Every time we pick a chef for out Hot List, we look for a unique aspect or story that we know you will find interesting. In Ollie’s case, this is his path to top. The stuff of dreams surely for every young chef.
Ollie is part of the new guard that is forging their history for this generation but as always, the roots of this story are firmly embedded in the names of the not-so-distant path.
Becoming a cook because of a pure love of food is not in itself an unfamiliar story but landing your first big break at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons surely is. Starting at the bottom of this most famous heap of talent is not a start anyone would not be proud of, as was Ollie.
From his self-confessed basic level of skills at the time he became a commis at the Manoir, he worked hard and enthusiastically applied himself to understanding the particular lightness of touch, incredible use of techniques and approach to the importance of using organic produce that gives the restaurant’s cooking its distinctive style. What impressed Ollie most was being able to achieve such clarity of flavour from each ingredient.
Moving up to Chef-de-Partie firmly established the basis for Ollie’s own culinary values and beliefs. Despite being given the opportunity to move up to Sous Chef, he wanted to experience something new. And that’s when this amazing journey expanded on those firm foundations provided by his time at The Manoir.
From Hibiscus to working at Mugaritz, this is a path not only paved with stars but served to mould a love for classic techniques into a new style involving a contemporary and minimalist twist. Toss in a healthy portion of character-building stages at The Fat Duck, WD-50 in New York, Pierre Gagnaire in Paris and Umu (even if it was for just 1 day) and you can really get the feel of how such broad exposure to lots of diverse influences can help form a unique talent.
When offered the opportunity to help open a new restaurant in the centre of London as an ambitious and excited twenty-something, it was an opportunity for Ollie to embrace the city which was being established as the most exciting food capital in Europe. Establishing Texture brought into play all those well-observed food lessons and combined them with a totally new experience of creating a business from scratch. Even this did not satisfy the real craving in every ambitious chef’s heart to open his/her own restaurant. Trying to do that in the middle of a recession is tough, especially when you are not yet a recognised name.
Taking two years to get the finance together to open saw that dream become a reality when he opened Dabbous in 2012. Being on the verge of bankruptcy before you even open is a sobering experience but Ollie’s fortunes changed as Dabbous became an instant hit with critics praising everything from the restaurant’s industrial décor to its relaxed service. A Michelin star quickly followed as did the tide of bookings. Riding the crest of this very successful wave, meant that Ollie could open 2 further restaurants, Henrietta & Barnyard.
It was therefore a surprise to everyone that after 4 successful years building his own empire, Ollie chose to close all 3 after being approached by Yevgeny Chichvarkin, the owner of Hedonism Wines in Mayfair, to open the massively ambitious new project, Hide.
For Ollie, the challenge was irresistible, with a vision for creating a mighty mega-project which would be scrutinised by everyone. By the time it opened, the hype was huge, along with the pressure to make it the success it aimed to be. With a massive team and incredible kitchen, Ollie had the tools to forge something truly incredible. With 2 restaurants offering a more audacious style and menu Above, to the more fun and casually comforting at the Ground, there is something to please everyone. The bar Below offered that multi-level experience to take you through from cocktails to after-dinner tipple that offers a totally encompassing evening.
Six months after opening, the Michelin star topped off an amazing journey that Ollie attributes to having his team around him. It may sound like a cliché but every chef in the country attributes his success to once being part of a great team. It is where the stars of tomorrow are born and nurtured. It will be interesting to see who will emerge from this kitchen.
This story should be an inspiration to everyone starting out and who does not yet know where their own path leads.
Who knows where it will lead next.