Chef from Thame wins coveted industry award

James Durrant, Head Chef, The Bear & Ragged Staff, Cumnor with Corin Earland, Chef Director, Peach Pub Company
James Durrant, Head Chef, The Bear & Ragged Staff, Cumnor with Corin Earland, Chef Director, Peach Pub Company

A young chef from Thame has been named a rising star and one to watch in his industry by winning a top award.

James Durrant, 27, head chef of The Bear and Ragged Staff in Cumnor, one of Oxfordshire’s Peach pubs, was presented with an Acorn Award at a ceremony on Monday, June 4, in Worcestershire.

Awarded annually, the Acorn Awards celebrate the achievements of 30 of the hospitality industry’s brightest prospects, with each winner nominated by their peers for their outstanding ability in their field.

James was singled out for praise for his remarkable achievements as a chef over the last 11 years, a period which has seen him rise from waiting on tables to running his own kitchen.

At 17, he started out as a waiter at The Angel, Long Crendon, quickly convincing the chef / patron to take him on in the kitchen and send him to gain his chef’s whites at Oxford and Cherwell Valley College.

James joined The Thatch in Thame as junior sous chef in 2014, taking control of the kitchen team within three years and helping the pub to win a host of awards.

He became head chef of The Fishes in North Hinksey, Peach’s biggest pub which serves up to 3,000 meals a week at its busiest time, creating a new outdoor kitchen to cook a new garden menu.

When Peach took on The Bear and Ragged Staff in Cumnor this February, James became its new head chef, helping to put this classic country inn firmly back on the culinary map.

James said: “It’s a really big deal to win a national award like an Acorn and I haven’t quite taken it in yet, I’m quite overwhelmed. It’s certainly an acknowledgement of the commitment I’ve made over a decade to become a good chef, and recognition of all the effort I’ve put in, and I feel very honoured to have been nominated.

“I also know that I am fortunate to have had so many good people around me, who have helped and taught me, and it’s been thanks to their support that I have been able to push myself and work hard to get where I am today.

“I’m really excited to be bringing the award back to the pub and hope that it will encourage other young chefs to follow me into the industry and to work hard to achieve their dreams. I also hope it will inspire people from around the area to come to visit us to try the food we cook and have a great time at our pub.”

This year’s 30 young achievers spent a celebratory weekend at The Lygon Arms including a welcome dinner plus a team-building exercise to test their ‘Apprentice-style’ scavenging and football-related teamwork skills. They then took part in the awards ceremony hosted by organisers The Caterer, where Josh Eggleton, chef and co-owner of Bristol restaurants the Pony & Trap, Salt & Malt, Root and the Kensington Arms, was guest speaker.

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