John Williams is executive chef at The Ritz London. The son of a Tyneside fisherman, he developed his passion for food at an early age. Initially taught by his mother, he then went on to study at South Shields College and then at Westminster College.
John’s culinary career began as a commis chef at the Percy Arms Hotel in Otterburn in 1974. Later he worked at the Royal Garden Hotel and the Restaurant Le Crocodile, both in Kensington. Then, in 1986, he joined the distinguished Savoy Group of Hotels and Restaurants. During John’s impressive 18-year tenure with the Savoy Group, he served as maître chef des cuisines at The Berkeley, before his move to head up Claridge’s kitchens in 1995.
As a tireless supporter of the industry, John is behind numerous charity initiatives and continues to work to promote the education and training of young chefs. He has an MBE and a CMA from the French Government for services to French cuisine, the first British chef to receive such an honour.
Today at The Ritz, he oversees a kitchen brigade of over 60 chefs and is responsible for the mouth-watering menus in The Ritz Restaurant, The Palm Court, and the Rivoli Bar. When he is not whipping up a partridge souvaroff or a caramelised pear Williams gateaux, the amiable chef likes to kick back with a fine Cuban cigar and a pungent slice of Stinking Bishop cheese. He shares more of his favourite Mayfair finds below:
Davidoff Cigars, 35 St James’s Street
I love the friendly, knowledgeable team at Davidoff. They provide excellent service. I very much enjoy having a cigar tasting in its fumoir/tasting room and I get very excited about the different cigars available – they are always kept in excellent condition. But mostly, I love the feeling of going to Davidoff because it means I have an appropriate event to go to – one that I will be looking forward to! Davidoff also has some excellent whiskeys.
Ralph Lauren, 1 New Bond Street
I’ve worn Ralph Lauren for over thirty years. I am a big fan of the brand because it offers timeless, classic men’s tailoring. Its clothes are made to a great quality and are both elegant and comfortable.
Paxton & Whitfield, 93 Jermyn Street
I use Paxton & Whitfield both at The Ritz and at my home – that has to tell you everything! It definitely has my stamp of approval. Paxton’s sells top quality British cheese (as well as continental) and has been doing so for over two hundred years. There is a great history to the brand and it has numerous Royal Warrants. Some of my favourite varieties are Stinking Bishop and Celtic Promise. The team here are always active in promoting different cheeses to me with their tastings, which I like. There is a great education process and it’s great to experience different or new cheeses.
Alyn Williams at The Westbury, 37 Conduit Street
I think Alyn Williams in a fantastic, modern, classic British cook. His restaurant offers serious food with a smile.
Harvie & Hudson, 96-97 Jermyn Street
Harvie & Hudson can dress you for any occasion – from a day at the races at Royal Ascot to a dinner in town. It is a great British heritage brand. I go in there every season. At the moment I have got my eye on a cream/fawn cotton jacket in their window. I would like to wear it to this summer’s Glorious Goodwood in July, an event I go to every year.