Michael Caines is one of Britain's most acclaimed chefs. AA Chef's Chef of the Year in 2007, and awarded an MBE in 2006 for services to the hospitality industry, Michael is an Operational Partner and Director of ABode Hotels and Michael Caines Restaurants, in overall charge of all food and beverage operations throughout the fast-growing group. He is also Executive Chef at Gidleigh Park, the acclaimed and prestigious country house hotel on the edge of Dartmoor at Chagford, Devon, where he has earned his reputation - as well as two Michelin stars - serving distinctive modern European cuisine utilising the finest local and regional produce and ingredients.
In 2000, he founded Michael Caines Restaurants and took over food and beverage operations at The Royal Clarence, Exeter, Britain's first hotel. A chance encounter with Andrew Brownsword led to the creation of ABode Hotels. Amongst numerous other recent accolades, Michael has cooked in 10 Downing Street for the Prime Minister, and he took part in ‘The Great British Menu' chef's competition broadcast on BBC2 television for the honour of cooking for the Queen's 80th birthday.
Michael was born in Exeter in 1969 and adopted into a large and loving family. He gained his passion for food from his mother who he used to enjoy helping in the kitchen. Says Michael, "I grew up in a large family, and my love of food and cooking came from the big family meals we always shared together, prepared by my mother, who was a wonderful cook. My father loved to grow vegetables and fruit in our garden, and so I grew up appreciating the flavours of the freshest foods, picked that day and simply prepared."
Michael attended Exeter Catering College where his precocious talent was already evident, earning him the accolade ‘Student of the Year' in 1987. He subsequently spent a year and a half at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane in London, before embarking on three influential years under his mentor Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire. From here he then moved to France for a further formative period of training, honing his profession under the guidance of such superstars chefs as the late Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu and Joël Robuchon in Paris.
As for every chef, these stages working under the guidance of the masters were formative and important years for Michael, and he fully acknowledges the lasting influences that they had on his personal and professional development. "Raymond is a visionary and a free spirit who knows no boundaries. He taught me above all to be completely open to new ideas. He has one of the best palates of any chef I've worked with. Bernard Loiseau, like Raymond, was very charismatic, larger than life. His greatest gift was the ability to extract intensity and purity of flavours from the simplest cooking, always utilising the finest local ingredients from his native Burgundy. From Loiseau, I learned the importance of regionality, something I have continued to develop here in the West Country. Joël Robuchon's technical ability was unsurpassed. A strict disciplinarian and a stern taskmaster, he sought — and demanded — precision and perfection in every way, the Swiss watchmaker of world cuisine."
A magnificent challenge and opportunity
Michael returned to Britain in 1994 to take up the position of Head Chef at Gidleigh Park. Gidleigh's restaurant was already rated amongst the most prestigious in the country so the position represented a massive challenge and opportunity for a young and ambitious chef. Yet, only two months into the job, Michael suffered a terrible car accident in which he lost his right arm. Remarkably, he was back in the kitchen part time within two weeks, and full-time after just four. With the support of then owners Paul and Kay Henderson and an unwavering belief in his own ability to overcome obstacles, he returned to the kitchens of Gidleigh Park more focused and determined than ever to pursue his dream of reaching the top of his profession.
Original and brilliant cuisine
Michael's cuisine is truly original and brilliant, a fact recognised not just by appreciative visitors to Gideigh Park but by guidebook editors and those who give out awards and accolades. With his classical French training in some of the finest restaurants in the world, and utilising the best and freshest local and regional produce and products from the West Country, Michael has created a style that is uniquely his own, at once classic yet also highly innovative, a fact recognised with the award of a second Michelin star in 1999. In 2001 he won Chef of the Year at the prestigious Cateys Awards.
ABode and Michael Caines, a dynamic partnership
Michael founded Michael Caines Restaurants in 1999 and the next year opened his first signature restaurant Michael Caines at The Royal Clarence in Exeter. In 2003, a chance meeting with Andrew Brownsword resulted in a dynamic partnership and the purchase of The Royal Clarence. Michael and Andrew's shared vision for ABode Hotels and Michael Caines Restaurants is ambitious, exciting and far-reaching. Underlying Michael's philosophy is a passionate belief that good food – and yes great food – should always be inclusive not exclusive, accessible to all, at whatever level.
Leading the way
Even with all the ongoing activities and developments, Michael continues to cook regularly at Gideigh Park and alongside his Executive Chefs in ABode Exeter, ABode Canterbury, ABode Manchester and ABode Chester. Says Michael, "Cooking is my passion. I love it and I can never see not being in the kitchens." He is an inspirational leader and loves to share his passion, vision and skills with the teams of talented, enthusiastic chefs that are now working in the kitchens of the restaurants that bear his name. "I love working with my chefs," he says. "We'll develop one of my dishes jointly, and it's fascinating to see how they will take it in their own directions. Just as I learned from the masters, so I hope my chefs will learn from me and continue to develop to the very best of their abilities to fulfil their potential and achieve their ambitions. We can give them this opportunity."
Michael lives in mid-Devon, roughly between Gidleigh Park and Exeter. For further information about Michael Caines contact Michael's PA Meredith Adonis tel 01392 223625.