Michelin Young Chef Award ‘shock’ for Sarah Hayward

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Michelin-rated: Work hard, don't chase stars, says top chef
Michelin-rated: Work hard, don't chase stars, says top chef

Related tags Michelin guide Chef Food Sarah Hayward Buckinghamshire

The shock of taking home the Young Chef accolade at the prestigious Michelin Awards is still sinking in for the Coach’s Sarah Hayward, but celebrations are well underway.

“I still can’t quite believe it,” she said: “When they called my name, honestly, I was so shocked”. 

Hayward is the head chef ​at Buckinghamshire-based gastropub the Coach in Marlow, which also retained its Michelin star at the awards ceremony in Silverstone last Monday (27 March).

Although it hadn’t quite sunk in yet, winning the award felt “incredible” for the chef, who was described by Michelin as “tenacious and determined yet modest”.

“The fact they’ve come to the Coach and they’ve watched service and out of every incredibly talented young chef across Great Britain and Ireland, they’ve somehow singled me out - I cannot tell you how proud I am,” she said. “[It’s] mental.”

Hayward was not expecting to take home the award: “When they announced my name, I turned to Tomo and I thought, oh my god is that me?” 

Family pride

Her colleagues then pushed her towards the stage. The pub team had reacted to the news like a “proud little family”, and this was on top of the reaction of her actual family who were “absolutely over the moon”.

Her dad, who’s a Royal Navy chef himself, cried at the news, and on the day of the ceremony, Hayward had every single family member on the phone. She’s now taken time off work to mark the occasion in the Isle of Wight with her family, bubbles and food.

“It makes everyone super proud. It makes you remember why you’re doing it.”

But celebrations have been underway throughout the week. Well-wishers have sent in champagne, and the pub team were wined and dined at central London restaurant Fallow St James. “They were very, very hospitable,” said Hayward, “and the food was amazing”.

The Coach was among 19 pubs to retain Michelin stars, ​with two pubs bagging the accolade for the first time. ​The gastropub's team is super small but super consistent, according to the star chef. “Everyone works really hard,” she continued, “so being able to maintain that star is just a great feeling.

“It makes everyone super proud. It makes you remember why you’re doing it.”

Hayward has worked in kitchens since the age of 16 when she completed an apprenticeship at the Royal Hotel (2AA Rosettes) on the Isle of Wight. She had words of wisdom for young chefs, and that was not to chase Michelin status. What mattered was cooking food you and your customers loved, she believed; food that made you happy. 

Cooking from the heart

“If you're doing that then Michelin comes to you, then that's perfect,” she added, “but cooking should come from the heart - not chasing stars.” She also advised young chefs to work hard, ask questions, and soak up as much info as possible.

The team at Britain’s No.1 gastropub​ the Parkers Arms in Clitheroe, Lancashire, were examples of chefs “doing what they love”, which made them huge inspirations for Hayward. 

"Cooking should come from the heart - not chasing stars.”

Paul Ainsworth also inspired the chef, as did celebrity chef Tom Kerridge, ​for his passion and consistency. Kerridge heads up the Coach as well as Marlow-based sites the Hand & Flowers and the Butcher's Tap. “There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else,” said Hayward, who has worked under the TV chef for nine years.

Kerridge was “thrilled” by Hayward’s win. “She is a fantastic chef, level-headed, grounded, focused and truly dedicated to her craft,” he said. “She has put her own stamp on the Coach, I’m so proud of her, she is such a talent."

There were no signs of slowing down at the gastropub, and the future looked bright. “We’re going to focus on doing what we’ve been doing because it’s gone down pretty well so far,” said Hayward, whose favourite item from the menu was currently the classic mussels dish.

New seasonal plates and an evolving lunch menu would also keep things interesting for the team, she said, adding, “we’re forever evolving”.

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