OUR HEAD CHEF

 Gareth Longhurst

Gareth’s passion for cooking started at an early age. His mum was an excellent cook; Gareth was brought up on freshly cooked breakfasts every day before school, homemade cakes and pastries and home cooked meals using local fresh ingredients. Gareth watched and learnt from her and in his last year of school he chose to spend a term working day release at a local Catering College. It was here where the bug really bit and he knew that when he left school he wanted to become a chef.

On leaving school in 1988 Gareth found employment at The Royal Wells Inn, Tunbridge Wells; a 2 rosette restaurant serving British and Mediterranean food, all freshly made using the best ingredients. Gareth spent the next eight and a half years here, working his way up from Apprentice Chef through to Commis, Chef de Partie and finally Sous Chef. The work was hard but fun and Gareth gained great exposure to all sections of the kitchen – from starters to veg to pastry to mains and his work included running the pass and taking control of the kitchen in the absence of the Head Chef. Here Gareth really learnt the importance of working as a team when the pressure was immense – which it often was.

In the summer of ’96 Gareth took off to work as a Head Pastry Chef for a beach hotel in Southern Italy. The food he produced was vibrant and fresh and here he developed a passion for pastry, a section not all chefs enjoy working in.

On his return he went to work as a Chef de Partie for the renowned Alexander House Hotel – a 2 (on the verge of 3) rosette fine dining Country House Hotel. Here Gareth really learnt the benefits of teamwork.  All the chefs, regardless of rank, were asked for their ideas for new dishes for the menu. Outstanding dishes made it on to the menu at Alexander House and Gareth’s creations could often be seen served in the dining room. He quickly learnt that all chefs – no matter the age or experience – have great ideas and being inclusive in menu development brings out the best in everyone.

His next move was to the well known Hotel Du Vin in Tunbridge Wells as Chef de Partie. He enjoyed the company culture and was quickly promoted to Head Chef of Hotel du Vin in Winchester. Two years later came his biggest challenge when he was asked to become the Head Chef of the newly opening Harrogate Hotel Du Vin. This provided all sorts of challenges from recruiting a brigade of eight chefs from scratch through to team building and the development of the menu into delivery of the final product. The hard work paid off as the restaurant was awarded 2 rosettes within 2 weeks of opening.

His next move was to Head Chef of the Thomas Lord Pub in West Meon. The Thomas Lord has its own kitchen garden and for his four years there Gareth took great pleasure in growing, picking and serving freshly grown seasonal fruit and vegetables.

Gareth is now Head Chef of the busy Navigator Pub. Having fun and a great team spirit is of great importance to him. “Long gone are the days when shouting at chefs and throwing pans around the kitchen is acceptable behaviour” he says. Gareth wants the best for every customer and that means great food cooked by happy, creative chefs in a supportive and relaxed kitchen. He is passionate about creating new dishes and says there is nothing better than putting a new dish on the menu and having his customers say how much they have enjoyed it. His team are encouraged to create or develop new dishes. “It’s an inclusive process” says Gareth. “I gain so much enjoyment from seeing a young Chef create a dish that we all produce and that the customers love”.