Yet over the years the pair have established the restaurant as one of Britain’s best, winning a legion of awards including two Michelin stars, 4 AA rosettes and 8/10 in the Good Food Guide – currently listed as one of the top ten restaurants in Britain, according to the Guide. Often described as “a chef’s chef” Brett Graham of The Ledbury has said of Everitt-Matthias: “He has reached a level very few chefs ever achieve in their careers.”
Solidly grounded in the French classical technique of his professional training, his style has evolved over the years, remaining current without pandering to passing trends. He speaks of the freedom, relief and sense of purpose that came with developing his own style of cooking, when he turned his back on mirroring the Raymond Blancs of this world and became his own man.
The menu changes frequently with the passing seasons and he is renowned for his creative use of local ingredients, with The Good Food Guide describing him as having “an enviable, unchallenged reputation for garnering faultless raw materials at their seasonal peak”. Despite his roots in traditional French haute cuisine, he is not reluctant to experiment with new ingredients – a packet of lotus seeds from the local Asian supermarket ending up roasted, ground and blended into a beautiful caramel-mocha-chicory flavoured ice cream, for example.
Building on the family education of his youth, David Everitt-Matthias isrecognised for his astute use of foraged edibles – long before this was de rigeur – with his wife Helen and many of their staff collecting the bulk of this themselves. Marina O’Loughlin in The Guardian comments: “Dishes feature fungi and foraged leaves – fleshy little stonecrop, or tart sorrel – but all add something rather than simply box-ticking a trend.” His treatment of the springtime favourite, wild garlic, shows his accomplished technique as well as the exciting possibilities these unusual ingredients offer. Speaking to the Gloucestershire Echo he said: “We use all of the plant at the restaurant, the tiny first shoots, the full leaves, the flowers, the roots and the seed pods … The young shoots are great just sprinkled in a salad, as are the flowers – adding a hint of garlic, as well as a delicate and attractive finish to a dish. We will be using the larger leaves for a potato and wild garlic soup. That just leaves the roots, which at the end of the season can be picked, scraped clean, washed and used to flavour stews, or blanched a few times in a few changes of water, then caramelised in a little butter and served as an accompaniment to roasted lamb or a braised beef dish.”
The championing of cheaper, less valued ingredients – inspired by his early stage with Pierre Koffmann and born out of necessity during the recession – remains a constant theme in his menus and although more expensive additions now feature, they are used with a light touch. Capturing the complete essence of individual ingredients, his flavours are intense, bold and complex, yet still matched harmoniously by a highly skilful palate.
David Everitt-Matthias has also written three influential cookbooks, admired by professionals and amateurs alike. The first book, Essence, which was strongly inspired by his passion for wild food, was published in 2006 to great critical acclaim. The second, Dessert, which offered insight into his highly original take on the art of pastry, was released in 2009. A third book, Beyond Essence, which draws inspiration from global ingredients and techniques and tracks the marked evolution of his food in the seven years since Essence was released, came in 2013. The Bookseller says of his books: “Everitt-Matthias is that rare thing: a perfectionist with the patience and ability to teach.”
Respected worldwide, David Everitt-Matthias is less well known in the UK as he opts to stay behind the stove rather than pursue a television career. Yet he is still repeatedly recognised by those in the know for his outstanding contribution to British gastronomy. Celebrating his great talent, Jay Rayner encapsulates his appeal: “One of Britain's greatest chefs, in charge of one of Britain’s greatest restaurants, just wants to be in the kitchen. How refreshing.”