As a young boy growing up in Liverpool, William Drabble was more bewitched by football than food. However, a move from Liverpool to a cottage in agricultural Norfolk proved life changing in more ways than one for the young William Drabble as, suddenly faced with rural farmland and fields groaning with crops, he became aware of where food really comes from for the first time. Food had always been an important part of his life – his grandmother had been a cook for an Earl in Yorkshire and used to regale him with stories of life in the kitchen – but suddenly an abundance of fresh produce was all around him, glorious bounty that changed month by month. Drabble’s interest was piqued.
Deciding cooking was the path he wanted to follow, he undertook unpaid work experience in a local kitchens and hotels in Norfolk from the age of fourteen, before attending Norwich City College two years later. Then followed a stint as a kitchen apprentice at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, which William Drabble remembers fondly as an incredibly valuable learning experience due to the slightly slower pace of life. Far from the baptism of fire young chefs face in busy London kitchens, here the staff took the time to teach William Drabble food preparation and cooking techniques, knowledge he would carry with him throughout his career.
Following tours of duty at The Capital Hotel, Chez Nico and Tom Aikens’ former restaurant Pied à Terre, he became head chef at Michael’s Nook in Grasmere, earning it a Michelin star within five months. The following September he moved to London’s Aubergine after Gordon Ramsay’s departure, once again winning a Michelin star for the restaurant within months and retaining it for a decade until he left the restaurant in 2009. By this point, the high-achieving Drabble was not yet 30 years old.
Today, William Drabble’s Seven Park Place at St James’s Hotel and its sibling, William’s Bar and Bistro, are recognised among the most exciting restaurants on the London dining scene. Here William Drabble not only created the menus but had a hand in the restaurant’s elegant design, and it can boast the accolade of being London’s smallest Michelin starred restaurant.