Second wind success
· 3 January 2012
After 10 years as right hand man to Gordon Ramsay at Maze, Jason Atherton steps up to command his own court with resounding results.
Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Jason Atherton might agree, having done a tour of duty with an impressive string of toques himself. After getting his feet wet in Boyd Gilmour’s restaurant at 16, the 40-year-old English chef paid his dues with Pierre Koffman at three Michelin-starred La Tante Claire. The stint later paved the way for an opportunity to work alongside Nico Ladenis (yes, the chef who infamously returned his three Michelin stars), and noted hard taskmaster Marco Pierre White. He was also the first British chef to have completed a stage with Ferran Adrià at El Bulli.
“It was 1998 and El Bulli had just earned its third star. I packed my bags and knocked on Ferran Adrià’s door. Everyone knew he didn’t hire non-Spanish speaking chefs—it was just too much hassle,” Atherton explains. It took shucking a box of scallops to prove he was worth the shot. “I was doing in 15 minutes what other stagers were taking thrice the amount of time to complete.” But Atherton was no itinerant chef, and even though the experience “added an avant-garde dimension” to his classical training, he was soon back in London, setting up Maze with Gordon Ramsay in Mayfair and extending its empire to New York City, Doha, Cape Town, Melbourne and Prague (aside from London, only the first two currently remain open).
After 10 years as executive chef, Atherton has struck out on his own. Pollen Street Social—his first independent restaurant and one of London’s most hotly anticipated openings alongside Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner last year—had everyone sitting up and taking notice when it nudged its way into Michelin’s ranks in under six months.
Excerpt from the January issue of epicure.