Great British Menu 2021 chefs: Chris Cleghorn, Wales heat

The  Staff Canteen

Head chef of Michelin-starred The Olive Tree Restaurant at The Queensberry Hotel in Bath, Chris Cleghorn, is one of four chefs representing Wales on Great British Menu 2021.

Series 16 of the competition starts on Wednesday 24th March and will air on BBC Two at 8pm every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for eight weeks. The London and South East heat will air on Wednesday 7th, Thursday 8th and Friday 9th April. It will also be available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

Chris competed against Ali Borer from the Nutbourne; chef and owner of SY23, Nathan Davies, and Michelin-starred head chef of Beach House RestaurantHywel Griffith. As per the programme's new format, he was eliminated after the fish course. 

Biography 

Chris started cooking professionally alongside James Sommerin at The Crown at Whitebrook, before moving on to work for Michael Caines at The Abode Exeter, following him to Gidleigh Park as his sous-chef when he moved there.

Eager to increase his understanding of modern British cuisine, Chris spent time working at The Fat Duck, then at Danesfield House with Adam Simmonds, before returning to The Abode in Chester as executive chef.

In 2013, he moved to The Olive Tree Restaurant at The Queensberry Hotel in Bath, securing two AA-Rosettes and a Michelin star in the 2019 Guide for Great Britain and Ireland. 

On his menu, Chris combines classical flavours with modern techniques, showcasing the best of seasonal ingredients and British produce. He works closely with local suppliers to source high-quality fruit, vegetables, cheeses and meat.

Full name

Christopher Cleghorn    

Nickname 

Age/DOB

 36 

Place of birth / residence

Cardiff 

Relationship status / children 

I have a partner and we have 2 boys 

Height

5’10

Type of chef (restaurant, hotel, development chef, etc.)

I am head chef of The Olive Tree Restaurant which is part of the boutique hotel, The Queensberry Hotel. Both have very distinct personalities.

Favourite type of cuisine

Couldn’t really pick just one as I love a range of different food genres and cuisines! 

Path to becoming a chef

I’ve been cooking now for 20 years. I started when I was just 16 and by the time I was just 21, I was working in a Michelin star kitchen.

I joined James Sommerin at the Crown at Whitebrook in Monmouthshire , which is where I fell In love with the amazing ingredients and a cooking level I had never experienced before.

From there, I went to work at  Michael Caines Restaurant in Exeter, The Royal Clarence, for a year, while I was waiting for a position to come up at  Gidleigh park. My patience paid off as I then had the opportunity to move to Gidleigh where I worked alongside Michael for just over three brilliant years. Working in a 2 Michelin-starred restaurant was a completely eye-opening experience.

I almost had to re learn how to cook to his exceptional standard. Professionally, these were very challenging years but incredibly rewarding and hugely valuable to work directly alongside Michael, really learning about his vision and also how to run a busy and success full restaurant/hotel operation.

I subsequently did a stint at the Fat Duck and then Adam Simmonds at Danesfield house, followed by my first Head Chef position in Chester. I quickly discovered, however, that this wasn’t the right property or style of business for me. Then I came across The Queensberry Hotel and Olive Tree Restaurant and have not looked back since.

Past and present place of work

1st; St Mellons Hotel, St Brides, Newport.
2nd:The Inn at  Elm Tree in St Brides, Newport 
3rd: Llansantffraed Court Hotel, Abergavenny 
4th: The Crown At Whitebrook, Monmouth
5th: Abode in Exeter –Then Gidleigh Park, Exeter
6th; Fat Duck, Bray 
7th: Restaurant Adam Simmonds at Danesfield House 
8th: Abode Chester 
Present : The Queensberry Hotel and Olive Tree Restaurant 

Personal and professional mentors / role models 

I’ve always wanted to be a chef since I was a boy and I am always very thankful for what I learnt from my time with James Sommerin and Michael Caines.

I have been so lucky to have this experience under my belt, from a very early time in my career.  However, I also cannot thank Helen and Laurence Beere (The owners of the Queensberry and Olive Tree Restaurant) enough.

Since day one, we have shared the same vision.

Eight years later, we’re still going strong as a team and they have taught me such a great deal. We have been through ups and downs, of course, but the great thing about being a small business is you get more direct one to one time with the team. This is what I have always loved about working here.

Guilty pleasure dish

A good pie and mash – it’s so comforting and quintessentially British.

Best / worst thing about being a chef

The best thing would be working with amazing produce and ingredients every day. The quality we have surrounding us here in Bath is exceptional and I constantly feel grateful to have such amazing provenance to work with. The other aspect of the profession that I love is that, as chefs, we can really get inventive and put our own stamp onto an existing dish. There isn’t a ‘worst’ aspect as, although it might sound ‘cliché’, I genuinely love what I do.  

Feelings  stepping onto the GBM set

It felt very surreal after watching the show for so many years. It was hard to believe I was actually now on the other side of the TV screen! All the crew were absolutely amazing to work with and made me feel so comfortable and at home, which was great.  

Thoughts about the 'British Innovation' theme this year

It was certainly a tricky theme that inspired creativity. I look forward to seeing how everyone interpreted the brief. 

Plans for the future

We are aiming to reopen on May 18th, providing it is safe to do so and fully within all of the recommended government guidelines. At the moment, we will focus in 2021 on getting reopened and giving our guests the most amazing experience. We have lots of other things in the pipeline, but I’m most looking forward to seeing all of our team and customers again. 

Dishes

Starter

For his starter, 'Egg,', inspired by biologist and IVF fertility treatment pioneer Anne McLaren, Chris masde a savoury custourd with chicken stock and white miso, which he served with white soy mirin gel, chives, chive oil and white truffle. Sadly timing got the better of him for this dish and veteran judge Tommy Banks scored it just 5/10.

Fish course

'Bicause noe 2 thynges can be moare equalle' was a tribute to Pembrokeshire's Robert Recorde, the Welsh mathematician who invented the = and + signs in the 16th century. It consisted of sous-vide poached seabass, Exmoor caviar, sea herbs and preserved lemon purée. The salted lemon purée was a hit, but overall Tommy Banks deemed that there were several elements of the dish that could be improved upon, so scored it a 7/10.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 15th April 2021

Great British Menu 2021 chefs: Chris Cleghorn, Wales heat