Top 100: Gary Usher, Elite Bistros of the World
Overall ranking: 100 (new entry)
Chef ranking: 24 (new entry)
Social media sensation Gary Usher is the founder and owner of Elite Bistros of the World, comprising Sticky Walnut in Hoole, a suburb of Chester; Burnt Truffle in Heswall on the Wirral; Hispi Bistro in Didsbury on the outskirts of Manchester; and Wreckfish in Liverpool. The winner of the 2013 Menu of the Year Catey, Usher came to prominence when his witty ripostes to TripAdvisor reviews caught the attention of the Twitterati and The Guardian's then food critic, Marina O'Loughlin, leading her to critique the Sticky Walnut restaurant. On reviewing the Chester restaurant, O'Loughlin declared: "If I could clone Sticky Walnut, I would. I'd plonk its like the length of the land, replacing every Frankie & Benny's and La Tasca and Café bloody Rouge."
What we think
Crowdfunding champion and social media star Gary Usher quietly honed his skills at the Chester Grosvenor, Chapter One, Chez Bruce and York & Albany, among others, before choosing to return north to open his first restaurant, Sticky Walnut in Chester, in January 2011 on a shoestring.
In 2014, with his star in its ascendency, Usher launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise £100,000 to fund the launch of his second bistro, Burnt Truffle, amassing over £24,000 in just 24 hours and exceeding his target in only 30 days. That summer, Usher found himself in the spotlight once again when he agreed to consult on the menu for the Cateys banquet for 1,200 industry luminaries, and in September of that year, Sticky Walnut clinched the AA's coveted Restaurant of the Year for England title.
Despite advice to the contrary, he turned to crowdfunding once again to get Hispi off the ground in 2016, reaching his target of £50,000 two weeks ahead of the end of the campaign, and in May last year he raised more than £200,000 via Kickstarter to fund his Liverpool outpost.
With each crowdfunding exercise he went where no man had gone before, offering "rewards" in exchange for hard cash for items such as branded aprons, founders' names etched on the restaurant's wall, personalised meals for up to 50 people, wedding breakfasts to the highest bidder, a series of guest chef nights, and, for his most recent cause, pop-up meals in the derelict shell of Wreckfish, despite no running water, gas or electricity.
Usher currently has his fifth and sixth restaurants in his sight - a small bistro in Prescot, Merseyside, called Pinion, in an area undergoing regeneration, and a second eaterie in Manchester, to be called Kala.
Announcing his plans for Pinion on Instagram earlier this year, he said: "When I took over the village bistro [now Sticky Walnut] it felt similar. Not the demographic or local business, but it felt similar in terms of opening a small neighbourhood restaurant for the people that lived there."
And while Usher would not rule out a London opening, he did concede to The Caterer last September: "I love the fact that no matter what day it is or what time it is, if one of the restaurants call me, I can be there within half an hour."
Gary Usher announces fifth restaurant Pinion to open in Prescot >>
Gary Usher smashes £200,000 crowdfunding target for Wreckfish >>
Sticky Walnut's Gary Usher unveils new restaurant Burnt Truffle >>
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