The experience of living abroad as a youngster shaped Luke Holder culinary beliefs: “First and foremost every cuisine is tasty, generally”, he says equitably, adding: “Having been brought up in the Middle East and Italy, where the culture of eating is much more family orientated, where people are given dishes in the middle of the table and take part… it definitely influenced the way I want my customers to feel comfortable eating.”
In 1998, Luke Holder realised that “what I really wanted to do was cook.” So he contacted Chris Galvin. “I had no college training, and understood nothing about cheffing, but [I told him] I had lived a lot and I was here because this was what I really wanted to do.” The bold tactic paid off and he started as a commis chef job at Orrery in London. “It was probably the hardest moment in my career because I went from being a travelling hippy to sixteen-hour days in a kitchen!”
A year later, he moved on to some of the capital’s busiest venues, including The Sloane Club, Sugar Reef, and the Oxo Tower. Then came a four-month stint with molecular gastronomy specialist Stephane Buchholzer, and a period running a restaurant in Koh Samui, Thailand. Following a serendipitous visit from Annie Féolde, the young chef began work at Enoteca Pinchiorri, herthree Michelin-starred establishment in Florence: “I had to cook on every section and it was quite a challenge because I didn’t speak Italian,” he recalls. It was a key moment in his development, and he returned to the UK equipped with a distinct philosophy – fine dining which is “produce-led. More time sourcing it, less time cooking it.”
After a stretch at The Lakeside Park Hotel on the Isle of Wight, he joined Lime Wood in 2010, where he now shares head chef duties with Angela Hartnett at Hartnett Holder & Co (also known as HH & Co). When the Michelin-starred Murano chef came on board, the cooks discovered that they share a “similar food ideology” and sense of humour. Both place great importance on provenance and sharing plates. The result is a seasonal menu of daily-changing dishes with an Italian sensibility that’s perfectly suited to Luke Holder’s clean, robustly flavoured fare.