Spotlight on Female Head Chefs in Top 50 Gastropubs of 2022

Hundreds of votes from gastropub chefs, food writers, pub-guide editors, top pub industry suppliers and critics were counted to reveal the country’s best gastropubs across the country. This year’s Estrella Damm List of Top 50 Gastropubs shows a number of inspiring women running award-winning pub kitchens including the pub which rose to the number two slot – The Parkers Arms run by Stosie Madi.

Stosie Madi and the Parkers Arms Team at Top 50 Gastropubs 2022

Stosie thanked her amazing team at the awards ceremony which took place in Manchester on 24th January 2022. It’s one of the first big awards of 2022 to be announced

Stosie said: “It shows how resilient we are, it shows how fantastic we are, and it shows what great hospitality we have in the north west, and to have it happen here in Manchester is the cherry on the cake.”

She continued “But I’ve no idea what’s made us so popular! Because everyone in hospitality works so hard, and this list is voted for us by our contemporaries, our peers, by food writers and the food industry and everyone on the list is deserving. What made us number two? I don’t know, but I guess we’re quite good at what we’re doing.”

We were delighted to see the stunning rise in the list of  The Parker’s Arms  in the Ribble Valley Lancashire run by chef patron Stosie Madi.  The pub was 2017’s Highest Climber and was 7th in 2020’s list.

Stosie and her business partner Kathy Smith took on The Parkers Arms in 2007. Stosie has helped establish The Parkers Arms as a culinary North West gastronomic hotspot from derelict abandoned pub to a nationally acclaimed award winning food centric establishment.

Stosie is clear about what she is trying to achieve: “The Parkers Arms is a country pub that welcomes everyone and their dog,” she says. “It’s all about food and local sourcing and what grows around here and on our doorstep.

“Our menu is also ruled by what’s local. We made a decision a long time ago that, if it doesn’t grow in the area or within a 30-mile radius, apart from something like chocolate, vanilla or spices, we don’t want it on the menu.”

Daniel Smith and Natasha Norton-Smith of The Fordwich Arms

The success of all of the pubs in the Top 50 Gastropubs is not just down to the Head Chefs, as Stosie quite rightly noted it’s a team effort.   The Fordwich Arms  rose to  number 8 and pastry chef Natasha Norton-Smith opened The Fordwich Arms in Canterbury with her Head Chef husband Daniel, four years ago. The pub was awarded a Michelin star after 10 months.

Karen Errington and Phil Mason’s country pub – The Rat Inn –  in the village of Anick is a local hub as well as a destination dining venue, offering a seasonal, daily changing menu which is displayed on the pub’s blackboard every morning. Since taking over The Rat in late 2007 they have continued with their reputation for quality, whilst still retaining the personal touch.  The pub is now number 18 in the listing.

Co-owner of the pub Karen said “Really delighted with our placing in this year’s Top 50 Gastropubs, great to celebrate in Manchester with so many Northern pubs featuring. What a fabulous event!”

Run by husband-and-wife team Paul and Donna Berry, the classic English country pub is more substance over style – but far from winging their food offer, the couple have invested a whole lot of thought into each carefully crafted dish. The Swan rose 25 places to be at number 25 in the listing.

Donna had always been passionate about good food and often dreamt about one day owning and running her own pub, so she pestered Paul to do it.

Donna says: “I am really lucky to be able to do the thing I love as a job and on my days off you’ll still find me in the kitchen. I can’t get enough of it really.

“We close for food on Mondays, so we can re-charge our batteries. But on these days, when no one is here, I still spend my time in the kitchen inventing new dishes and experimenting. My big love is seafood. I enjoy it all. I get very, very excited when we get something different from our fish suppliers. I am a bit like a child in a candy shop when the delivery van doors open.

“I am such a devoted foodie that I like to go and see what everyone else is doing in the area when I can too.”

Charlotte Vincent became the new Head Chef of The Five Bells Inn in summer  2019, following a 20 year career in catering, which included a decade as pastry chef at the Gidleigh Park and Royal Clarence Hotels.  Under her guidance, she helped the pub rise to number 35 in the  Top 50 Gastropubs list.

Like all of the female Head Chefs in the listing, gender has not got in the way of success and Charlotte was one of the most outspoken chefs when it was suggested by Marco Pierre White that women weren’t strong enough to work in professional kitchens.  In order to get more women into kitchens, Charlotte said there needed to be more role models in the media. She said “This is one of the few industries where we can actually be equal to men (given half a chance) and we can also handle tons of pressure. The point is not to let the ego get in the way of asking for help when needed, which we are good at.”

Sally Abé - Photo by Lateef Okunnu

Finally it was great to see the awards recognise newcomers in their listing.

The Blue Boar Pub on Tothill Street in London was this year’s Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs One to Watch for many reasons. It is run by head chef Sally Abé, who until recently headed the famous one Michelin-starred Fulham gastropub the Harwood Arms.

At the Harwood Sally not only maintained the venue’s star, but also saw the gastropub rise to the top of the Estralla Damm Top 50 Gastropubs list in 2020, making it the first and currently only London pub to gain such an accolade.

Sally Abé, Consultant Chef at Conrad London St James said: “I’m cooking the food I want to eat when I go to a pub, so my menu is a traditional pub menu but with my own contemporary twist on much-loved classics. It’s all about quintessentially British dishes – done to their absolute best with a lot of love and care. The Sunday roast is going to be amazing, I’ve spent a lot of time working on it so I can’t wait for our first Sunday! I’m really focusing on attention to detail, using the very best British produce available, and just making sure the Blue Boar becomes one of the best pubs for food in London.”

Finally The Princess of Shoreditch was named Newcomer of the Year. Head chef, Ruth Hansom has been making a name for herself since reaching the banquet of Great British Menu, and with the super-seasonal, beautifully presented dishes that are packed full of flavour.  Ruth was Former Head Chef at Pomona’s and first ever female winner of Young National Chef of The Year.

Congratulations to all. The full Top 50 Gastropubs 2022 list can be found here.

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