© 2020 Highcliffe Food & Arts Festival

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13th & 14th June 2020, Lymington Road, Highcliffe

Meet the Chefs

Lesley’s School of Food and Wine

A former chef and cookery demonstrator, Lesley’s lively personality makes her a very popular television cook. She was a regular part of the team of Ready Steady Cook (BBC2) and This Morning (ITV). A recognisable household name Lesley now runs her immensely popular cookery school at Abbotshill in north Dorset and often acts as a recognisable spokesman for several large food brands.

She studied French cuisine for three years at Ealing College, which included time as a chef at the Waldorf Hotel. In 1978 Lesley joined Prue Leith’s Restaurant and was quickly promoted to position as senior chef. She gained then worked as a freelance corporate chef and caterer for government officials before joining Leith’s school of food and wine as an instructor, rising to head teacher.

She often represented British food at international cookery displays, taking as her theme ‘good food for health’s sake’. She has written 20 cookery books and supported Christchurch Food Festival with its work in schools since its inception in the year 2000.


Jean-Christophe Novelli is a multi-Michelin star and 5/5 AA Rosette winning Chef, Author, and Restaurateur.  He is very approachable and often gives more than expected to please audiences and organisers alike.  Following a number of renowned restaurants in London, Cape Town and Normandy, his passion for sharing his talent led him to open his own cookery school, The Novelli Academy, which has grown in popularity ever since.  In spring 2018 he opened a brasserie restaurant “Novelli at City Quays”,  within the fabulous Marriott AC Hotel in Belfast, and it is going from strength to strength. He has appeared in a number of TV programmes (eg Hell’s Kitchen, The Jonathon Ross Show, This Morning, and Culinary Genius  in the UK and Top Chef, Chef Academy and MTV Cribs in the USA).   More recently, Jean-Christophe Novelli was one of the fugitives on “Celebrity Hunted 2019” which aired on C4.  Millions watched him and fellow celebrities beat “the Hunters” and raise huge amounts for ‘Stand Up To Cancer’.  Articles about his work and family regularly appear in national newspapers and magazines including Hello.  Jean-Christophe is known around the globe for his amazing cooking artistry and unique healthy cooking techniques.   He’s cooked and consulted on many projects, and catered for Heads of State, Royalty and renowned personalities around the world.  He continues to host private and corporate dinners, and personally run cookery classes and corporate team-bonding events. When not busy with the above, you are likely to find him demonstrating at a food festival or similar.  Whatever the occasion, time with this passionate and highly talented chef will be an informative, fun and truly memorable experience! 


Neal Jepson has worked for 18 years in the restaurant industry, following a classical training with the Academy of Culinary Arts in London. He furthered his career abroad in France, Portugal and Sardinia, and has now been working for the Jetty Group for 3 years! Neal loves the fact that the Harbour group use locally sourced ingredients and fresh fish from the South coast. Neal is now head chef at the Christchurch Harbour Hotel.


Miss Witt is a world class chocolatier, teacher, demonstrator and judge.

Kerry Witt grew up in the New Forest, Hampshire, spending her childhood making sweet treats for friends and family. Her career started early by winning school cake competitions.  Age 16 she trained at Brockenhurst and subsequently Southampton City College studying Level 2 & 3 in Hospitality and Patisserie. In 1997 Miss Witt received the acclaimed title of ‘Student Chef of the Year’ for patisserie at Southampton City College. During this period, she worked as a pastry chef at Le Poussin for Michelin star chef Alex Aitken. 

Following this she worked as a Pastry Chef at Bluebird, Chelsea and Carey’s Manor, Brockenhurst to name a few, before setting up Chocolate by Miss Witt in 2012.

Miss Witt has received World Academy of Chocolate Awards since 2015 and continues to be recognised to this day. She is respected in the fine chocolate industry, being a member of the judging panel at the Academy of Chocolate Awards, and a judge at Wessex Salon Culinaire competitions.

Miss Witt makes bespoke chocolates for her clients including several 4-star hotels.  She is respected within the bar and drink industry, designing chocolates to go with cocktails.  In 2015 she collaborated with The Library Cocktail Bar in Southbourne (part of the Larder House restaurant) to create a chocolate glass with flavours of a cocktail for bartender Harry King. This was for his entry into the UK world class cocktail competition. Harry was ranked one of top 50 bartenders in the UK and has developed chocolates for Pothercary Gin.

Miss Witt takes part on the demo stage at food festivals across the south, and works with Rhinefield House Hotel to entertain corporate clients, which has led further demonstrations in Spain. Miss Witt regular appears on BBC Radio Solent as the Chocolate Expert on ‘The Kitchen Garden lunch time show.’


Having opened his first restaurant, Le Poussin, in 1983, Alex taught himself to cook – a fact that Gordon Ramsay noted when he named Le Poussin one of his top 11 favourite places to eat in The Times.

Alex’s culinary journey began on the seas, where he worked as a trawlerman, giving him unparalleled knowledge of fish and seafood and how to make the most of the ocean’s bounty. Championing simple, seasonal and local produce from the very beginning – Alex has received multiple awards and accolades to support this philosophy.


As Chef Patron for The Jetty, Alex is committed to creating menus that showcase the region’s finest flavours: “I started my career as a trawlerman,” he says, “and this ‘raw’ fishing experience proved invaluable and a culinary asset during my career as a chef. I spent twenty-five years cooking within the New Forest, including many years running my own highly-acclaimed restaurant, Le Poussin in Brockenhurst, Hampshire, which led to my Michelin Star in 1995. And now I am at The Jetty in Christchurch, celebrating over 30 years in the business, and producing the locally-sourced sustainable food I love, for you all to enjoy with me!”


Colin Nash is renowned for his relentless pursuit of innovation in his kitchen, with over 30 years’ experience. One of the most exciting chefs in Dorset, winning many awards for the Three Tuns over his 12 years in the kitchen.


His career began at the young age of 13 helping in Mum in local restaurants in Christchurch. After school, he wasted no time in enrolling in Bournemouth and Poole catering college. This led him to Langan’s Brasserie in the heart of London, his first taste of pressure in a busy kitchen. As this years went by he developed a passion and understanding of what he wanted to achieve. He prides himself on fresh local and seasonal produce and likes to add an occasional twist. ‘A good meal is like a good movie exciting you along the way, he quotes.’



Ian trained at Solihull College before working in several Midlands restaurants. He later moved south and joined the Kings Hotel in Christchurch as head chef and worked with the esteemed chef Alex Aitken to develop a menu of quality using seasonal local food, all sourced from within 15 miles. The popularity and quality his food won the hotel the Michelin Gourmand award, the only one in Dorset at that time. After leaving the hotel he has been head chef at Burley Manor Hotel and also the New Park Manor in Brockenhurst. He was later appointed as Executive Head Chef of the Urban Guild group of restaurants and then became Executive Head Chef of the delightful Gordleton Mill hotel and restaurant near Lymington. Ian’s delightful personality fills the room with enthusiasm and passion for creating wonderful food.


Russell is a local fisherman and member of the RNLI crew at Mudeford Quay where he keeps his fishing boat. He went to Arnewood school in New Milton and has been a commercial fisherman since he left at 16. Prior to that he was involved with various local angling competitions and even graced the front pages of a few of the UK fishing magazines!

He started Russell’s Plaice in 2013, with a small fish stall outside Dave’s fruit and veg shop in Highcliffe. Later that year he moved to the old ice cream parlour outside the Paddle restaurant. He is there every Saturday morning selling sustainable fresh fish and shellfish, most of which is caught by him and his crew.

Russell will be specialising in dressed crabs, lobsters, cockles, whelks and jellied eels for the Festival.


Matt Budden brings with over ten years’ experience as an Executive Chef, he started his training in several Michelin starred country house hotels and used this grounding to travel extensively and further his culinary knowledge he has experience around the world working in first class kitchens in Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam aswell as Europe. He has headed up many prestigious kitchen brigades achieving 2AA rosettes and being Michelin recommended for the last 10 years.

He brings with him a passion for culinary excellence and a keen eye on developing talent, dedicated to ensuring young talented chefs get the best start in the industry. His passion & love for food stems from time spent with his grandparents, growing tomatoes and runner beans with his grandfather and baking cakes with his grandmother. Matthew is a proud member of “The Chef Forum” bringing together chefs, suppliers and colleges – to help inspire the next generation of chefs into the industry. He has earnt numerous accolades in his career to date including the Marriott Hotels ACE (award for culinary excellence) European Chef of the Year for Europe 2013 & the F&B Culinary Achievement award for 2013-14. Most recently Bournemouth Hilton Hotel has won Gold BAPTAS for Best Large Hotel & Matt was awarded a Silver BAPTAS for Chef of the Year. He works closely with the sustainable fish organisation Fish2Fork achieving a high 4/5 for his sourcing of sustainable seafood and is involved with the Dorset Seafood Festival.

Schpoons & Forx is set within the Bournemouth Hilton Hotel and Matt is responsible for the whole food operation within the hotel which is set on the South Coast. Matt specialises in serving modern British cuisine with an emphasis on local seafood, serving the best of British produce in a relaxed stunning location. Matthew’s Food philosophy is grounded in adhering to the classics but adapting them to the modern palate, using local Dorset and Hampshire produce sourced from local farmers and fishermen to produce dishes that are simple but elegant. When he is not running the hotel kitchens he can be found demonstrating at local food festivals or training the next generation (and his own children) at the local rugby club.