ONE of the New Forest’s top hotels, the Montagu Arms in Beaulieu, has changed its head chef as it continues the hunt to regain its lost Michelin star.
Matt Tomkinson has been replaced after a decade by 30-year-old Matthew Whitfield, who arrives from New York where he cooked at the acclaimed three-Michelin Star Eleven Madison Park.
It will be a return to familiar territory for Mr Whitfield, who worked under Mr Tomkinson six years ago as pastry chef at the hotel’s Terrace restaurant and is originally from Southampton.
“I am thrilled to be joining the Montagu Arms, and have great plans for the future,” said Mr Whitfield.
“It is a dream to return to the Terrace. Matt has done an amazing job, and my goal is to build on all that he has achieved – I’d love to regain the restaurant’s Michelin star.”
His CV includes the two-Michelin star Sea Grill in Belgium and the one-Michelin star Driftwood restaurant in Cornwall, where he was head chef.
James Hiley-Jones, managing director of Greenclose Hotels which owns The Montagu Arms, said: “We are absolutely delighted to welcome Matthew to the Terrace restaurant.
“It is a rare thing for a chef of this calibre to choose to work outside London. He comes to us fresh from one of the best restaurants in the world, after many years building his skills and reputation at a succession of incredible establishments.
“We are very grateful to Matt Tomkinson, who leaves us after 10 years to take on a fresh new challenge.
“He took the Terrace to previously unimagined heights, winning a Michelin star in 2009 and retaining it until the restaurant’s refurbishment in 2016.
“We now look forward to exciting times ahead under Matthew Whitfield, a passionate and extraordinarily talented chef with big plans for the future of the Terrace.”
Mr Tomkinson made a big impact at the Montagu Arms, where a tasting menu with paired wines at the Terrace costs £175 a head.
It gained its coveted Michelin star in 2009 – just six months after he arrived from securing his first at The Goose in Britwell Salome, Oxfordshire. It was lost seven years later and the hotel’s Terrace restaurant has been unsuccessfully trying to regain it ever since.
Mr Tomkinson (43) tweeted his departure: “After an amazing 10 years at the Montagu I will be moving on to something new next year.
“Any success we have had comes down to the amazing people above and around me both past and present.”
He added: “I am pleased to say I will be able to hand over to a brilliant replacement in the form of [Matthew Whitefield], a great chef and friend who I know will fly in this role. “
Similarly to Mr Tomkinson, Mr Whitfield competed for the Roux Scholarship, a prestigious international training scheme for young chefs.
However, unlike Mr Tomkinson who won in 2005, he did not secure the prize, despite getting through to the finals in 2017.
In a goodbye tweet, Mr Tomkinson thanked James Hiley-Jones, managing director of Montagu Arms parent company Greenclose Hotels; Sunil Kanjanghat, general manager at Careys Manor Hotel; and sous chef Rob Boer.
He added: “I’m looking forward to be able to announce some exciting news about my future very soon.”
Greenclose Hotels Ltd, which also owns Careys Manor in Brockenhurst and the Imperial Hotel in Llandudno, Wales, reported in August pre-tax profits of £180,141 in the 12 months to October 2017 – up 32% on £136,420 the previous year.
The family-run company is owned by John Leach (72) and his sister Patricia Leach (74), based in Ridgeway Lane, Pennington.