Hambleton Hall’s incredible family tree

In February 2022, Hambleton Hall near Oakham in Rutland was awarded a Michelin star for the 40th consecutive year – the longest-retained Michelin star in Britain. This is an outstanding achievement. But perhaps more remarkable is Hambleton Hall’s unique talent for finding, developing and unleashing talent.

Hambleton Hall’s founder & owner, Tim Hart

Visionary owner Tim Hart, who acquired Hambleton Hall in 1979, and Aaron Patterson, head chef since 1992, have an uncanny knack for launching the careers of brilliant chefs and hospitality pros. Indeed, the Hart – and latterly Patterson – golden touch is so prolific that it’s easy to compile a list of outstanding alumni:

Aaron Patterson, head chef since 1992

Nick Gill – Hambleton Hall’s first head chef was hired by Tim Hart in 1980 and stayed for five years. Nick, brother of the late restaurant critic AA Gill, kicked it all off by winning the Michelin star that Hambleton has retained ever since.

Hambleton Hall’s first head chef, Nick Gill (centre)

Fiona Cairns – Nick Gill’s pastry chef at Hambleton. Fiona now runs Fiona Cairns Cakes, established in 1992, and she created Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding cake.

Fiona Cairns with Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding cake

Gareth Ward – Hambleton Hall for four years. Now head chef & co-owner of Ynyshir near Aberystwyth, Wales – 2 Michelin stars, 5 AA rosettes.

Gareth Ward, head chef & co-owner of Ynyshir

Adam Stokes – Hambleton Hall for six years. How owner of Adams in Birmingham, 1 Michelin star.

Chris Ansell – Joined Hambleton Hall right at the start in the summer of 1980, working with Nick Gill when it first won a Michelin Star. Chris, after stints at top places including Langar Hall and The Olive Branch, is now back in the Hambleton Hall kitchen, working alongside Aaron Patterson.

Ben Jones – Hambleton Hall for seven years (front of house). Went on to buy The Olive Branch in Clipsham, which he directs and co-owns. The Olive Branch has been named UK Pub of the Year twice by the Good Pub Guide and is the current GQ Pub of the Year.

Ben Jones, co-owner of The Olive Branch

Sean Hope – Hambleton Hall for seven years. Opened The Olive Branch with Ben Jones, where he won a Michelin star.

Matt Weedon – Hambleton Hall for four years. Now head chef at Ellenborough Park in Cheltenham and previously won a Michelin star at Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire.

James ‘Jocky’ Petrie – Hambleton Hall for three years. Went on to become Heston Blumenthal’s development chef at The Fat Duck. Now working for Gordon Ramsay in the same role.

James Petrie

Julian Carter – Hambleton Hall for several years. Now head baker and co-founder, Hambleton Bakery in Rutland, which was named UK Bakery of the Year by ITV.

Sam Carter – Hambleton Hall for two years. Now head chef and co-owner of the highly-rated Restaurant 22, Cambridge.

Neil Hitchen – Hambleton Hall for four years. Now runs Hitchen’s Barn in Oakham (Michelin Bib Gourmand).

Mark Gough – Hambleton Hall for several years. Now head chef at The Finch’s Arms, Hambleton.

Peter Templehoff – Junior sous chef for 18 months at Hambleton Hall under Aaron Patterson. Now founder and managing director at FYN restaurant, Cape Town.

Peter Templehoff

Alan Gleeson – Hambleton Hall for four years. Then worked at the Lucky Onion and now at The Harcourt Arms, Oxfordshire.

Chris Denney – Hambleton Hall for five years. Opened 108 The Garage in Notting Hill to rave reviews. Now runs Fiend restaurant, also in Notting Hill.

Beverley Dunkley – Hambleton Hall for several years. Now runs The Chocolate Academy at Barry Callebaut in Birmingham.

Mark Southon – Hambleton Hall for three years. Moved to Australia and worked at Vue de Monde (formerly Australia’s top restaurant for two years running). Now resident chef for New Zealand morning TV Show, The Café and executive chef at O’Connell St Bistro in Auckland.

Phil Britten – sous chef at Hambleton Hall when it first won a Michelin Star. Now runs his own cookery school at Wotton Underwood near Oxford.

There are many more besides and apologies to those missing from the list. In addition, there are other, more indirect ripples of success, which once set in motion from Hambleton Hall, continue to flow outward. There’s not enough room here to list all the talented chefs who learned their trade under Hambleton Hall-trained chefs, but this trio provides a good example – each earned their stripes in Sean Hope’s Olive Branch kitchen:

Frazer King – head chef and owner of The Red Lion, West Deeping.

Dan Smith – head chef at The Exeter Arms, Easton on the Hill.

Jamie Knowles – head chef at The Boot Inn, South Luffenham.

So, congratulations to Tim, Aaron and the current team, and three cheers for Hambleton Hall and all who’ve sailed in her and will sail in her! May this Rutland legend continue to cast its magnificent shadow across the culinary world for years to come.

Thanks to Tim Hart, Aaron Patterson, Chris Ansell and Elior Pritchard for their help with creating this article.

The author:

Matt lives in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. He is passionate about the independent food & drink sector and founded Great Food Club in 2010 after being inspired by local producers near his home town.