Some of the biggest names in the culinary world will be in Ripon this week. Catherine Scott finds out why.
Michael Wignall. Clare Smyth, Sat Bains, Paul Ainsworth – sounds like a who’s who of some of the UK’s top Michelin-starred chefs.
And this star-studded line-up represent just some of the top chefs with eight Michelin stars between them, who will be in Yorkshire this week all in the name of charity.
The people behind the Chefstable at TRUEfoods in Melmerby, near Ripon, have a very personal reason for organising their new ‘Up Close and Personal’ series.
Chefstable is the brainchild of the Mitchell family, who own the successful TRUEfoods company, supplying high quality stocks and sauces to many of the country’s most respected kitchens.
In 2017, founder Mitch Mitchell, alongside head of food and development, chef Aled Williams (Great British Menu Welsh champion), created the concept, which sees four intimate 11-course dinners hosted each month.
With just 10 covers, the experience allows guests to get up close and personal with the host chef and enjoy exceptional, innovative food.
The Mitchells have created this charity event to give back to the melanoma charities that support hospitals and research in this area after their son and director of TRUEfoods, Simon Mitchell, received treatment a few years ago and again in 2018. The proceeds of the dinners will be shared equally between Leeds Melanoma Institute and Melanoma Focus and the chefs’ charities of choice, which include Dementia UK from Michael Wignall and Pancreatic Cancer UK from Paul Ainsworth.
“Simon was first diagnosed with cancer when he was 26 and had another scare last year when he got a virus,” explains Mitch. “He received fantastic treatment from all the staff and Jack and I started thinking about what we could do to thank them for everything they have done for him.
“At the moment we have four Chefstable nights a month and they are sold out for two years and so we decided to hold a special week-long series of events.
“Being in the kitchen and “up close and personal” with the chef means they can watch the fantastic skills these chefs have, as well as being able to chat to them – something that you wouldn’t even get at their own restaurants.”
They have already raised in excess of their target of £30,000 for the sell-out event, which will be split 50/50 between the Mitchell’s charities and the chefs’ charities of choice.
Mitch’s culinary journey began at the Caledonian, one of Edinburgh’s premier hotels before landing a role at Hotel Nikko in Dusseldorf, The Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey and Woodhall Hotel near Wetherby, then Greywalls, the exclusive Scottish country house hotel and nearby neighbour of Muirfield Golf Course where he took over the kitchen as head chef.
The King and Queen of Jordan were no strangers to Greywalls. The Jordanian royal family asked Mitch to become King Hussein’s personal chef. The Arabian adventure was followed by his induction into the world of food manufacturing, developing the ‘Linda McCartney’ range of meat-free ready meals, sausages and mince.
Mitch’s thirst for learning took him around the world to absorb all the flavours he could manage, before opening TRUEfoods in January 2007.
It also means that he knows a lot of people, including many of the country, if not the world’s, top chefs, many of whom are his customers. And hence he was able to get some of them to come to his Melmerby base this week.
“The first six chefs I asked all said yes,” he says. “Considering how busy they are, especailly Clare Smyth who has just been voted the best female chef in the world and gained two Michelin stars, for them to give their time unpaid is amazing.”
Monday night saw Sat Bains (Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham) cook his menu while last night Michael Wignall, who recently took over the Angel at Hetton, delighted the exclusive guests who bid in a ballot for a seat.
“I have known Mitch for a number of years and when he asked me if I would take part of course I said yes, as it is for a great cause,” says Michael.
“It is good to push yourself beyond your normal comfort zone.
“Often a chef is in the kitchen away from the guests, here you really do get up close and personal.”
Michael says he chose Dementia UK after he lost his father to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Tonight Stevie McLaughlin from Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, Auchterarder, will cook his tasting menu. For Stevie, tonight’s fund-raiser will be especially poignant as Andrew Fairlie, the two Michelin-starred chef, died of a brain tumour last month.
“Andrew had known Mitch and Jack for years they were friends and worked together.
“I worked with Andrew for 26 year. I will be flying the flag for the restaurant and for Andrew’s legacy.”
His half of the proceeds will go towards Cornhill Macmilland Centre in Perth where Andrew received palliative care.
“Andrew really wanted to be here but he rang me and said it just wasn’t going to be possible and I knew what he meant,” says Mitch. Fairlie had suffered from a brain tumour for 15 years.
Tomorrow it will be Luke Selby (Hide, Mayfair); Friday, Paul Ainsworth (Paul Ainsworth at No.6, Padstow); then on Saturday Gordon Ramsay protégé Clare Smyth (Core by Clare Smyth, Notting Hill) completes the line-up.