Graham Hornigold

Graham Hornigold

Graham Hornigold

Graham Hornigold’s expert pastry skills have been refined in some of the best restaurants and hotels in London, effortlessly adding delicate, refreshing touches to dessert menus. Today, he runs gourmet doughnut brand Longboys, which has three sites and stocks the likes of Harrods and Selfridges.

Graham Hornigold has spent the last twenty-eight years honing his incredible skills in some of the finest hotels and restaurants in London. He started working with food at fourteen when he got a Saturday job scraping floors and stacking bread at Ushers Bakery in St Albans. After a while, instead of paying him, the then-owners bought him his first set of knives and chefs’ whites and sent him to catering college in Watford.

Further courses at TVU in Slough followed, as did a ten-year stint under the tutelage of Lisa Crowe at The Lygon Arms in Broadway, Worcestershire, The Park Lane Hotel and Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park, London. Graham says Lisa Crowe has had the greatest influence on him as a chef. ‘She whipped the rebellion out of me… took me under her wing, beat me up a few times, had a few ‘chats’ – a bit like your mum,' he says. 'She taught me about life, work ethic, organisation and that the most important thing you can do is understand taste – everything else stems from that.’

David Nicholls had an equally strong influence on Graham, who served under him at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge. David showed him a new way of working and an appreciation of food that has stayed with him ever since. But it was Paul Gayler who gave him his biggest break when he made him executive pastry chef at The Lanesborough Hotel, Hyde Park Corner, when he was only twenty-eight. It was there that he was first able to truly develop his own style of cooking and began to get a reputation for his food.

Under his supervision, The Lanesborough's afternoon tea won the Tea Guild’s Award of Excellence two years running and Graham was named UK Pastry Chef of the Year in 2007. Returning to The Mandarin Oriental in 2008, he oversaw the opening of Bar Boulud and assisted in the installation of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Then, in 2011, Hakkasan Group approached him to act as a consultant, where he worked for them until 2017. 

In his role as executive pastry chef, Graham oversaw the pastry sections of Hakkasan's portfolio around the world including Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Sake No Hana and HKK as well as a development and production kitchen which produced as many as 12,000 macarons and 1,200 intricate cakes every week. During his tenure, the group expanded from four UK-based operations, Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Sake no Hana, and HKK, to forty-seven restaurants globally. Graham was responsible for over 120 pastry chefs working in twenty different kitchens. Graham acknowledges that it was difficult to control consistency from afar, but he loved the challenges that the different sites brought and was in constant communication with his head chefs.

As well as the difficulties of running multiple kitchens, Graham faced the problem of creating desserts that sat well on an Asian menu and that weren’t too heavy or sweet. ‘People tended to over-order in Hakkasan restaurants and the food had a lot of strong flavours – chilli, oyster sauce, soy sauce – we had to look to sharper, cleansing elements or unexpected ingredients to attain salivation rather than relying on sweetness.’

The result was a selection of mouth-watering desserts that looked ultra-rich and decadent but were deceptively refreshing and light. The Rose delice, for example, is a divine chocolate mousse cut with the acidity of fresh raspberries and HKK’s Trio of chocolate dumplings is served with a cleansing infusion of yuzu and ginger that is poured over the dish at the table. Both these desserts were Graham's creations.

Graham credits some of his previous head chefs with forming his career but he also acknowledges the role that his older brother Simon played in the early days. In the years he spent at TVU in Slough, Graham was also working at The Lygon Arms in Worcestershire and as he didn’t have a car, his brother would drive from St Albans to Broadway every Saturday night to pick him up after service and take him home to St Albans to make sure he could get to college on Monday morning.

Tragically Simon was killed in a car crash in 2006 along with Graham’s other brother, Ian. Graham has run the marathon in memory of Simon, who completed the 2006 marathon in aid of Wellchild. ‘I say I run the marathon but my guys say, ‘chef, you just walk it!’, but I don’t really mind as long as I’m raising funds and awareness for Wellchild. Everything I do and put back into this industry, it’s for my brother; without him I don’t think I would have made it as a chef.’

After twenty years of hard graft and inspired creativity, Graham Hornigold is at the very top of his profession, with regular television appearances and interviews continuing to build his profile.  For the last three years Graham has been developing the gourmet doughnut Longboys brand from conception – it now has three sites, stockists including Harrods and Selfridges and an events arm for festivals and corporate events; good news for sweet treat-lovers everywhere.