A chef who runs a seaside restaurant in Pembrokeshire has said he is proud to be putting the Welsh food scene on the map after being named UK Restaurant Chef of the Year.
Will Holland, head chef at restaurant Coast in Saundersfoot, took home the prestigious award from the annual Craft Guild of Chefs Awards – dubbed the Oscars of the chef industry.
The accolade comes only after he and his wife, Kamila, opened the seaside restaurant in April 2014 – a fact Will says makes the win even more of a shock.
Watch Will Holland at work:
Will, who has previously won a Michelin star and appeared on TV shows like Saturday Kitchen and Great British Menu, has relocated to West Wales to run Coast, set in a stunning beach-side location at Coppet Hall near Saundersfoot.
He has spent 15 years working in some of Britain’s best restaurants and earned a Michelin star before the age of 30 at La Bécasse, in Ludlow.
Two AA rosettes
He has now settled as head chef at Coast in West Wales, which is on the shoreline of Coppet Hall beach, while his wife Kamila, who is expecting their first child together, manages the restaurant.
It was awarded two AA Rosettes within two weeks of opening and was named 2015-2016 Welsh Restaurant of the Year at the AA Hospitality Awards.
Will also works as a chef ambassador for the Clink Charity Cardiff , which is dedicated to reducing reoffending rates by training prisoners in its restaurant before finding them employment in the hospitality industry.
Will, 36, found out he’d been nominated for the award earlier this year, and headed to the ceremony at the Lancaster London Hotel in Hyde Park on Wednesday to see whether his luck was in.
The Craft Guild of Chefs Awards acknowledges a host of leading lights across the industry, with the Restaurant Chef title going to chefs recognised for their outstanding contribution to quality within this sector, whether it be a standalone restaurant, part of a group, or based within a hotel.
Will was named ‘UK Restaurant Chef of the Year’ ahead of fellow finalists Steve Groves from Roux of Parliament Square and Allan Pickett from Piquet in London’s Fitzrovia.
The couple behind the successful restaurant were celebrating in London this week before Will returned back to work ahead of a busy weekend.
“I just thought I didn’t stand a chance”
The chef said: “I didn’t know I was going to win. I knew that I’d been nominated and I knew that I’d progressed through to the final three.
“I really didn’t think I was going to win. The calibre of the two other finalists was really, really good.
“I just thought that little old me in Pembrokeshire down in west Wales against two big boys in London – I just thought I didn’t stand a chance.
“It was amazing. It was quite a big category, really.
“The restaurant’s our baby.”
Will said having only opened in April 2014 made his win even more surprising.
“It’s come as a massive shock but obviously it’s a big pat on the back for us.”
But the head chef is keen to stress the award is thanks to a collective effort at Coast.
“Although it was awarded to me, it’s down to the whole team. It’s not just for me, I think that’s important.”
Speaking about the Welsh food scene and the impact of the award, he said: “It’s great for Pembrokeshire and it’s great for Wales that this award could have gone anywhere in the UK.
“I think it’s great that it’s gone to Wales. I think Wales has got a really excellent food scene and I think it’s slightly undiscovered.
“Things like this are going to make it more and more discovered and more and more people will come over and see the food scene is thriving.”