Head chef, Gravetye Manor, East Grinstead, West Sussex
Nominator George Blogg, executive chef, Gravetye Manor
Proudest moment “The most enjoyable was a stage in Japan where I cooked the staff meal every evening and served French dishes that none of the Japanese chefs knew. It was so nice to share this and it created some funny situations – such as teaching them how to eat a Savoyarde fondue.”
Greatest inspiration “Olivier Brulard, Meilleur Ouvrier de France, who was my chef and mentor for two-and-a-half years when I worked for three-Michelin-starred chef Michel Guérard. He taught me about rigour, consistency, technique and respect. He was in mise en place with us every day and didn’t take days off for months.”
Why hospitality is a great career “It’s such a wide industry, so everyone can find something they are good at. You can travel the world and discover unlimited variations of techniques or ingredients.”
There are more Michelin-starred restaurants on Charles Coulombeau’s CV than you can shake a toque at. After receiving a distinction for a BTS diploma in hotel and restaurant studies in Biarritz, France, he served an apprenticeship at the two-Michelin-starred Le Relais de la Poste and the one-Michelin-starred La Table des Frères Ibarboure. He then went on to three-Michelin-starred Les Prés d’Eugénie and Maison Lameloise, progressing from a commis to a senior chef de partie.
In 2016, he joined one-Michelin-starred Gravetye Manor as junior sous chef and by June 2018 he was head chef. The role has allowed him to flex his business flair, achieving a food cost target of 27% and revenue of £2.5m a year net for food.
Coulombeau has also used his connections to reduce reliance on recruitment agencies, resulting in only 25% of this budget being used in the recent financial year and being rewarded with a staff turnover of less than 15%.
When he’s not in the kitchen, Coulombeau gets involved in local charity work and has raised £15,000 in the past year alone.