Chef to Watch: Ricki Weston, Executive Chef at Whatley Manor

Alex South

Alex South


Chef to Watch: Ricki Weston, Executive Chef at Whatley Manor

For many becoming a chef and being part of a kitchen team is often an unexpected career and a result of being offered an opportunity and making the most out of it. It’s something that rings especially true for Ricki Weston, Executive Chef at the Michelin starred Whatley Manor, in Malmesbury.

“I never originally wanted to be a chef, it never really kind of came to light for me until I ended up not sorting work experience out,” explained Ricki.

Explaining what sealed the deal for him, Ricki said: “They put me up at a local restaurant and I just fell in love with the adrenaline, the camaraderie between colleagues in there, and the attention to detail that was really paramount in everything that we did.”

Starting his career at the South Lodge Hotel in West Sussex, under the command of Stevie Edwards and Matt Gillan, Ricki spent the first five years of his career working his way up from commis to chef de partie allowing him to take in a variety of different disciplines.


Discussing the range of experiences open to him, Ricki explained: “Starting in a hotel you see a little bit of everything; banqueting, pastry, gourmange, sauce, fish, everything there, so it was a really good platform that I was able to be a part of, which was useful moving up within the industry.”

After working at South Lodge Hotel, Ricki made the move to the two Michelin starred Sat Bains Hotel in Nottingham, allowing him to continuing building on the already impressive range of skills he’d acquired at the South Lodge Hotel.

“That was an incredible part of my kind of career really, I learned a lot about myself personally and professionally when I was there,” he said.

Reminiscing on the three years he spent at Sat Bains before moving to Whatley Manor, Ricki explained: “[Its a] very well-run restaurant; fantastic food, fantastic ethos and mindset, which has to become a part of you to succeed there.”


Originally joining Whatley Manor as a sous-chef four years ago before moving into a head chef position, January saw Ricki’s career take another step up after he was appointed as the executive chef of the 23-bedroom hotel.

Ricki and his 13-person team cover everything the manor’s two restaurants, including afternoon teas, spa and room service, breakfasts, weddings, and other events.

“It's methodical working and clever practices to bring the team together and make sure that everyone gets the correct experience,” explains Ricki.

Nestled in the Cotswolds, the hotel uses its unique location to provide a focus on British heritage, seasonality, and sustainability through the use of locally selected produce as well as a wide range of wild herbs and flowers.

“The food on my menu is a reflection of the food that I like to eat,” described Ricki.


Describing some of his favourite to use in dishes, Ricki explained: “Utilising what we can find locally, a lot of forest herbs and stuff like sweet woodruff one of my favourite ingredients especially when it comes to pastry. It's a foraged flavour and we're in the Cotswolds, so it’s relevant to where we are as a as a hotel and as a restaurant.”

Wild sea bass is another example of seasonal produce that is a favourite of Ricki’s at the manor. “Wild sea bass at the moment from Johnny at Flying Fish is amazing, we hang the fish and we dry age it before using it, cooking it over coals and getting flavours from like that,” explained Ricki.

To achieve his goal of creating both a sustainable and season menu, forging relationships with local suppliers is crucial for Ricki and the vision he sets to offer at the manor.

“There's so many great dairy farms and growers around that we try and tap into all of them and really support the local farming really where it's possible,” he explained.


When asked about preserving the quality of produce Ricki said: “The quality has got to be right for us to use it. We're not just going to say we were using it as a story. If it's no good, then obviously we're going to look elsewhere.”

Sustainability is an important element for the vision that Ricki wants the hotel to achieve and was reflected after Whatley Manor received accreditation from Earth Check, the number one accreditation body for sustainability, travel, and tourism.

“We're reducing carbon, we're looking at our energy costs, looking at energy saving wherever we can, and it's exciting because it's a new chapter of the industry where everyone's always been interested in it, but it's been difficult to really kind of get off the ground with the movement of what it needs to be,” he explained.


Despite being just 30 years old, Ricki’s moved from success to success with no sign of slowing down any time soon.

After Whatley Manor was awarded its first Michelin star in May this year, the next steps for Ricki involve cementing the hotel’s dynamic reputation and image.

“We got the star which was great, and we've got a couple of other governing bodies coming out soon with AA and Good Food Guide, and we hope to be a part of them and use that as a platform to push on and grow,” he explained.

Looking to the future of what he sees the hotel becoming Ricki added: “For me I've created this perception that I like with the traditional British and heritage and stuff like that, and for me I think it's going to be cementing that identity within the food that we do and the culture here at the hotel.”


Highlighting the recruitment crisis within the industry as well as the ongoing cost of living crisis, Ricki discussed how important it is to retain staff, whilst creating an attractive working environment for his team.

Commenting on this, Ricki explained: “We've gone to a five-day week here at the hotel, not everybody is from this area and when you go to a new restaurant you don't have your family and your friends, you only have your colleagues.”

He added: “Having the two days off together it allows people to meet up on their days off and have that kind of friendship group and socialization and that work life balance.”

Tying in with the emphasis on seasonality as well as efforts to develop skills, numerous educational sessions are offered to Ricki’s team at the hotel.

“We get whole animals in, we do butchery lessons and fishmongery lessons with whole fish and stuff like that, teaching people about the agriculture side of things as well,” he said.

Emphasising the importance of these sessions, Ricki explained: “If we can give them that, as well as a fun, exciting, but methodical work environment, then that I think is our best aspect to try and maintain stuff over the next months and years.”


Understanding your goals and how to get there is crucial for anyone wanting to succeed in hospitality.

“There's too many people that expect things, they expect to be promoted, they expect to be a head chef, they expect this, and an expectation comes through negligence,” explained Ricki.

Drawing upon his own experience and knowledge of making it to the top, Ricki said: “My advice would be find a chef that inspires you and don't think about the salary because your salary will come eventually when you are a head chef. We all need money to survive and the cost of living is dear at the moment but knowledge is where you're going to create your salary eventually, knowledge and experience.”

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Alex South

Alex South

Editor 26th September 2022

Chef to Watch: Ricki Weston, Executive Chef at Whatley Manor