He joined Alan Murchison’s L’Ortolan in Reading in 2004, initially as sous chef, but was promoted to head chef within months and ran his kitchen there for three years. He became head chef at Murchison’s sister restaurant La Bécasse in 2007. He says of Murchison: “He was a big influence and a big mentor in my career. Obviously he continued to teach me how to cook and how to run a kitchen, but it’s more than that. It’s about how you talk to guests, and it’s about your persona. A successful chef is so much more than being able to cook.”
Will Holland earned his first Michelin star at La Bécasse – one of the proudest days of his life – two years after joining and before his thirtieth birthday. He also added three AA rosettes to his growing list of accolades, with the Good Food Guide naming him one of the “ten most influential chefs of the decade”. With a long work history under classically trained chefs from the Raymond Blanc/Roux brothers school of cooking, the food that earned Will Holland his star remained in this vein, and has been described by The Telegraph as “brilliant French cooking of brilliant British ingredients”.
In 2014, Will Holland opened Coast on the Pembrokeshire shore – his own restaurant, in a purpose-built venue, “a blank canvas”. His new restaurant offers an altogether different proposition to the Michelin-starred fine dining restaurants he has worked in for nearly two decades. He says: “Coast is definitely a difference in style as it’s a lot more informal, it’s a lot more relaxed. I do think that’s the way the restaurant and dining scene is going. It’s not about white tablecloths, it’s not about tray service, it’s not about four or five waiters to one table, it’s about really, really good food.”
Although his seafood-heavy menu at Coast still displays the signs of classic French technique, he also takes “influences from anywhere in the world”. Having recently spent a couple of weeks immersed in the kitchens of Thailand, he says: “That really inspired strong Thai influences on my menu … I’m not blind to the fact that the UK is ethnically really, really rich.”
The importance of impeccably sourced, high quality British ingredients also remains a theme in Will Holland’s new restaurant which features amazing produce from both the land and sea that surround the restaurant. He says: “90% of the fish we serve in the restaurant comes from the water in front of the restaurant, right from the terrace you can see the fishing boats and the boys pulling up the lobster pots. I think that’s a really unique thing – when guests are in the restaurant and they ask what the most local thing on the menu is, or where does the lobster come from, you can actually point out to the bay and show them.”
Will Holland has often spoken of his drive for success and his early ambition to be the best. Having proved himself in more traditional fine-dining restaurants around the country, he has now returned closer to home, implementing a more personal, more relaxed vision of good food and dining on the stunning Welsh coast. Although still in the early stages of realising his vision, Coast was awarded two AA rosettes within 10 days of opening – no doubt a sign of even better things to come.
If your kitchen was on fire, what would you save and why?
The truffles. Because I was always taught “grab the truffles and run”
If you weren’t a chef what would you be?
A professional boxer or a fireman
What’s your foodie guilty pleasure?
Cold Ambrosia rice pudding straight from the tin
If you had to cook for your hero, whom would you cook for and what would you cook?
Marco Pierre White. I don’t know what I’d cook for him because I’d be shitting myself too much
Who would be your fantasy dinner guests?
The ghost of Keith Floyd, Ferran Adrià, Carl Froch, Sergio Herman, Grant Achatz and Rene the rat from Ratatouille
Sweet or savoury?
What is your favourite food shop or market?
Mercado de La Boquería, Barcelona
And for a blow-out dinner?
Per Se, New York
What would your death row meal be?
Cote de boeuf, Béarnaise sauce, triple-cooked chips and a bottle of Barbera d’Alba
What is your favourite cookbook?
The Wizard’s Cookbook by Ronny Emborg
What’s your top cooking tip?
Cook from the heart
What is your favourite foodie destination in the UK?
The Lake District
What ingredients are really worth forking out for?
Oscietra caviar, Perigord truffle
What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?
The beating heart of a snake
In your opinion, what is the most underrated ingredient/cut of meat/fish?
Jacob’s Ladder, mutton, fish cheeks