19th & 20th September 2020, Lymington Road, Highcliffe

Meet the Chefs

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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! 


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.

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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.’

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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!”

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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.’


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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 then for a time was appointed 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.

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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.

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Matt started his training in several Michelin starred country house hotels and used this grounding to travel extensively working in first class kitchens in Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam as well 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. Matt 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.

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.


Luke has been at the multi-award-winning Chewton Glen since 1993. For ten years Luke was senior sous chef, then in November 2003, was appointed Executive Head Chef. Luke is a local man, having attended school and college in Bournemouth. After finishing his apprenticeship, aged 20 he had a brief sojourn at Chewton Glen with Pierre Chevillard which was an inspiring catalyst in his early career path.


He later worked in the Channel Islands and France, and was sous-chef at the Hotel Les Bories in Cordes before moving back to Bishopstow House in Warminster. Luke is a great friend of TV chef James Martin and has appeared on ‘Saturday Kitchen’. In 2016 he was awarded ‘Hampshire Chef of the Year’ and he is a very popular visitor at Food Festivals.

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Jennifer spent her childhood in Wales where she learned how to forage for flowers and fruits in a way we would now label ‘sustainable’. Whether collecting rosehips, sloes, blackberries, or rowanberries, they harvested only what they could reach easily – everything else was for birds and animals.


Naked Jam is based in Sway, near Lymington and was inspired by Jennifer’s sister, and by the confidence of winning an award at the World marmalade awards, 2011. She likes to use seasonal local fruit and loves to develop new taste combinations, combined with traditional cooking methods. No artificial colours, setting ingredients or preservatives are used.


Jennifer has a wide range of stockists and supplies the prestigious five-star Chewton Glen. Her awards have been numerous, and she was a winner in the Hampshire Life Food and Drink awards and was Business of the Year in the New Forest Brilliance in Business Awards in 2013/14.


Recently she won the best country selection of jams at the International Jam Festival in Azerbaijan. Jennifer has represented the jam & preserves for the UK team at the Festival International du Pain and International Jam & Preserves Festival in Djerba, Tunisia as cook, demonstrator and judge.

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Adam studied catering at Bournemouth and Poole College and joined Chewton Glen’s kitchen brigade at the age of 17 as a Commis Chef. Over the past 11 years, under his mentor, Executive Head Chef Luke Matthews, Adam has become an inspirational protégé being promoted to Sous Chef in 2013. Throughout his career at Chewton Glen, Adam has demonstrated a passion for food and foraging, with creative input in recipes and menu planning, as well as being Luke’s right hand man at many outside cookery demonstrations.


In 2017 Adam Hart was promoted to Head Chef at the hotel’s new informal restaurant The Kitchen. With its open plan layout, guests are able to watch Adam and his team at work. The à la carte menu, which has been created in association with James Martin, features delicious tapas-style starters, wood-fired pizzas, gourmet burgers and healthy superfood salads.

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Harry has been a chef since he was 18 but found his love for cooking in the kitchen at home. He studied at Bournemouth and Poole College before taking his first chef role. He is passionate about all aspects of cooking from freshly baked bread to butchery. Harry especially loves creating interesting and tasty dishes that are also nutritionally good for you.


He has a keen interest in foraging which he says is the best way to learn what each season brings and gets you outside. In his free time Harry loves to surf and exercise regularly.


Harry is now the Head Chef and partner at The Paddle in Highcliffe, working closely with a great team that share the same passion for food as he does.

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Zak grew up in the kitchen as his father was chef and worked for Jean Christophe Novelli whilst he was at the Mill. Zak's love of food started from a very young age and he strived to follow in his father footsteps. He trained at Brockenhurst College and worked at some excellent venues and hotels across Hampshire and Dorset, such as the Limewood in Lyndhurst , Chewton Glen and many of the Harbour Hotels.