www.tuddenhammill.co.uk | Featured in issue 45 – April 2020
Not only does he oversee operations at Tuddenham Mill in Suffolk, The Chequers Inn and the Lifeboat Inn, both in Thornham, in North Norfolk, but he is also involved with Hospitality Action, the charity which offers a range of support services to help hospitality people back on their feet again after a setback.
‘It’s vital that we nurture our staff; times have certainly changed since I started out, there is a lot more respect,’ he says.
Born and raised in the Fens, Lee studied at Cambridge Regional College, taking Catering and Hospitality Levels 1 and 2 – he decided against Level 3 as he wanted to get into a professional kitchen, full time, as soon as possible.
He’s been leading the kitchen at Tuddenham Mill since 2014, and the awards have kept coming: three AA rosettes, The Good Food Guide Editor’s award, Suffolk’s Chef of the Year crown and Suffolk’s Restaurant of the Year title. Lee has also been recognised by industry experts nationally and awarded the prestigious Acorn Award 2016 and then Acorn Scholarship 2017.
Next Lee was appointed as Chef Patron, and nowadays looks after managing the hotels, events and restaurant teams and continues to be closely involved in food offerings and menu development. All three establishments are well-known for providing superb field-to-fork food as Lee and his fellow talented chefs use fresh local ingredients to create dishes of exceptional quality and creativity, full of hearty flavours and clever combinations.
He says: ‘The link between chefs and local produce and local producers is so important. We are developing a real connection with our suppliers and hope to develop it further. There are so many great suppliers – gin makers, vineyards, smokehouses – and I know diners now expect to see local produce on our menus.’
He continues: ‘Another key part of what we provide is our bedrooms; they allow us to offer a complete experience – and they need, of course, to be as good as our food offering!’
Lee is known for having a ‘thinking outside the box’ approach to running the select group of restaurants and hotels owned and managed by Agellus. He has long since held a vision to inspire and help young chefs thrive and enjoy their careers by achieving a work-life balance, and certainly knows all about the challenges this industry brings: the long, often antisocial hours, the fast-paced and high-stress environment that is the kitchen, and the layoffs that happen for some, when the high-season finishes.
He says: ‘The next generation is so important to what we do – we really enjoy bringing on new talent. It is essential to the business that we grow and develop people – both in the kitchen and front of house.’
One of his star protégés is the head chef at The Chequers, Jordan Bayes, who, since taking the helm in November of last year, has transformed the food and been instrumental in recently achieving two AA rosettes for ‘Culinary Excellence’. Lee says: ‘I am super proud of Jordan. He works his socks off and deserves the plaudits for his beautiful cooking. To get two rosettes this quickly in his first head chef role is testament to his talent and hard work.’