Bryn Williams

Bryn Williams

Bryn Williams

Bryn Williams trained in three of London’s most challenging kitchens, gaining a solid classical education as he worked. At his neighbourhood restaurant, he offers highly accomplished dishes showcasing the very best produce that Wales has to offer.

Born in Denbighshire in North Wales, Bryn Williams comes from a background filled with farming, fishing, hunting and the appreciation of good food, prepared from quality ingredients. Spending his weekends on the farms of his aunts and uncles, he planted and picked his way through his childhood. His uncle also ran a farm shop, which Bryn remembers well: 'It was going back twenty-five years now; he was quite a pioneer, when you think about it. He used to deliver all the fruit, veg and eggs, so I used to help with that sort of thing. So we were always around fresh ingredients, but we took that for granted.'

An experience at primary school cemented this respect for what can be achieved with raw ingredients: 'We went on a school trip to a local bakery and we saw how bread was made. I was hooked from that day onwards, really. I loved how you could create something from nothing and give it to somebody and see them enjoy it.' By age twelve he had secured a job in the very same bakery where he stayed for the next five years. He says of this time: 'I loved every single minute of it.'

After leaving school aged sixteen, he spent 'a fantastic three years' at Coleg Llandrillo Cymru, studying catering. The college was led by an inspired head who 'really pushed the students' and his experience at the school, which boasted a bakery, butchers and silver service restaurant, was hugely positive. He was even sent to Holland for a month to work in a Michelin-starred restaurant, which he discovered later was extremely unusual. Now a Skills Ambassador for the college, he says of his time there that they not only taught him skills, but also inspired him as a cook: 'I can’t thank them enough for the experiences that they gave me.'

After leaving college, he worked at Café Niçoise in Colwyn Bay, where his head chef encouraged him to take his skills to London. He secured a position at the Criterion, working under Marco Pierre White – his first significant mentor and a man whom he describes as 'one of the greatest chefs of all time'. Recounting what he learnt during his three years there, he highlights 'the professionalism, the taste, how you work – absolutely amazing'.

Moving on to a sous chef position with Michel Roux Jr at Le Gavroche, he was exposed to a whole new set of skills during his three years there, describing this grounding and training as 'invaluable'. In 2001 he went to France, working first at Patisserie Millet in Paris, and then at two-star Hotel Negresco in Nice. On his return to Britain, he took up a senior sous chef position at Orrery, working with Chris Galvin, his third important mentor.

While working there, his head chef André Garrett encouraged him to participate in the prestigious Roux Scholarship competition he had himself previously won; another educational experience Bryn is incredibly enthusiastic about. He told us: 'It was a nationwide competition and the experience it gave me was fantastic. Any young chef, if they want to put themselves in a competition, the Roux Scholarship really is the competition. It sorts the men from the boys, or the girls from the big girls. It will either break you or inspire you. It is so intense – the professionalism is amazing, the intensity is phenomenal. So you either thrive in that environment or you crumble. And I liked that environment.' Bryn Williams came second in the year he competed.

After this, he followed Chris Galvin to his new project Galvin at Windows, where he helped him to open from scratch – an experience which stood him in good stead when opening his own restaurant. He says he learnt from Chris 'how to open up a big restaurant and make sure everything is in place. It was a good learning experience. As a chef people teach you to cook, but as you get further up the ladder towards management you’ve really got to absorb it when it’s put there in front of you. No one teaches you that stuff. You have to take your chances and run with them. You can’t shy away from it – you never know when the opportunity is going to come round again. I was given an opportunity and I took it with both hands.'

After an appearance on Great British Menu Bryn was offered the head chef position at Odette’s in Primrose Hill, London – a respected neighbourhood restaurant, open since 1978. In 2008 he bought out the owner, becoming sole chef-proprietor. In 2014, the restaurant was greatly expanded, increasing the number of covers from fifty to seventy and adding a private dining area and chef’s table. Bryn Williams told us: 'The only thing we do at Odette’s is that we just try and improve and get better. Make sure there is better service, better food, good ingredients. It is never finished at Odette’s; we are always striving for something else, on that constant wheel of trying to improve all the time, so that is what we’re doing now there.'

Highly regarded with three AA rosettes, Bryn Williams’ restaurant has gained a loyal following for his highly accomplished modern cooking – 'replete with bright ideas' as described in the Good Food Guide. Trained in traditional kitchens, Bryn Williams says of his food: 'We use classic flavours, so we don’t try and invent anything new but we put our own modern twist on things where it is a bit lighter. It will be something everybody recognises. They’ll know straight away whether they like it or not. When I say my food is quite classic, it is the combination of classic British and classic French.'

There are definite touches of nostalgia in Bryn Williams’ dishes, particularly in desserts such as Odette’s Jaffa cake with sable, sponge, chocolate mousse, marmalade, orange brûlée and orange jelly. He says of this: 'When we make desserts – I think Britain has some of the best desserts in the world – we modernise them and lighten them up. We do a cheesecake, we do an Arctic roll, we do a baked Alaska, the Jaffa cake and straight away people go ‘I want that’. We do try and pull on people’s heartstrings a little bit in that way, but it needs to be a good dish rather than sounding like a good dish – and executed to perfection.'

Hailing from north Wales, Bryn's menus showcase the best of Welsh produce, sourced from farms and producers that he knows and loves: 'I know these people. It is all about having confidence in the supplier and I have this confidence.' Every year he shoots game with his family, sending the spoils down to Odette’s: 'pheasant, woodcock and snipe, it’s the way we were brought up as kids – it was never shot and left – we would work the land to our advantage. Customers now know when the game season is and they phone up and ask what is coming in. We always get what is shot, we don’t order it – it just turns up. Sometimes I think that is how the cycle should be.'

Bryn's second restaurant, a seafood bistro in Colwyn Bay, opened in summer 2015. Right on the seafront, Porth Eirias' menu features 'lovely local fish, mussels and oysters – the kind of food you eat when you’re on holiday'. He also has an eponymous restaurant at Somerset House, as well as three beautiful cookbooks, all of which feature highlights from dishes at Odette’s. Another real achievement for him, he says: 'If you asked any teacher when I was at school ‘do you think Bryn would write three books?’ they’d say ‘not a chance'!’ In 2020, Bryn opened The Cambrian hotel in the Swiss alps, before, in spring 2023, launching the Touring Cub in seaside town Penarth, with a menu of small plates and snacks.