Kitchen confidential: Gareth Ward, chef patron, Ynyshir

One of the UK’s most exciting chefs, Gareth Ward, tells BHN about his plans for Ynyshir, the property he co-owns with his partner, general manager Amelia Eriksson.

• Can you give us a condensed career history – how did you end up where you are today?

“I started my cooking career straight out of school aged 16, working in kitchens in the north-east before deciding to move to Rutland and taking a job at Hambleton Hall. Working in the Michelin-star kitchen for five years, I rose from commis chef to junior sous. Next I moved to Seaham Hall, which had just gained its star, and stayed for two years before taking my first head chef role at Hart’s Restaurant in Nottingham, where I was awarded the city’s ‘Restaurant of the Year’ and gained my first two AA rosettes. My next role saw me as sous chef at two Michelin-star Restaurant Sat Bains. In 2013, I felt ready to take the reins again myself and arrived at Ynyshir, then named Ynyshir Hall, as their new head chef. In my first full year, we were awarded our first Michelin Star and then gained four AA Rosettes shortly afterwards. In September 2016, I became chef patron of Ynyshir, at which point my partner Amelia Eriksson, general manager, and I made the decision to convert from a hotel to a restaurant with rooms, renaming the business as just ‘Ynyshir’.”
• What would you say makes Ynyshir stand out from other small hotels or restaurants with rooms in the area?

“We have the most incredible location – just a few miles from the beach and facing the mountains. All of the other Welsh Michelin-starred restaurants seem to hug the border of the country, while we are about as far in as possible! Also, we have an incredible team of chefs and front of house who look after the guests, taking them through the entire dinner experience and really explaining our philosophy and the incredible British ingredients that we use – we haven’t come across many places, if any, who get that kind of interaction with the diners. We also have amazing rooms!”

• Is the accommodation element of the property an important selling point for your customers, and do you get a different demographic staying overnight rather than just coming for a meal?

“It is very important, as we are so far from anywhere that people don’t want to have to make the effort to drive anywhere after dinner. We do get the local diners and the holiday home/caravan owners that just come for dinner as they already have that place to stay. We are in a bit of a transition period at the moment though – as we develop even more and work on the rooms more the whole experience of staying and eating will become more important and almost everyone eating will probably stay.”

• How does the chef patron/general manager relationship work? Is it clearly defined who does what or are there areas where your responsibilities overlap? And who has the last word!?

“We are the same thing – all pushing forward together to advance Ynyshir. We don’t have a split in the team – it is one team, kitchen and front of house, so there are rarely conflicts! We bounce ideas off each other and really bring together the concept of what we want to do and work together to drive the business forward. I think that’s the benefit of us working together (Gareth is chef patron and his partner Amelia is the general manager) as we have the same passion and goals for Ynyshir, so we have the same drive.”

• What are your plans for Ynyshir over the next few years, and do you have plans to take on further hotels or restaurants?

“We’ve never had the ambition to go off and open more hotels or restaurants around the country – we just want to be here as we love this place so much. However we want to push Ynyshir forward to be a real destination restaurant – somewhere that is travelled to internationally for the food and the experience. We are planning in the near future to open a pub at the end of our road which will serve amazing but simple food, and also to expand Ynyshir to include a more relaxed dining option so that when people travel here there are a few options for a few days’ stay. We don’t want to go anywhere else so we thought we’d do everything here!”

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