Chef to Watch: Alex Payne, Executive Chef, The Tudor Pass at Great Fosters

The Staff Canteen

Combining classic European gastronomy with new techniques and seasonal British produce, Alex Payne, Executive Chef of The Tudor Pass at Great Fosters, is an exciting young chef who has already made a significant mark across Britain’s fine dining scene.

For Alex Payne, becoming a chef was never something that interested him, and was never a career option promoted by his family.

“I just stumbled upon it basically. I was studying my A-levels in school and through no fault of my own, I failed them. At the same time, I was pot washing in a kitchen on a Saturday and the chef said to me ‘do you want to come and work in a kitchen full time?’ so I thought why not,” Alex revealed.

Alex quickly caught the hospitality bug, deciding that becoming a chef was something that he wanted to do.

Describing that feeling of falling in love with cooking, Alex said: “I loved the fast-paced nature of it. Kitchens are very competitive; you want to be the best of that section, you want to be the best at cooking that piece of meat, you want to be doing the best you can be.”

At nineteen, eager to establish and develop himself as a chef, Alex moved up to London to work at Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy Grill, throwing himself well and truly into the deep end of hospitality.

“I remember people telling me it’s either going to make you or break you, going up to London that early, that young, but I absolutely loved it,” Alex said.

Describing his time working for Gordon Ramsay at the Savoy, Alex said: “I loved the energy of the kitchens, it was such a busy place and I just loved it, but I can understand why people go and do that but hate it straight away, it just isn’t for some people.”

After spending two years working for Gordon Ramsay, Alex decided he wanted to venture deeper into Michelin style fine dining, taking up a position at Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin-starred Hinds Head in Bray, where he spent three years engrossing himself in the art of cooking before moving on to The Latymer at Pennyhill Park Hotel.

“I spent 3 years working for Matt Worswick, which was fantastic. I really fell in love with tasting menus and fine dining,” he said.

Developing his career further, Alex took up a position at The Vineyard hotel in Newbury where he learnt how to manage a whole brigade, before taking up his first head chef job at Crockers Henley.

In October 2022, Alex was appointed Executive Chef of The Tudor Pass at Great Fosters the following the departure of Tony Parkin.

Six months after taking on the role, The Tudor Pass regained its Michelin Star in the 2023 edition of the guide.

Classic Flavours, Modern Approach

Oozing with Michelin experience, Alex’s cooking style is one based on classic flavours but delivered with a modern approach and execution.

“I like to keep it refined and clean, but I also like to throw in elements of cheekiness as well,” Alex explained.

With a strong focus on British produce, Alex’s favourite ingredients to work with are shellfish and seafood native to the British Isles.

“We’ve got langoustines, scallops, oysters; our shellfish is absolutely amazing. It’s probably one of my favourite things to work with, I will always have an element of shellfish on my menu,” Alex revealed.

Describing seafood dishes currently on the menu at The Tudor Pass, Alex said: “Our first dish is Porthilly oyster from Cornwall. We do it slightly different from what people might expect from oyster and I start off with oyster because it gains that bit of trust from guests.”

Alex’s menu at The Tudor Pass includes other elements such as Hereford beef, Berkshire wood pigeon, Isle of Wight heritage tomatoes, and Cornish mackerel, celebrating the diverse and unique produce from across the country.

The Tudor Pass at Great Fosters

Located within Great Foster’s regal Tudor estate, outside of Windsor in the heart of Surrey, The Tudor Pass is the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant.

With just seven tables, The Tudor Pass is an intimate fine-dining experience, where guests are treated exclusively to either a four or seven course tasting menu.

Team-wise there’s a full front of house team featuring three members of staff, as well as Alex’s kitchen team of four, including Alex himself.

Together the two teams create a beautiful fusion of professionalism delivering exquisite hospitality to the restaurant’s guests.

Praising his team, Alex said: “My team are fantastic. Two of the boys who work with me, I’ve worked with them all the way through from The Latymer days, so like six years ago now, I’ve worked with them and they’ve followed me ever since. I trust them with everything I do and everything they do when I’m not there.”

One key element for Alex and the overall experience at The Tudor Pass is to differentiate himself from competitors, and create a unique experience that can’t be felt elsewhere, which he does by starting and finishing the meal in the same way.

“Our snacks and petit fours are replicated at the end. You get served your snacks at the beginning and then at the very end of the meal, we call it déjà vu, and it’s literally the snacks at the beginning of the meal but done sweet, so you’re starting and finishing your meal in the same way,” Alex reveals.

Winning a Michelin Star

In March 2023, Alex and his team at The Tudor Pass at Great Fosters regained its one Michelin star following the release of the 2023 edition of the guide.

Commenting on this achievement, Alex said: “It was incredible. It was always something that we wanted to try and achieve here. That was our goal and to get it bang on six months after I came through the doors here was incredible. We didn’t think it would be that soon but it was fantastic that our hard work paid off.”

With one Michelin star and three AA rosettes, Alex and his team are eager to carry on with their existing success, whilst evolving and continuously striving to be better in all that they do.

“My immediate plan is to keep on doing what we’re doing. We’re never content with what we’re doing, we’re always trying to evolve to be better, and even in those 6 months looking back we’ve gone a long way just in this year, which is fantastic,” Alex said.

Discussing whether two Michelin stars is on the cards for him and his team, Alex said: “We want to keep on trying to achieve as much as we possibly can here, and if that’s two stars fantastic but I’m not going to say to myself that’s what I want to get that. we’re just going to keep on trying to achieve what we can here.”

Looking ahead in the long term, Alex is quite happy to continue striving for perfection.

“This is my hometown, I’m quite happy here I’m really enjoying it, so it’s pretty much what else can we achieve here? What else can I do? And if that’s what we can do in six months, what can we do in two years,” Alex explained.


A post shared by Alex Payne (@chefalexpayne)

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th September 2023

Chef to Watch: Alex Payne, Executive Chef, The Tudor Pass at Great Fosters