Lee Westcott

Lee Westcott

After formative years with Tom Aikens at his eponymous two Michelin-starred restaurant in Chelsea, Lee Westcott rose to fame at The Typing Room before launching Pensons – a beautiful restaurant with rooms on the Netherwood Estate in Worcestershire.

As many chefs do, Lee Westcott fell into a career in cooking after taking a job as a kitchen porter at a pub near his home town of Stevenage. He thrived off the buzz of the kitchen environment and the passion and drive of the chefs around him. From then on, he says, cooking was all he thought about – Lee started cooking professionally soon after, with the dream of having his own restaurant one day.

Lee quickly moved onto working in Michelin-starred kitchens, and in the early part of his career held positions at The Savoy Grill and Galvin at Windows, both in London. He also undertook stages at some of the world’s finest restaurants, with stints at Thomas Keller’s Per Se, New York (three stars), René Redzepi’s Noma, Copenhagen (two stars) and Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s (two stars) under his belt. He was particularly inspired by Redzepi’s approach to food, saying the kitchen there valued ingredients more than anywhere else he’s worked and he saw a whole different perspective on the craft of cooking. At Per Se, Lee learnt a more militaristic style of kitchen management, in place for the execution of impeccable food, and says it taught him a different level of self-discipline.

In 2009, with a keen interest in the food of Tom Aikens, Lee undertook a stage at Aikens’ eponymous two Michelin-starred restaurant. Impressed with what he saw, Aikens asked if he was interested in a new challenge and offered him a role. Lee spent the next four years with Tom. He describes his time in one of the most exciting kitchens in London as ‘thrilling’ and credits Aikens with being a huge inspiration – then and now.

For the last two years of his time with Tom Aikens Lee worked as head chef, taking on the position as the restaurant reopened after extensive refurbishment. In preparation for the more informal style of dining that was planned, he and his mentor developed new dishes that reflected this change, as well as Aikens’ creativity and attention to detail. He describes his time at the restaurant as hugely challenging and says he was thrown in the deep end in this role, but learned an enormous amount as he went.

Typical dishes at Tom Aikens Restaurant included starters such as marinated hand-dived scallops with apple tapioca, green apple jelly, discs of green apple and tarragon granita, or for mains, cod with chorizo tartare, twenty-four-hour squid, cod soup, chorizo fritter, crispy cod skin and young basil leaves – both dishes showing Aikens’ signature treatments of one ingredient, multiple ways.

Lee had by then attracted the attention of Jason Atherton, who asked him to oversee his two new restaurants in Hong Kong – 22 Ships and Ham & Sherry. Working here as executive chef, Lee helped build the menus for these modern Spanish tapas eateries, both centred on theatrical, open kitchens.

Lee's food garnered rave reviews during this time, but his dream of owning his own restaurant was still at the forefront of his mind, and in 2014 he returned to the UK to open The Typing Room in East London's Bethnal Green.

Lee's seasonal, modern cooking showed off the eclectic influences he'd picked up over his career, and made an immediate impact in London. Like his mentor, Tom Aikens, Lee treats vegetables with care and reverence – his yeasted cauliflower, pickled raisins, crispy capers and mint fast became a signature dish, inspired by Noma’s treatment of undervalued vegetables. ‘If you are a skilled chef with imagination, you will want to elevate a vegetable to something delicious and beautiful, to do all sorts of things to it that will surprise people,’ he says.

Meat and fish were not neglected in his menus, however, and his crispy fish skin, salt cod brandade and oyster emulsion and lamb, smoked aubergine, yoghurt and onions were as beautiful as they were mouth-watering. His dessert of strawberry, pistachio and white chocolate was also a delight and the rye barley IPA sourdough with whipped Marmite butter served for the bread course was received with wild acclaim.

In June 2018, The Typing Room hosted its final service after four years of business, with Lee deciding to move onto a new chapter of his career. In 2019, Lee opened Pensons – a restaurant with rooms on the Netherwood Estate in leafy Worcestershire. Lee's technical cookery and attention to detail is still evident in dishes like salt aged beef, black garlic, cep and wood sorrel, and scallop, yeast, apple and monk’s beard – but with the incredible produce of the vast Netherwood Estate at his disposal, his food has surely never been as good as it is now.