Will Holland – My Life in Hospitality

12 February 2010
Will Holland – My Life in Hospitality

Will Holland is the head chef at La Bécasse in Ludlow, Shropshire.

Will Holland has described 2009 as his vintage year. Last year he won his first Michelin star, picked up an Acorn Award, and was tipped as one of 10 chefs to watch in 2010, according to The Good Food Guide. But he's not content to stop there.

Holland never wanted to be anything other than a chef. After two years at catering college in Bristol, his career got a kick-start when he landed his first job in the Michelin-starred kitchen of Homewood Park in Bath, where he worked under Gary Jones. This was followed by a move to Gravetye Manor, near East Grinstead, where he worked under Mark Raffan.

"When I was at college I was good, but nothing prepared me for the discipline and dedication of a Michelin-starred kitchen. It certainly kicked out any cheekiness that I brought with me from college," Holland says.

He then met Alan Murchison, who gave him a job as sous chef at L'Ortolan in Shinfield, Berkshire. Within six months of joining the restaurant, he was promoted to head chef.

"It was a huge compliment to be offered the job. I was still a young chef, but Alan could see something in me. It was a turning point in my career," he recalls.

Holland's career went from strength to strength under the guidance of Murchison.

"Alan is a highly-driven, enthusiastic and inspirational boss," Holland explains.

"He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, and has taught me that being a good chef isn't just about the food you put on a plate."

In April 2007, Murchison showed his faith in Holland by appointing him as head chef at his second venture, La Bécasse in Ludlow (formerly Claude Bosi's two-Michelin-starred Hibiscus).

Holland admits it was a bit of a whirlwind opening, winning three AA rosettes within three months of launch.

"Seeing my restaurant in the AA Guide made me sit up and realise we really have something special here," he says.

HIGHS… Winning a Michelin star before the age of 30 ranks first with Holland.

"When I saw the restaurant's name on the list I ran into the kitchen celebrating like we'd won the World Cup!" he says.

"I opened a bottle of Dom Perignon 1999 [the year I started working in Michelin-starred kitchens] after service with the chefs and continued to drink Champagne for a week after."

But Holland is not ruling out aiming for a second Michelin star.

"Time is on my side and I am confident in my own ability. I am not stopping at the accolades we have, but striving to be better," he says.

Holland also picked up an Acorn award in 2009.

"The Acorns are hugely respected within the industry," he says. "There is a great list of previous winners. Now I can say Marco Pierre White won one and so have I.

"Everyone should enter the Acorn Awards. It's not an Oscar or the World Cup, but it says you are doing something right. Winning an Acorn is the start - it's not the time to stop."

LOWS… One of Holland's lowest points was working in London. After four months in a Michelin-starred kitchen, he quickly realised that living and working in the capital wasn't for him.

On the plus side, though, he learnt from the experience and decided what type of chef he wanted to be.

Holland has also learnt over the years that when a chef has an injury it hinders their work.

"I once had a three-litre Kilner jar of boiling-hot red wine sauce crack in my hand," he recalls.

"I burnt and cut my hand and wrist. After spending a night in hospital I returned to work the next day (much against the advice of the doctors and nurses) and had 45 lobsters to prepare for a wedding. It depressed me how much longer than normal it took to prepare them!"

Family An amazing girlfriend
Age 30
Favourite holiday Soneva Fushi in the Maldives
Drives Porsche 911 Turbo
Motto Do something every day that scares you

Cut out extravagant ingredients if all they are is an expense!

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