FERGUS HENDERSON, chef and founding partner of St. John, London has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Diners Club in association with The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Henderson has already been recognised for his outstanding contribution to modern British cooking when, in 2005 he received an MBE for services in gastronomy but his Lifetime Achievement Award further champions his now famous “nose-to-tail” philosophy.
Twenty years ago, the one-time architect student, became chef and founding partner of what has become one of the UK’s most influential restaurants, St John in Smithfield. Once opened he exposed the culinary world to a new style of cooking, one that thought sustainably, wasted nothing and made the most of every part of the animal.
Fresh, seasonal British produce has now become the fashion for many dining establishments but this has not always been the case. Part of Henderson’s philosophy was to make the most of the indigenous ingredients to the British Isles, including all cuts of meat such as shanks, feet and tripe which can be transformed into culinary delights. Instead of importing exotic foods from far-off places he endeavoured to make the most of what was on offer here in Britain regardless of the time of year.
Writing in The Observer he comments: “Nature writes our menu and we should listen”.
“A recipe for tomato salad is all very well, but tomatoes out of season or place are dull and senseless, just as the bottle of local rosé brought home from sunnier climes turns out to be more vinegar than wine.”
Today, chefs up and down the country often use trimmings for stocks and offal as components for their dishes but in 1994 the notion of nose-to-tail cooking was a world away from what diners would expect and be prepared to pay for. Through Henderson’s passion for the very best ingredients and his celebration of offcuts and British produce, the nose-to-tail approach has become ingrained in the current gastronomic society. It can now be seen and experienced everywhere from local cafes to Michelin star restaurants as the issue of sustainability has become increasingly prominent.
Throughout his 20 years at St John he has formed strong alliances with chefs across the world and nurtured many great young talented chefs who have continued on in their own successful ventures. In the process, he has become one of the most influential chefs to raise the profile of British food overseas.
Previous winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award have included Alain Ducasse, Thomas Keller and Michel Roux.