An Interview With Former Student And Renowned Head Chef Craig Atchinson
Growing up in the small colliery town of Horden in the North East in the early 80’s, Chef Craig Atchinson remembers the very visible effects of miners’ strikes and the closing of large industry plants, with its inevitable impact on the local high street.
His grandmother, who came over every Sunday to help with the lunch, talked of better times, but always seemed to have a smile on her face sitting with the family as they tucked into “the best Sunday roast ever”.
Was this the start of your interest in a career in the kitchen? “Not straight away” he replied.
“My elder brother went to a local college after leaving school and did a hospitality course. I think it was then my interest was sparked, so I joined East Durham College a few years later”.
After college, his first couple of positions were at local hotels and then at Cotswold House where Craig achieved Michelin’s ‘Rising Star’ status and 3 AA rosettes as he rose to become Senior Sous Chef.
Heading south in 2006 he joined the brigade at Hambrough Hotel – a 7 bedroom, 5 star restaurant with rooms which overlooked the English Channel on the Isle of Wight – as Sous Chef. Ultimately this led to promotion and Craig’s first position as Head Chef.
Not making it all the way home to the North East, he settled in Masham North Yorkshire at Swinton Park Hotel as Head Chef alongside Executive Chef, Simon Crannage.
He remained at Swinton Park for three and a half years, retaining 3 AA rosettes during his tenure at Swinton Park.
During 2012, Craig joined the team at the Talbot Hotel, not too far away in Malton, North Yorkshire. Working alongside TV chef James Martin as the restaurant’s Head Chef. Craig and his team attained and retained two AA rosettes during his two years there.
Now Head Chef at the 5 star Grand Hotel in York, moving the few miles from Malton.
In October 2014, Craig has successfully elevated the hotel’s 2 AA Rosette restaurant, Hudson’s, to offer familiar dishes “redefined with 5 star flair”
Combining classical flavours with modern techniques, Atchinson’s style is modern British cuisine inspired by the produce of the changing seasons, and the amazing fruit, vegetables and herbs that are grown and foraged in the surrounding areas.
Additionally, the meat, fish and game Craig uses on his menu are mostly sourced within a few miles of the hotel.
The Grade II Edwardian building the hotel is housed in has a very illustrious past, with strong connections to the history of rail travel coming to the area which made York a key destination on the journey between London and Scotland.
When visiting the Grand, you are immediately made aware of the high level of service you will receive throughout your stay, whether visiting for lunch or enjoying a more leisurely long weekend in North Yorkshire.
The hotel has only been open a few years but this year a further £15.2 million pound development and improvement plan is being undertaken adding 101 new bedrooms, a larger kitchens and a 100 seater, covered courtyard restaurant.
So, a busy time ahead Chef, will you get any time off to visit restaurants in the area or places you have been to before? You know what we are about to ask… tell us about places that are your
“A favourite place has to have been Petrus back when Marcus Wareing was Chef there, however that’s just a memory now. The place I have been to a few times recently and a place my wife enjoys is Aiden Byrne’s restaurant, Manchester House the Chefs Table there is incredible.”
“And, of course, not too far away we have Colin McGurran’s place, Winteringham Fields. It’s so easy to drive across the river for lunch but we have loved going there a few times for dinner too.”
For More information on courses in hospitality and catering at East Durham College contact our student services team on 0191 518 8222.