The Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards: Chef to Watch 2023 shortlist

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The Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards Chef to Watch 2023 shortlist has been revealed

Related tags Ben Allen Aaron Dalton April Lily Partridge Corrin Harrison Cynthia Shanmugalingam Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards Max Coen Theo Clench Thomas Straker Adejoké ‘Joké’ Bakare

Which up-and-coming chef will be crowned Chef to Watch at this year's awards?

Ben Allen, The Parakeet


Former Brat chef Ben Allen has helped create significant buzz around The Parakeet, the pub restaurant he runs alongside another Brat alumnus Ed Jennings. Allen, who has also worked at Steirereck in Austria, has won instant praise for his fire-led cooking at The Parakeet, which was earlier this month described by the Evening Standard as ‘one of London’s great gastropubs’.

Adejoké Bakare, Chishuru

Image: Amit Lennon

Adejoké Bakare’s award-winning West African restaurant Chishuru made waves in its Brixton Market location thanks to her inventive, authentic and experimental cooking. Having tested proof of concept, Chishuru is now on the move with a new larger central London restaurant due to open this year providing more space for her to work her magic.

Theo Clench, Cycene


Up and coming chef Theo Clench took on the restaurant that was once home to Michelin-starred Mãos to open Cycene, an ambitious 10-course tasting menu restaurant. He had big shoes to follow, with the Mãos kitchen initially led by Nuno Mendes and latterly by his talented right hand man Edoardo Pellicano but fill them he has, with Cycene winning a Michelin star in its own right in this year’s guide.

Max Coen, Dorian


Time spent in the kitchens at top London restaurants Ikoyi and Kitchen Table as well as with Frantzén Group has moulded Max Coen into one of the UK’s most promising young chefs. Now at the helm of Dorian in Notting Hill, he has helped spearhead the area’s culinary revival with the ‘bistro for locals’ that ticks all the boxes.

Aaron Dalton, Four


Aaron Dalton impressive CV includes head chef at London’s Smoking Goat as well as time cooking at Simon Rogan’s Fera, Chez Bruce and Dabbous. The chef was poised to launch a restaurant with his wife Sally ahead of the pandemic but she later died of cancer, leaving him to care for his two children on his own. Dalton isn’t hanging his whites up though, and is instead opening a restaurant in his home in an extension he has built himself to enable him to look after his children while he continues his passion for cooking.

Amber Francis, Maene

Image: Rebecca Dickson

Bristol-born chef Amber Francis made her debut on this year’s Great British Menu, putting her training at The Ritz and her role as head chef at Zebra Riding Club at Birch in Hertfordshire at to good use. Now she’s heading up the kitchen at Nick Gilkinson’s new restaurant Maene in Shoreditch where she oversees a menu of Britsh dishes with Mediterranean influences.

Tomás Gormley and Sam Yorke, Heron, Skua

Image: Mike Guest

The young duo behind Heron in Leith scooped a Michelin star for their debut restaurant earlier this year, winning praise for their understanding of flavour. Building on this success they have just opened Skua in the Stockbridge area of Edinburgh focusing on small seasonal plates and innovative cocktails.

Corrin Harrison, Gwen


Former Ynyshir head chef Corrin Harrison may have left the current Best Restaurant in the UK but hasn’t gone far or cut his ties with chef-patron Gareth Ward. Rather, he’s opened Gwen restaurant and wine bar in the centre of Machynlleth where he oversees an restaurant of just eight covers, serving a 10-course menu. Already booked out for the duration of May, Gwen has hit the ground running, which is no surprise given Harrison’s obvious ability.

Cynthia Shanmugalingam, Rambutan


Cynthia Shanmugalingam’s new Borough Market restaurant has got off to a flier, with the Sri Lankan restaurant proving a smash with diners from the off. With Rambutan, Shanmugalingam is throwing the spotlight on an area of Sri Lankan cuisine previously unexplored in central London and is racking up the plaudits - and the covers.     

Georgia Sommerin, Home by James Sommerin


The senior sous chef at her father’s Michelin-starred Penarth restaurant has been working in a professional kitchen since the age of 13 and full time since 2016 so she already has a head start on many of her peers. This early training helped her become the youngest competitor to appear on the Great British Menu at just 20 years old and will no doubt make her one a chef to watch for the future.

Thomas Straker, Straker’s


The former Elystan Street and Casa Cruz chef made his solo debut last summer on Notting Hill’s Golborne Road and has since won praise for his cooking, including his now legendary flatbreads. Some questioned whether the chef turned social media star could follow the success of his TikTok presence, where he has amassed nearly two million followers, and the answer seems to be that he can.

April Lily Partridge , The Ledbury

Image: Jodi Hinds

The Ledbury sous chef has been tipped for greatness ever since her days spent at The Clove Club in Shoreditch and at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns in the US and she cemented this position earlier this year by winning the 2023 Roux Scholarship. Lily Partridge is only the second woman to have won the prestigious competition - the first was Mercy Fenton back in 1994, the year the 29-year-old was born - and impressively claimed victory on her first time entering. Greatness surely beckons.

The Chef to Watch will be announced at the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards, being held at The Hurlingham Club on 12 June.

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