The Ivy head chef heading up one of York’s oldest restaurants

Dec Macdonald
Dec Macdonald
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He was head chef of The Ivy at 25 and has now transformed one of York’s oldest hotel’s restaurants. Catherine Scott reports.

Des MacDanold was destined to have a career in food.

“My father and my uncles are either bakers or farmers.

“As a child I was either helping out in the bakery or picking fruit on 
the farm. Food is in my DNA and 
cooking was second nature to me,” he admits.

Now one of London’s most highly respected restaurateurs, Des is the man behind the creation of The Refectory Kitchen & Terrace, which opened at the The Royal York Hotel, last month.

It is all a far cry from his first job after he left school he worked as an apprentice at the Ritz Hotel.

“It was hard work but I think it is very important that you get a good grounding. I was used to working in the family business so it didn’t come as a massive culture shock to me.

“I was very tenacious and wanted to get on quickly.”

And get on quickly he did.

At the age of 25 Des was made head chef at the famous The Ivy, eventually being made CEO, where he oversaw the whole group, which as well as The Ivy included such names as The Ivy, Scott’s, J Sheekey and the Oyster Bar, plus Le Caprice and its latest venture 34.

From 2008, Des secured deals in the Middle East and America to develop the group’s brands outside of the UK.

In January 2012, moving from Caprice Holdings, Des set up his own restaurant and consultancy group, Restaurants Etc.

Current projects include consultancy and master planning for high profile clients in London, Ireland, the US, Oman and Baku, Azerbaijan. Recent accomplishments include the opening of his own concept restaurants The Fish and Chip Shop Islington and Q Grill Camden.

Des also launched, On the Roof with Q, a pop-up roof top restaurant at Selfridges summer 2014 which was such a great success that he transformed the space into Le Chalet, a winter Alpine-style restaurant which resided on Selfridge’s rooftop until late 

Des also opened a second Fish & Chips in the city, renamed Vintage Salt, that led to a rebranding of the Fish & Chip brand.

He will also be opening Rofuto in Birmingham and Hope & Field in London in spring 2016.

Helping Des to make his mark in Yorkshire is executive chef Nick Evans. Nick will oversee the menus for the 161-cover dining room, all of which celebrate the wealth of flavours and tastes of God’s Own Country.

“It’s been a great experience working with Nick and his team. They’ve worked hard to create a menu that is bursting with flavour,” says Des. “Collaboration is key here: I’ve been able to share my experiences but learn a lot about what Yorkshire has to offer. There is so much fantasic produce in Yorkshire.”

For Des it is all about teamwork, whether in the boardroom or in the kitchen.