Kitchen Confidential with Jamie Holmes

Kitchen Confidential with Jamie Holmes

Jamie Holmes has been Executive Head Chef at Hilton Southampton – Utilita Bowl for just over two and half years and has brought in many changes over that that.

"I enjoy many aspects of the role from the challenge of running one of the biggest establishments in the area to the pride I get watching my team of chefs develop. I thrive on running a multi-outlet place, from fine dining in Beefys to helping serve a plated function for 450 in our ballroom. We serve every type of customer: corporate guests, leisure guests, spa guests, golfers, fans coming to watch the cricket, plus the many cricket and football teams that stay.

"The changes I have introduced to the venue include coming away from using Hilton main suppliers to using local producers, so that we could join Hampshire Fare. I was born in Poole and I have always lived and worked in Dorset or Hampshire, and I believe we have some of the best produce in the country right on our doorstep. These include Lyburn Farmhouse cheeses and Tunworth Cheese, New Forest grown mushrooms, locally sourced meat from Owton’s and south coast fish from Premier Fish.

"It is very important to me to use local produce. We need to support local businesses more than ever. Every establishment should promote seasonal and sustainable local foods. It often creates a story for the customer and helps the local economy. However, as a chef running a large venue It can sometimes be hard to find the quantity you need locally. Also local doesn’t always mean cheapest.

"Food trends promoted on social media don’t help when it comes to using local and sustainable. One that comes to mind is the avocado, yes, it’s great for the body and tasty, but it does have to travel a long way from South America. It’s a battle to find dishes that use local, seasonal and sustainable foods, but meet current food trends.

"Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to work under some of the best local chefs around including James Parsons, Steven Hurst and Andrew Mackenzie, who have all inspired me. I am myself a massive believer in training the next generation of chefs.

"We linked up with Eastleigh college over two years ago and with their support we allow all the level two hospitality students to come in for a week for real life work experience. My team and I empower them. They take over my C&B department for the week, from learning to read function sheets to prepping and serving many different dish and function styles on time and the best they can be. From these takeovers I have actually employed some of the students. I currently have three ex-Eastleigh and two current Eastleigh students who are an integral part of my kitchen team. We also work with Lifetime Training, an apprentice-based programme. I have two apprentices currently in my team, and I take great pleasure in helping them to understand kitchens and the business behind them.

"I have brilliant memories, but over my career there have been so many challenges I could write a book! There was the time the gas cut out and I ended up doing the rest of the service on a BBQ outside in the middle of winter! I’ve had to wade through two feet of sea water to get to work because the banks burst, then transport the day’s supplies on dinghies!

"As for career highlights - they include being part of a team that’s earned or regained AA rosettes and Michelin Stars, and earning my own accolades. I remember taking on my first head chef role and how it felt to build and grow a team of chefs, then watch each of them build, grow and lead their own team of chefs. Another highlight was appearing on MasterChef the Professionals on TV. Recently I was voted Chef of the Year at The Southampton Hospitality Awards 2024 which was a very great honour. Also, seeing customers follow me from place to place because they enjoy the food gives me such a warm feeling.