"I really would love to see more women smashing through that glass ceiling"

Alex South

Alex South


The Staff Canteen spoke to April Lily Partridge, Sous Chef at two Michelin-starred The Ledbury and Winner of the Roux Scholarship 2023, about her career, tips on winning competitions, and her experience working for some of most critically acclaimed restaurants in the UK and the US.

Encouraged by members of her family who worked in hospitality, April began her journey at the age of 15, taking part in two weeks work experience in a kitchen in her hometown of Chingford.

Describing these early steps in her career, April said: "My stepdad was a chef and my mum was a catering manager, they're both amazing cooks and I love the smell of our house when my stepdad is cooking, so I thought I'd go be a chef for two weeks and see what they do. Just two weeks in the kitchen changed my life. I think that it was the first time that I really felt like I fitted in."

Deciding that a career in cooking was for her, it wasn’t long before April was taking part in competitions representing her school, experiences that would later pave the foundation for her development as a chef.

While still studying, April took part in the Rotary Chef Competition, where the prize for winning the London heat was the opportunity to spend a day at The Ivy in Covent Garden.

Explaining how this opportunity only fueled her passion for cooking, April said: “It was when it was just the one Ivy, it wasn't a chain or anything it was just the original restaurant. It was iconic and amazing, I went there for a day and worked with the executive chef Gary Lee and he said, 'I like you kid do you want a Saturday job?' and I started working there on a Saturday and my summer holidays and stuff, and I just fell in love with the kitchen."

After school, April worked at Caprice Holdings for five years from the age of 16 to 21, before working at The Ivy, 34 and Mayfair, and The Private Members Club at the Ivy, where she took part in Young National Chef of the Year competing against a young Luke Selby.

"I just remember watching him work thinking this guy is seriously talented and is just smashing us. He was so cool, calm and collected, and watching him work just really made me take a sort of step back and think about my career,” April explained.

It wasn’t long before April decided to hand in her notice with her employer and undertake numerous stages for some of the UK’s most acclaimed restaurants including The Clove Club, The Ledbury, Hand and Flowers, and Alyn Williams at the Westbury; before working at The Clove Club for a year and a half.


April left The Clove Club to pursue her dream of working in New York, taking up stages at Gramercy Tavern, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, before working for the latter.

"I came back and finished up my time at The Clove Club and got a J1 visa out to New York. After doing one day at Blue Hill they offered me a visa, which just felt like I'd won the lottery really, it was mental," explained April.

After returning to the UK, April decided that she wanted to continue cooking in only the best and most challenging kitchens, turning her attention to Brett Graham’s two Michelin-starred The Ledbury in London’s Notting Hill.

"When I came back to London, I decided every place that I went to after I finished needed to be harder and more of a challenge to me and scare me, and the only place that really scared me in London was The Ledbury. I staged there before I went to The Clove Club, it was one of the places I've been to, and it was just an animal. The way these guys cooked, they were just on fire,” explained April.

Inspired by Brett and his vision around food, April has continued working at The Ledbury with no desire to change employers.

Describing what Brett means to her, April said: "I think Brett Graham is my biggest inspiration by a very, very long stretch. I think the thing is with Brett is that he's somebody that doesn't just want to leave his legacy as a great cook but he wants to change the way that the industry and the world eats.”


In April 2023, she made history after she won the Roux Scholarship, becoming only the second woman in the competition’s history to win the acclaimed title.


Describing what it was like to win the competition, April said: "It's mental. I have done competitions over the years, and I never did competitions to be like I want to be known as being the best, it was never like that for me. I've got terrible anxiety and I've got terrible confidence issues but I've always done competitions just to challenge myself to work with other people that are my age, andwhere I'm at."

April’s historic accomplishment comes after years of hard work and dedication in mastering a craft, tirelessly striving to be the best she can be, and embracing the challenges that come her way.

Sharing her advice on how to win competition, whilst drawing on her own experiences, April said: "I did not succeed the first time, and I think that it's really important to get those knock backs because it sounds a bit cliche, but it's character building. I think that those moments where you get knocked down and how you get back up, and how you grow from it really make you as a cook. There's nothing better than being knocked down ten times and then that final time you get back up and you succeed, it makes that feeling so much sweeter."


Whether it’s winning The Roux Scholarship or working in some of the top kitchens in London and New York, April is another exceptional young chef  and an inspiration for future talent entering the industry.

Looking to the future in 2023, after winning the Roux Scholarship with an already impressive CV behind her, April revealed: "I really hope that winning The Roux Scholarship inspires more women to enter. I really would love to see more women smashing through that glass ceiling. Some of the most unbelievable cooks that I know are women, and they don't have enough lime light, and I would love to see more women breaking the boundaries of winning these competitions and I really hope that I see that this year."

As well as inspiring future industry talent, April is also keen of one day launching her own venture as well as being on TV, inspiring people to cook.

"I definitely would love to have my own restaurant one day. I've got a very keen love for bread, so I would love to have a restaurant that maybe is connected to a bakery where I can do just amazing breads and pastries that would supply the restaurant, and that people could just come and have a coffee and a banging little pastry, and take some freshly baked bread home," she explained.

Discussing her desire to work on TV, April explained: "I always wanted to do TV, that was always the thing that I was super interested in doing. I loved that Jamie Oliver made a whole generation feel like they could cook and change the way that young people saw food. I always hoped that at some point I could help to inspire a generation to cook to get more young people and more women involved in food. Hopefully I'll be able to pursue that and help to really inspire the next generation to cook."

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Alex South

Alex South

Editor 3rd May 2023

"I really would love to see more women smashing through that glass ceiling"