11th & 12th June 2022, 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 Shaftesbury in north Dorset and is also a guest lecturer at Bere Farm Cookery school. She has a regular column in Dorset Magazine 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 as patron in schools since its inception in the year 2000.

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Craig started his career as a commis chef in Winchester and later worked as Chef de Partie at Pebble Beach under award winning chef Pierre Chevillard. He stayed with Pierre for 4 years and became his Sous Chef before leaving to go travelling.


He began working for Harbour Hotels 14 years ago and opened Kings Rhodes and Rhodes South with Gary Rhodes. He worked under Gary Rhodes for 3 years and worked his way up to Sous Chef.


When Alex Aitken opened the Jetty Restaurant he was promoted to head chef and later became Executive Chef of the Jetty and Christchurch Harbour Hotel in 2013. This was at the time that they launched the Upper Deck restaurant at the Hotel.


In 2016 he became Group Executive Chef for Harbour Hotels and was responsible for opening a further 5 hotels and restaurants within an 18 month period


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.


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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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Kevin has recently returned to being head chef at the Lord Bute Restaurant. He has now been in Highcliffe for over twenty five years and originally trained at Bournemouth and Poole College and spent part of his training at the Michelin starred restaurant Hotel Alexander near Montpellier in the south of France. He returned to work there after he left college for further experience. He later returned to England to work in the kitchens at the prestigious Dorchester Hotel in London under the watchful eye of the acclaimed Anton Mosimann as a chef de partie. In the early 80’s he ran the very popular Mrs T’s supper rooms in Westbourne for 10 years before joining the Lord Bute. His cooking is highly regarded and he has achieved two AA rosettes for his delicious 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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Christchurch born chef James is becoming a TV personality with regular slots on Channel 4’s Sunday brunch and was the featured chef on Fred Sirex’s

‘Remarkable Places to Eat’ with Chris Bavin when they visited the New Forest. He has done multiple cooking features on BBC’s Country File and other programmes and has regular slots on Radio Solent and hosts the Maple Syrup from Canada Sustainability Podcast. He has overseen the development of the seven Pig Group of hotels and is responsible for developing their menus, which often involves foraging for wild food. James has written two books ‘The Wild Cook’ and ‘The PIG book all my own recipes’.

He is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts and is a regular judge at leading food awards.


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.


Will Firmin, along with his brother George, founded Crow Spotter in 2020. They were joined by friend Mark in 2021, who relocated from Manchester to join team Crow Spotter. The boys started with a pop-up coffee shop in The Saxon Bar in Christchurch, and later opened a café at The Retreat in the New Forest (just 6 minutes’ drive from Highcliffe). They have built a lovely community by putting on events and organising free forest walks. Will is a self-taught chef who puts a lot of emphasis on healthy, organic and seasonal food. The small but perfectly formed plant-based menu at Crow Spotter has been thoughtfully put together and showcases hyper-local produce.


Ismael worked in hospitality for 25 years, travelled and worked in different countries. Studied at Catering School Consortium of Cadiz, Andalusia, Spain.

He worked in different hotel companies, from which to mention 5* Paradores Spain, 5* Melia Hotels. And then in many different restaurant groups and independents. Last 10 Years Ismael has spent at Brasserie Blanc, The White Brasserie Company, and Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons working with Chef Clive Fretwell and Mr Raymond Blanc.