Jonny Lake

Jonny Lake

A former executive chef at Heston Blumenthal’s legendary The Fat Duck, Canadian-born Jonny Lake has been working at the pinnacle of the industry for decades. Since opening his own London restaurant Trivet with master sommelier Isa Bal, he’s thrilling diners with a menu inspired by his various travels and in 2024 won two Michelin stars for his efforts.

There are a handful of restaurants around which are simply so famous that it’s hard for chefs who work at them not to be defined by their time there. The Fat Duck is undeniably one of them, and taking charge of its kitchen is one of the ultimate achievements in cooking. Yet Jonny Lake, who spent twelve years there and worked his way up to the position of executive chef, was not only brave enough to step away from it but has gone on to achieve huge success at his very own restaurant Trivet.

Jonny didn’t actually particularly enjoy cooking whilst growing up in Canada; in fact, he came to it relatively late. ‘I don’t have that story of cooking beside my mum as a kid,’ he laughs. ‘I actually never really had an interest in it until that point at university where you’re having to cook for yourself for the first time.’ Whilst studying for his degree in Physics and Biology in Montreal, he happened to live near a meals-on-wheels kitchen which he’d peek into when walking past. Eventually, he decided to start volunteering there and soon began to fall in love with cooking. ‘I really enjoyed trying to find new and exciting things for our customers to eat,’ explains Jonny. ‘And it got to a point where I wanted to explore it all. I knew I wanted to take it further.’

After taking time to work out whether he should go straight into a professional kitchen or take time to train, Jonny decided to sign up for a two-year course at the Institut de Tourisme et d’Hôtellerie du Québec. Not only did this give him the chance to master the basic techniques, but it ultimately led to him meeting a chef who gave Jonny the opportunity to travel to Italy to experience the kitchens there. What was meant to be just a three-month trip ended up in Jonny moving to Italy, where he would remain for the next few years.

Jonny’s first experience of working in a high-end kitchen came at the one-starred A-Spurcacciun-a in Levona where he had the chance to work with fantastic local ingredients. ‘I don’t think I realised how fortunate I was at the time to be using that kind of produce,’ he says. ‘Being right on the Italian Riviera, we had particularly amazing fish.’ A move to Erbusco in Lombardy soon followed to work at the two-starred restaurant of Gualtiero Marchesi – widely considered to be one of the greatest Italian chefs of all time. ‘It was on another level to what I’d done before,’ says Jonny. ‘It was funny because I was this thirty-year-old chef de partie working with all these eighteen and nineteen-year-olds, but I was just so focused on learning as much as I could.’

By 2004, Jonny came to a point where he needed to decide whether to return to Canada or move somewhere else. Aware of the culinary revolution going on in the UK, Jonny set his sights on one restaurant in particular. ‘Every international magazine that I could get my hands on was talking about London and the UK,’ explains Jonny. ‘And the one restaurant they kept talking about was The Fat Duck, so I got in contact with them. They invited me for a two-day trial and within about ten minutes, I knew it was going to be a good fit.’

Joining the team at The Fat Duck in 2005, shortly after the restaurant had topped the list of the fifty best restaurants in the world and won its third Michelin star, Jonny quickly found his feet and was blown away by how small the whole operation was. ‘I think there’s a misconception that it’s like a huge science lab,’ he explains. ‘It was actually one of the tiniest kitchens I’d ever worked in and I couldn’t believe the level of food that was coming out of it.’ Over the course of the coming years, Jonny was appointed head and then executive chef of the restaurant, helping to oversee a period of change which saw the phasing out of the à la carte menu in favour of the now-famous tasting menu and working on projects including moving the restaurant to Melbourne for a year.

It was also whilst he was at The Fat Duck that Jonny met his now business partner Isa Bal, who at the time was head sommelier. ‘I always enjoyed working with Isa on his side of things,’ says Jonny. ‘I think we always knew that we would end up doing something together eventually but we never really talked about it.’ After almost thirteen years in Bray, in 2015 Jonny took the decision to move on from The Fat Duck as he wanted to pursue something of his own alongside Isa. ‘Over the years I’d always be bringing in my own ideas,’ he explains. ‘But they had to be within the constraints of the tasting menu, and eventually you realised that you were fighting it a bit. I’d become comfortable, which is a good sign it’s time to do something different.’

In 2019, after months of careful planning, Jonny and Isa opened Trivet in Southwark. Offering people a chance to try Jonny’s bold style of cookery with Isa’s incredible talent covering the drinks, the menus are inspired by their various travels in an unintimidating setting. ‘I want to treat ingredients in an exciting and interesting way,’ he says, ‘but it also has to be super comfortable and approachable. We don’t ever want people to come in here and feel intimidated. We’re not trying to teach anyone anything but if ever someone wants to know more about something, the front and back-of-house have the knowledge to help.’

He may have spent close to half of his career at The Fat Duck, but Jonny Lake has proved that he’s a chef who won’t be defined by one restaurant. Within just a few years of first opening the doors to Trivet (and a nationwide lockdown to contend with), he won a Michelin star of his own, followed by a second in 2024 and continues to be recognised as one of the country’s most exciting and inventive chefs.