Bryce Chartwell never intended to become a chef. Born of English and American parents, he was raised in the village of Chipping Cudderton, just outside of Oxford. His early aspirations to become an airline pilot were cut short by a fear of flying. He graduated from the University of Cambridge without any particular career in mind. Then over a wine-soaked dinner in 1997 his ex-tutor, Nigel Kornberg, convinced him to return to his alma mater and work for a summer in the college kitchens.
Much to his surprise, Bryce flourished under the careful supervision of Head Chef Michel de Latour. He swiftly mastered the basic skills of chopping, washing and strangulation, and progressed rapidly through the ranks from the lowly position of sous chef to the lofty perch of sur chef. Three years later, following a stand up row with the Master over a grossly undercooked haddock, he stormed out from Cambridge and headed for London.
Initially work proved difficult for Bryce in the nation’s capitol. Locum jobs with the NHS and London Underground staff canteens paid his bills, but led to a sense of stagnation. Fortunately his father, Lord Esher of Harring, came to the rescue with a handsome bridge loan. With cash in hand (and a large wad stuffed in the bank), Bryce undertook a period of gastronomic education. He traveled to France and worked pro bono at a number of Michelin star restaurants. He spent three years in Paris perfecting his skills, learning French, and consuming vast quantities of wine. It was there that he also developed an interest for more traditional recipes. He experimented with variations on classical, often long forgotten masterpieces. His boudin de veau won the coveted Vache-Cochon award in 2002, while his porc gonflee was served to the deputy mayor of Lille.
Bryce returned to England in 2003 and opened his first restaurant, The Sow House, in central London. Its reputation for intensely challenging but satisfying food grew rapidly, and it became a firm favorite of Tony Blair’s cabinet. John Prescott was a frequent guest. After three highly successful seasons, the restaurant was cut down in its prime. A table-side chop searing exploded, and the subsequent inferno razed the building to the ground.
After suffering second degree burns to his left-hand index finger, Bryce took time off to regroup. He published his first book – Lard Of Hope and Glory – to critical acclaim. After guest appearances on Gardener’s Question time and MasterChef Wales, he landed a recurring slot on Radio 4’s Today Program. In 2005 his second book – Low Counties Cooking – roared to the top of the charts.
It was during this period that he began experimenting with new approaches to cooking. His perspective on extreme-precision cooking, encapsulated by the Butter Fry Effect, defined an approach to perfecting his preferred historical recipes. He also introduced the phrase Stochastic Gastronomy during a lecture to the Royal Society – a radical style that he now offers as an exploration of variance and a book-end to his more focused techniques .
By 2006 a rejuvenated Bryce Chartwell was ready to step back into the restaurant limelight. The opening of The Last Parsnip outside of London was nothing short of a sensation. Two years later its sister restaurant opened to similar acclaim outside of Seattle.
Bryce is currently working on a new cookery book, Modernish Cuisine, which promises to be a tour de force examination of his cooking techniques and principles.
Bryce recently relocated with his wife and two children to work at his US restaurant on Bainbridge Island, just outside of Seattle.