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James Cochran

When James finally left The Harwood Arms in 2013, he did so in the hopes of being able to express his creativity and personality more fully. He joined forces with friends to take on London’s booming pop-up scene and found some success at the Ten Bells pub in Spitalfields, before going all-in on a permanent site – Restaurant FIX in Hackney. Though it built a very loyal local following, FIX was a little off the beaten track and suffered from lack of publicity. By April 2016 the restaurant was closed, but the industry had already had a taste of James’ talent and he found his feet again at B.Y.O.C. – another pop-up operation, this time in Soho – and then at James Cochran EC3, the restaurant where he first hit the national limelight.

James Cochran EC3 received stellar reviews – notably from Marina O’Loughlin at The Guardian, who, though a little deterred by ramshackle service on the night, was completely blown away by James’ cooking. ‘James Cochran is a great chef,’ she said in her 2017 review. ‘Really: quite, quite remarkable. I’m experiencing actual joy at his hands, at the ministrations of his pork shoulder.’ An appearance on Great British Menu in 2018 – where he was named champion of champions for his outstanding cep dish – confirmed James was a rising star in the culinary world. Just as he starting gaining exposure, however, he became embroiled in a legal feud with the owners of his restaurant, who claimed ownership over his name and his brand. James Cochran EC3 kept his name and his recipes, but fortunately not his talent – James left for a new opportunity in Islington, a restaurant called 1251 that he could truly call his own, even if it didn’t have his name over the door.

With James now at the helm of his own restaurant, 1251 has become one of London’s real hidden gems. James’ effervescent personality and relaxed vibe comes through in the service and on the plate, where he manages to deliver some really technical cooking and clever flavour combinations with effortless precision. ‘We’ve really grown things organically,’ he explains, ‘so I think my personality comes across in a way that it hasn’t done before.’ Running his own kitchen means James is also free from the rigours of sixteen-hour shifts and sleepless nights, and his food is better than ever as a result – no mean feat for a chef who won Great British Menu on his first and only appearance. ‘It feels amazing,’ he grins. ‘Those long hours are so ingrained in you that it’s hard to get out of that haze. It’s not until you’re responsible for yourself and your own business that you realise it.’

With 1251 going from strength to strength and more time than he's ever had before, James' creative mind is pushing the brand to interesting new places. He has expanded his food into the likes of Boxpark in Croydon, where his 'Goat' food stall sells incredible goat flatbreads to lines of salivating punters. James insists that he's only just getting started – we'll be seeing plenty more of him in the years to come.

Three things you should know

James has created his own clothing line using the 1251 brand that includes chef clothing, bags, hoodies and balaclavas.

James is a keen advocate of using goat meat – he works closely with goat supplier Cabrito to help spread awareness of goat as a sustainable food source.

James is also busy getting his scotch bonnet jam into supermarkets around the country.