For a man in charge of one of the world’s best and most famous restaurants, Jonny Lake is a surprisingly relaxed and collected guy. He certainly isn’t short of work; the time I managed to get with him before lunch service at The Fat Duck felt like a rare moment of calm amongst the front of house briefings and final bits of kitchen prep taking place around us. But as I found out, the emphasis on teamwork and collaboration found throughout The Fat Duck Group makes the pretty unique workload much easier to handle.
If Heston is the man who comes up with wild, wacky – and sometimes downright barmy – ideas, then Jonny is the person who helps to make them a reality. Studying physics and biology in Canada at university whilst working with a Meals on Wheels company and cooking in a café perhaps helped shape the chef he is today, but it was only when Jonny enrolled in culinary school in Montréal that he found his true calling. After finding his way to Italy and thanks to a chance encounter with legendary chef Gualtiero Marchesi, he went to work at the two-Michelin-starred L’Albereta Resort in Erbusco. After a stint in Cannes Jonny and his wife had to make a decision: move back to Canada or settle in the UK.
‘It was around 2004, and all over the world you could find articles talking about London being this amazing new food city,’ says Johnny. ‘But in particular they all mentioned The Fat Duck as the place that was doing something completely different just outside the capital. I’d already read about Heston in Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential, so I gave him a ring, worked here for a couple of days on a trial basis and loved it.’