Foodie Features

Aaron Patterson – The Family Way

By Rosie Birkett

Aaron Patterson tells us why, after twenty years, he couldn’t be happier at Hambleton Hall and reveals how he keeps his cooking bang up to date.

“My dad made Marco Pierre White look like a pussycat,” says Aaron Patterson, the long-standing, Michelin-starred chef of Hambleton Hall in Rutland. “He was a chef and I was roped in as cheap labour from a young age – he was a very hard task master but it set me up. I’ve lived in hotels and restaurants my whole life.”

Literally born into the trade, Patterson came from the unlikely union of an Irish nun and a Scottish chef (“I must have been the product of immaculate conception!”) and travelled around the country, as his parents took different jobs in hospitality.

“My mother died when I was eleven and my dad was at work, so I had to feed myself and there was no choice but to start cooking. I was the first boy at my school to demand to do home economics – it was a catholic school and no boy had ever requested to do it. I kicked up a fuss and got a really hard time for it, of course.”

After leaving school, Patterson landed his first job at Hambleton Hall on his sixteenth birthday – working with Nick Gill, brother of the Times food critic AA Gill. He then embarked on a succession of roles with big name chefs including Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Pierre Koffmann at Le Tante Claire and Anton Mosiman, before heading back to Hambleton Hall – where he’s remained for a whopping twenty-two years – with owner, Tim Hart, making him a partner in the business.

“I like my food to look sharp - it’s very natural but it’s got to look striking with lots of texture, lots of fresh flavour. It’s exciting modern British food.” - Aaron Patterson
Foodie Features

Aged only forty-four, he’s packed a lot into his career. “I had to,” he says. “I always had lots of fire in my belly. It was a real eye-opener, working with both Raymond Blanc and Pierre Koffmann. I stayed longest with Blanc – he was interesting and very tough. We’d be in at 7am and work through to 11pm, which was really hard – it was like being in the army to be honest. You learned self discipline, but also techniques and Blanc really knows how to bring the creativity out in you. You need to be extremely creative for this job. He taught me how to improve your sense of taste and what to look for when you’re creating a dish.”

Patterson’s longevity at Hambleton Hall has much to do with being able to achieve a work-life balance. “I love it here and it’s my home. My children love it too – it’s a beautiful place to live. As a chef working the hours you do, you have to balance the life – you’ve heard how many chefs at this level come from broken marriages – and that’s because there is no balance. By staying here and becoming a partner in the business I’ve had a great opportunity to create that ideal.”

He describes his artistically plated food as ‘exciting modern British’, employing a mixture of modern techniques whilst retaining a respect and love for classic flavour combinations. “I like my food to look sharp – it’s very natural but it’s got to look striking with lots of texture, lots of fresh flavour. It’s exciting modern British food. I’ll produce a grouse with breadcrumbs, game chips and bread sauce – which sounds very traditional – but I’ll use sourdough from our bakery to make the bread sauce and I’ll make that sauce amazingly silky and smooth. I take a different approach to classic food and like to keep my staff and customers on their toes.”

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