As the ever enthusiastic gastronaut I was watching the first episode of the ITV’s mini-series INSIDE THE RITZ HOTEL one lazy Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago. It featured the famous Piccadilly Hotel’s venerable Executive Chief John Williams and the launch of The Ritz’s first ever cookbook, compiled by him and containing its most famous signature recipes, including the Roast Scallops Bergamot and Avocado, the Saddle of Lamb Belle Époque and the Grand Marnier Soufflé. The recipes are said to be ‘simple to the seasonal, to the signature and the sublime.’
I thought he would make a great addition to my collection, drawing this quick sketch, I posted it to him for signing. South Shields-born, on England’s North East coast and the son of a Tyneside fisherman, John’s culinary career began peeling spud’s in his mum’s kitchen. He moved to London at the age of 16 and after working at the Royal Garden, Claridges and The Berkeley Hotels he arrived at The Ritz in 2004 as the Executive Chef. Seen by many as the symbol of high society and luxury it is described as one of the best dining experiences you’ll ever have or in my case ever wish to have.
The fortunate diner is spoiled for choice with The Ritz Restaurant, which was awarded it’s first Michelin Star in 2017, the iconic Palm Court, the legendary Rivoli Bar, six private dining suites not to mention room service. It is the recipient of a Royal Warrant for Banqueting and Catering Services from HRH The Prince of Wales-the first and only Hotel to receive the prestigious accolade.
John himself has been personally recognised with numerous awards, including the Pierre Taittinger International prize, known as the ‘Everest of Gastronomy’ and the Craft Guild of Chefs Award in 2000. In 2005 he was the first British Chef to be conferred with the CMA by the French Government for his contribution to French cuisine. He was made a Member of the British Empire in 2008.
His favourite dish? The lobster with lemon verbena, which has had a few variations over the years. It used to be accompanied by a spiced carrot purée, but now it’s served with a vegetable tagliatelle.
As you can see John kindly signed and returned my drawing.