Chefs have a tendency to flit between restaurants in a bid to experience all sorts of different styles of cooking, new ways of working and to give a boost to their CV. While Aaron Patterson has certainly had his fair share of stages, it’s quite incredible that he has been head chef at Hambleton Hall since 1992.
His mother worked front of house and his father was a chef, so Aaron grew up surrounded by the catering industry. ‘I was cheap labour at the age of thirteen!’ he laughs. ‘I could’ve been anything I wanted to be, and after working in a kitchen with my father – who made Marco Pierre White look like a pussycat – it should’ve put me off, but it didn’t.
‘I was first at Hambleton Hall when I was sixteen,’ he continues. ‘It was the best restaurant in the area and the head chef at the time Nick Gill (food critic A.A. Gill’s brother) took me on as an apprentice. There weren’t very many Michelin-starred restaurants back then but Hambleton Hall was one of them, and Nick’s background in Parisian kitchens meant everything was quite old fashioned – I had to do things like lay out all the chef whites every morning, which you don’t see anymore.’
After four years at Hambleton, during which Aaron worked on every section including pastry, it was time for a change. Aaron went on to work at Le Manoir, where he stayed for another four years, and was thrown in the deep end of two-star cooking. ‘It was very different from Hambleton,’ he tells us. ‘All the checks were called out in French, which I didn’t speak a word of, and instead of making one terrine you would make six or seven. Working hours were usually from half six in the morning to one o’clock at night, and I was introduced to a wealth of new technical skills. Luckily, I had a really good grounding from working with my father and my time at Hambleton, so while it was a big jump, I was in good stead to make the most of it.’
Whilst learning all manner of technical skills at Le Manoir, Aaron also worked various stages at places such as Au Crocodile in Strasbourg, La Tante Claire with Pierre Koffman and Marco Pierre White’s Harveys, but he soon wanted to move up in the pecking order. After searching around for a sous chef position without finding what he was looking for, Aaron decided to ring Tim Hart – the owner of Hambleton Hotel – to ask him if he knew of any head chef roles available. As luck would have it, the position there soon became available, and Aaron was given the job – at just twenty-two years old.