We get to know Leon Sharp, new Head Chef at Audleys Wood Hotel in Basingstoke.
When and where did you start out in the Chefing world?
“My journey started all the way back when I was a young child, when I used to watch ‘Ready Steady Cook’ every single day – this inspired me to want to become a chef.
When I was 16 I started as an apprentice at a 2AA Rosette hotel, and worked my way up from the very bottom. By the time I was 19 I was working in Reading’s only Michelin star restaurant, and I then went on to work in various other 2AA rosette hotels before I became Head Chef at the age of 24.”
“Prior to coming to Audleys Wood Hotel, I was Head Chef at one of the Crowne Plaza Hotel collection for nearly 4 years, during which I achieved and maintained 2AA Rosettes throughout my time there.”
If you had to pick a favourite dish that you have created, which would it be?
“That’s a very hard question! As the main focus of a dish I really enjoy using lamb in the seasons of spring and summer, so it would have to be one based around this as a main ingredient. I look forward to creating a new dish on my next seasonal menu to showcase for you.”
Is there anything you are particularly excited to bring to the Hand Picked table?
“I have a passion for creating new dishes and bringing new concepts to life. It will be a joy to present my new menus to our guests and see how they are received. I have had some excellent reactions already, which is so rewarding.”
Are there any chefs that you admire, and who you’d love to work with?
“There are many, but I particularly admire the following chefs, whose career I have been following for a long time and have been part of my inspiration for some of the dishes I create: Tom Kerridge, Jason Atherton and James Martin. They all have a modern take on classic dishes and have been redefining the food industry.”
What are your kitchen staples?
“Garlic, thyme, salt and butter are key ingredients to any dish in my kitchen – they really inject flavour.”
Do you have any family favourite dishes at home?
“I am a huge fan of traditional and classic English dishes - all homemade of course - such as a full roast dinner with all the trimmings, or a nice hearty stew. It’s good honest food.”
Tell us a little bit about yourself outside of work?
“My main hobby (apart from cooking of course!) is participating in track days with my track car, which I am constantly working on and improving.
I like to spend time with my family as much as possible, and enjoy cooking special meals and testing new ideas for my partner, who is always up for brainstorming new dishes and has been very supportive throughout my career.”
Do you have any interesting facts you can share about yourself?
“At the age of 20, I participated in ‘MasterChef: The Professionals’, where I was faced with how competitive this industry really is. It conjured a fire in me to always improve and extend my knowledge, and always dare to step out of my comfort zone.”
To sample Leon’s work, browse our dining options here.