David Taylor

David Taylor

David Taylor

After setting his heart on a career in cooking as a child, David Taylor went on to learn in the prestigious kitchens of Maze, Purnell’s and Maaemo before opening his own restaurant Grace & Savour, where he puts locality and seasonality centre stage.

The 1990s brought us a new take on TV cooking; home-made dishes found a footing over those of restaurant quality, with the likes of Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat becoming a hit, River Cottage making its debut and Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef bursting onto our screens in 1999. Today, a generation of chefs point to Jamie in particular as being especially formative, including David Taylor, who cites the show as one of his earliest influences. ‘That was when I first saw that level of energy when it came to food,’ he says. ‘I just really connected with that. It set a fire in me to explore that.’ 

He was just ten, but for David the seed had been planted. He started visiting cooking shows, and at one – thanks to a nudge from his sister – plucked up the courage to introduce himself to Ready Steady Cook chef Brian Turner. It paid off; the chef invited him to spend the day at his restaurant, Turner’s in Knightsbridge. A determined thirteen-year-old David jumped at the chance (‘I used to call the restaurant all the time asking to talk to him,' he laughs) and was soon on the train down from Nottingham to London. ‘It was really great,’ David smiles. ‘I remember eating tomato pasta out the back, tasting some honey ice cream, seeing Brian chop up a huge liver and then I sat down and had lunch in his restaurant, totally on him. It was amazing.’

His first restaurant job came a few years later at French bistro Pierre Victoire (now the Le Bistrot Pierre group), where he got a taste of the professional kitchen before heading to Birmingham to study a degree in culinary arts management. During his placement year, he joined the team of thirty chefs working under Jason Atherton at Gordon Ramsay’s Mayfair restaurant Maze, a tough kitchen which taught David, who was living on his own in London for the first time, about resilience and digging deep. ‘I saw the challenge of sticking it out, working through it and pushing through the hours in that tough environment,’ he says. ‘I wanted to push myself in that sense and I found that, as tough as it was, the more I stuck it out, the more they invested in me. There are certain things I learnt which I wouldn’t do today, but there’s still so much from that kitchen that I have carried with me throughout my career.’

When his year was up, David headed back to Birmingham to Purnell’s (Jason, who had been on Great British Menu with Glynn Purnell, opened the door for him), where he initially juggled shifts and university before going full time at twenty-one. He was promoted to sous chef two years in, and spent seven years there in total. ‘I came out of Maze with a lot to process about what I’d been through, how it was shaping me and how to turn it into something that gave me confidence,’ he says. ‘Glynn was amazing. He took me under his wing and saw that I didn't need breaking or pushing, I just needed support. He really breathed confidence into me.’ The kitchen culture at Purnell's still stands out, David says; the team had a close bond with Glynn and were often invited to family gatherings. ‘It was that sense of belonging,’ he nods. ‘Even if you had a bad day, you always knew you belonged, and I think that can be quite rare.’

After seven years, David was inspired – partly by entering the Roux Scholarship, he says – to seek a new challenge, a ‘finishing school of sorts’. He set out on a series of stints at restaurants around the world, including three-star Grace in Chicago, and Momofuku Ko and Atera in New York. Deciding neither city was the place for him, he returned to Europe, arriving in Denmark’s Copenhagen and, more specifically Relæ, where he got a taste of its whole animal prep and creative use of produce. There, he was also able to further explore real sustainability in restaurants, considering questions he says he first began asking at Purnell’s. ‘You realise there’s a lot of aspects to consider – it’s a really big picture,’ he says. ‘Being in those environments, I learnt that you can work in sustainable practices even if you don’t have all the answers.’

Next, David moved to Oslo's Maaemo, working alongside Aulis’ Oli Marlow, Aimsir’s Jordan Bailey, Hjem’s Alex Nietosvuori and Evelyn’s Table’s James Goodyear, a talent-packed team which won the restaurant its third Michelin Star. ‘We were very unified,’ he says. ‘We spent a lot of time on our days off together.' As well as being the place where he met his now-wife Anette, one of the most important lessons David took from that time was around identity, he says. 'With Relæ, Grace and Maaemo, they didn’t think about anything else. At Maaemo, every plate, every dish was a Maaemo dish. It was so crystal clear.’

David was working at boutique Oslo hotel The Thief when a phone call from friend and Hampton Manor director James Hill prompted the couple to consider a return to the UK. With Hampton Manor restaurant Peele’s set to close, James was exploring options for a new venture and piqued David’s interest with talk of soil health. ‘There was this really dark story building around the state of our soil health and how that was affecting our own health, both mentally and physically,’  David explains. ‘The idea of going back to produce and reconnecting with what it is to grow, to fish, to craft, and then reflecting that at the restaurant; I knew it was a restaurant I wanted to build.’ The concept for Grace & Savour was born, and David and Anette (its house manager) relocated to Hampton-in-Arden (half an hour outside Birmingham), spending the next year finding a network of local suppliers who shared their mindset.

The team has also brought its kitchen garden back to life, a work in progress and steep learning curve – today, chefs source whatever they can from it but understand its limitations. Similarly, though David is guided by sustainability, he is also the first to acknowledge its difficulties. ‘We’re not about putting walls up and saying ‘that’s how you do things, you have to do it this way’,’ David says. ‘It’s understanding that it’s very malleable and complex.’ The result is a tasting menu directly led by the seasons and what is available locally, underpinned by a desire to tell the stories of the growers and farmers behind the produce. Projects to preserve produce for the rest of the year are led by the whole team, including head chef John Bluck, who David is quick to praise. ‘John is a phenomenal guy,’ he says. ‘He understood the vision that I wanted and it’s become what we want – it’s been collaborative and I feel very, very fortunate for that.’

A year after opening in January 2022, Grace & Savour won its first Michelin Star, and this has helped put an area many people might not associate with fine dining on the map. David is driven by navigating the challenges of a truly eco-friendly ethos and crystallising Grace & Savour's identity. ‘I know what we want to do and how we want to tell that story,’ he says. ‘We have a lot more relationships to build, a lot more things to learn and a lot more ways to express that. That's where the excitement comes in.'