Luke Holder

Lime Wood’s bountiful grounds and environs have enabled Luke Holder to embrace the locally sourced, seasonal and sustainable ethos with gusto. Homemade produce from the onsite smokehouse – of which he is extremely proud – has been well received, and there is a raw food menu at Raw & Cured, the hotel’s spa health bar. These are attractive features, as is the three-and-a-half-day week Luke Holder’s staff work – a decision the head chef hopes will “influence change in working conditions.” When asked how the busy kitchen functions, he explains: “It’s having a lot of benefits [and] they’re still working hard, they’re still doing 50 hours in the days they’re here.”

He’s also aware of a sea change in younger chefs who “aren’t willing to work all the hours God sends and not be paid for it – they’re a new generation who want to have a career in catering that doesn’t have to become all consuming.” And he’s refreshingly honest about customers, too, prioritizing their needs over his ego: “The customer rules, we’re in a service industry and we’re the service”, he says, frankly, adding: “If you’re not making the customers happy then it won’t take long for your business to go under.”

Whilst grateful to chefs who “taught me so much about how to cook and appreciate produce” his hero is not a celebrated cook but the Lime Wood CEO and hotelier Robin Hutson: “He really pushed me to believe in product and produce over technique and fashion. He got me to think about the guest more than anyone else. He made me question why I put something on a plate as a head chef.”

Luke Holder’s plates often seem casual, even light-hearted, yet each has been carefully considered, and the ingredients painstakingly grown or sourced. His popular signature dish (a similar version of which can be found here), inspired by an octogenarian truffle hunter, is representative of his approach: “The polenta agnolotti with truffle and artichoke comes from a very humble background, but has luxury ingredients, treated simply and beautifully.” This is how the affable chef sees his food, as “simple but luxurious, I think it can be relaxed and elegant at the same time, you know, that probably sums it up.”