FOOD fans are in for a treat as a chef who’s worked with Team GB cyclists sets the wheels in motion for fine dining at Arley Hall and Gardens.

Thirty-four-year-old James Yates is the new head chef at The Gardener’s Kitchen and he’s relishing the new role which lets him bring a flavour of fine, formal fayre to the historic estate’s restaurant.

The dad-of-one, who originally hails from Clapham and has trained and worked in some of London’s finest gastro pubs and luxury hotels, is excited to be producing dishes that combine two of his favourite things – fine dining and locally sourced food.

And ingredients don’t get much more local than being grown on site, mere metres away from the kitchen.

“The vegetable gardens here at Arley are outstanding and it’s great to be able to create fresh food completely from scratch every day. That’s actually quite unique in this industry,” said James.

Having attended catering college in London after leaving school, James quickly climbed the career ladder, going from trainee to acting head chef at the award-winning West Sussex gastro pub The Countryman Inn in just three years.

“I was incredibly lucky to work under some amazing chefs during that period – I learned an awful lot,” he said. “It really helped me to develop a love of great, British food.”

James worked hard, building a reputation for making fantastic meals from food sourced within 50 miles of the restaurant, and it didn’t take long for his talents to be spotted.

By the age of 21 he was working for the Exclusive Hotels chain in venues such as South Lodge and Mannings Heath Golf Club. During this period, he learned the art of fine dining and became a Chef de Partie.

“It was such a contrast from what I’d done before,” he said. “It was a big shock, having come from a gastro background which was all about rustic food.

Fine dining is all about the details. As well as having an excellent menu it’s about the aesthetics and atmosphere, from how the meals are presented on the plate to how they are served.”

James branched out working freelance for a few years during which time he prepared food for events such as the G9 Summit and exclusive clients including the Royal Family of Qatar. He even ran his own successful bistro in Surrey with his mum.

But a hunger for doing something new led James to a role preparing meals for the Great Britain Cycling Team, a role that gave him a whole new level of food appreciation.

“I learned a great deal about food nutrition during that time,” he said. “It was interesting to learn how athletes use food as fuel.”

While James is still involved with Team GB in a consultancy capacity, his is very much focussed on developing The Gardener’s Kitchen as a fine dining experience to be reckoned with.

“Arley is a very special place and it really does befit a fine dining offering. I’m excited to be able to bring my skills to the restaurant and offer diners an amazing experience.

“I’ve been given a lot of freedom to create my menus, which I love, and I’m looking forward to taking the restaurant forward in the coming months and making it into a true fine dining destination.”

In addition to building the restaurant’s reputation for fine dining, James’ plans also include creating an onsite bakery where pastries and cakes will be made from scratch every day.

If track records are anything to go by, when it comes to having the recipe for success, James is surely going for gold.