Charlie Tayler

Charlie Tayler

After working in some of London's toughest kitchens, Charlie Tayler travelled to Japan to further hone his craft. Returning to the UK a year later, he now leads the kitchen at Simon Rogan's chef's table-style restaurant Aulis London, where he won a Michelin star in 2024.

Ask chefs what they like most about their notoriously tough job and most will say the positive feedback from diners after they've sent a dish out. However, a lot of chefs work behind closed doors, unable to see for themselves how a dining room is reacting to their food, relying on front-of-house feedback instead. The idea of a chef’s table flips this on its head and not only allows the chef to see their diners’ reactions first-hand, but brings the added challenge of needing to double up as a host while cooking. Whilst this might be daunting for some, chefs like Charlie Tayler thrive on the interaction with customers. As head chef of Simon Rogan’s Aulis, he cooks the signature modern British style of food that made Rogan famous right in front of just eight diners every night, talking them through the processes and inspiration behind each dish throughout the meal.

From a young age, there was never any doubt in Charlie’s mind that he wanted to become a professional chef. ‘It was always what I wanted to do,’ he says. ‘I never really put my finger on why. No one in my family is a professional chef or anything like that but there are stories about me at parties at a young age, topping people’s beers up and handing out Twiglets.’ Growing up in Brighton, Charlie was surrounded by a decent food scene and at the age of fourteen got his first part-time job as a pot wash at a restaurant called Oblong. ‘I would bring my chef jacket in my bag to school and then head straight to the restaurant at the end of the day,’ he explains. ‘At that age it was all about making mistakes and learning from them – as well as getting used to the hours! It’s also so important to start from the bottom and learn about climbing the ladder.’

After spending a short amount of time at culinary school, Charlie realised that nothing could beat learning the ropes in a professional environment, so he continued to work in various kitchens across Brighton. However, soon the opportunity presented itself to join the team at Michelin-starred restaurant The Pass at South Lodge under head chef Matt Gillan. This was Charlie’s first experience working in fine dining and over the course of his time there he worked his way up to senior chef de partie and helped the restaurant win four AA rosettes. Soon, however, London came calling and aged twenty he joined Alyn Williams’ team at The Westbury. ‘Not only was I moving away from home when I first came to London, but it was a much bigger restaurant,’ says Charlie. ‘I accepted a commis chef position and basically started from the bottom again because I wanted to prove myself.’

Having worked at The Westbury for two years and realising that he wanted to push himself even further, Charlie left to join The Ledbury – one of the best kitchens in the country at that time – working under Brett Graham. ‘It was notorious for being a tough place to work but it was an incredible experience,’ he explains. ‘The pure passion that Brett had was inspirational. If the kitchen porter didn’t turn up, he’d be the first guy jumping on the pots and pans.’ Charlie went on to spend two busy years at The Ledbury but eventually decided it was time for a change, having been in London for the best part of five years. After contemplating a move to New York having spent a month there with fellow chef Tom Booton, the opportunity arose for him to move to Japan as part of the Japanese culture development programme and within a matter of weeks he was on a plane to Tokyo.

Charlie was one of fifteen chefs selected for the programme and it would prove an important time for the development of his own food. Initially spending time at a Japanese language school before honing his skills and improving his knowledge of the cuisine at a culinary school in Kyoto, he was eventually placed in Kinobu – a fourth-generation Michelin-starred kaiseki restaurant. ‘It was just completely different to Western-style kitchens’ says Charlie. ‘Hierarchy is determined by how long you’ve been at the restaurant so the head chef had been there for over thirty years. Japan changed the way I looked at food, from the presentation to the way I teach people. One of the best things about being a chef is that you can’t 'complete' cooking; there is always something different to taste or a new culture to understand. That’s why it’s so interesting to go to a different country, discover new flavour or dishes, then put your own spin on it back home.’

Knowing that rising through the ranks was never a speedy process in Japan, Charlie came back to London as sous chef at The Westbury, before being made head chef in 2018. He was keen to incorporate the flavours and skills he’d learnt in Japan into his cooking, which Alyn Williams was happy to encourage. ‘Alyn never shied away from me introducing new flavours,’ he says. ‘Being given that creative freedom to cook what we wanted to cook was nurturing in itself.’ In 2020, having been at The Westbury for over four years in total over the course of his career, Charlie took the decision to move on and was soon offered the position of head chef at Simon Rogan’s eight-seat chef’s table restaurant Aulis.

At Aulis, Charlie has to juggle being both a chef and a host to the diners every evening – something completely different from his previous roles but which he excels at. ‘I feel like my personality fits Aulis quite well,’ he explains. ‘I can cook and chat at the same time, which I don’t think a lot of chefs can. It’s nice getting to meet new people every night and creating an environment where they can really enjoy themselves. We’re still very serious about the food but that’s where the seriousness stops.’ Whilst there is the odd subtle nod to Charlie's time spent travelling in his dishes, the food at Aulis is still very much focused around British produce, much of which comes from Rogan's 'Our Farm' in Cumbria. ‘The connection with the farm is such an important part of the restaurant,’ Charlie adds. ‘It’s amazing because when we get produce delivered, we know that it was picked the morning before in Cumbria especially for us. Not many other people in London can say that.’

In 2024, Charlie won Aulis its first Michelin star.