre manufacturers. They released a Guide containing useful information for motorists that included a list of good restaurants that motorists should know about. The restaurant section was very popular and so they made that the main focus of the guide. The Star used to be about the establishment but the focus has now changed to the chef.”

John is no stranger to Michelin stars. During the course of his career, the establishments that he has worked at have almost all received them. Lords of The Manor, where he joined in 1997, received one Star the year John began. During his eight year term at The Vineyard at Stockcross, the establishment received two Michelin Stars. Finally, there was the Star awarded at Restaurant John Campbell, Coworth Park. However, when John tells his story it’s never about the chef who earned the Michelin star, it’s about the team and the establishment who all achieved it. His passion for training people within the culinary arts is admirable. He ran a successful Academy for young, enthusiastic chefs and also helped set up the BaxterStorey training academy.

John had felt “tyre pressure” in his early career. There was a time in his life where it was a source of uncomfortable pressure; it was a questionable way of measuring success. John had always tried to maintain his philosophy intact – he always knew it was the quality of the food, the training of his team and, most importantly, the satisfaction of the guest that he most cared about. This philosophy is the reason why in 2011 he took a self-imposed sabbatical to try and regain his focus and put it into practice in his own venture.

The chef that speaks before us now seems completely relaxed and confident. John knows exactly what he wants to achieve within the culinary world and has set out to open his own venture – a place that will exemplify his personal philosophy.

“My focus will be on the customer, bringing them authenticity, flavour and seasonality through my food. If we look at what the street food trend has brought back to the customers it’s a no frill, authentic approach to food. I want to find the best teams to operate the venues – I don’t mind if they don’t have experience, we will happily train them, what they have to have is enthusiasm and passion for the industry. I want to provide the customer with value for money. I no longer feel ‘Tyre Pressure’; if the restaurant obtains a Star, great, if not, great as long as I’m providing good quality food and great service. Restaurants have to serve what’s right and ook at the sustainability of their business.

“During the past year my main question has been what are the values of our industry? Its people. The first thing we get when we are born is hospitality – food, warmth, security, recognition, adoration, a smile. People want to be known as human. The industry needs to be aware of the changes that are taking place and embrace it.”

Restaurants are planned in London and in Marlborough, his home base. In London the offer will be at the fine dining level with a simple, straightforward menu, while in Marlborough it will be a pub environment.

We look forward to following John’s progress.

For any further information on this topic, please contact Nicole Thompson at Nicole.thompson@epmagazine.co.uk or on 020 7025 1862.

Photo: Nick Dawe

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