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AA Chef of the Year 2017–18

John Williams MBE

Award sponsored by Caterer.com

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About the award

A popular and coveted title, this unique award, introduced in 1996, offers all AA Rosette-awarded chefs the chance to decide which of their peers deserves the ultimate recognition of their performance over the past twelve months.


John Williams MBE

Rich text chef of the year john williams

From modest beginnings in a Tyneside fishing family to executive head chef at The Ritz, John Williams’s career as a hotel chef has headed ever upwards from the time he saw one of the pioneering TV chefs, Graham Kerr – The Galloping Gourmet – in action and decided that cooking was the way to go. Trained on a classical cookery course at a technical college, Williams still believes in the value of learning the basics and nurturing up-and-coming talent through apprenticeships, an ethos he promotes in his role as Chairman of the Academy of Culinary Arts (ACA).

After a rookie stint in a country-house hotel in Northumberland, the siren call of the capital lured him to the Royal Garden Hotel where an inspirational eight-year sojourn with Rémy Fougère developed his craft and laid the solid classical French foundations that we still see today.

Aged just 27, Williams saw his future career at the helm of a brigade in a big hotel kitchen rather than in a restaurant, securing a place amid the bluechip tradition, heritage and history of Claridge’s under the aegis of Mario Lesnik. During the nine years in the Claridge’s kitchens he was in charge of sorting out the food for Baroness Margaret Thatcher’s 70th birthday. The next glossy hotel in his sights was The Berkeley before the irresistible lure of arguably the world’s grandest of grand hotels, The Ritz, came in 2004. A chef who prefers the heat of the kitchen to the sparkle of the TV studio lights, Williams counts Michel Bourdin and Brian Turner amongst his own mentors, and has consistently raised the bar for the UK’s young chefs through his motivational work via the ACA apprenticeship scheme, ensuring that diners’ expectations in a special occasion destination such as The Ritz will always be met.

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Previous winners
2016 – Simon Rogan
2015 – Daniel Clifford
2014 – Nathan Outlaw
2013 – Tom Kerridge
2012 – Pierre Koffmann
2011 – Chris & Jeff Galvin
2010 – Martin Wishart
2009 – Marcus Wareing
2008 – Philip Howard
2007 – Michael Caines MBE
2006 – Andrew Fairlie
2005 – Germain Schwab
2004 – Raymond Blanc OBE
2003 – Michel Roux OBE
2002 – Shaun Hill
2001 – Heston Blumenthal OBE
2000 – Marco Pierre White
1999 – Rick Stein OBE
1998 – Kevin Viner
1997 – Jean Christophe Novelli
1996 – Gordon Ramsay OBE