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Inspiration and dedication are key ingredients on Michael's menu

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 23, 2012

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WINNER Michael Caines MBE

He was born in Exeter, local boy done good, but immediately had a steep climb to success. He was adopted into a very large and loving family and says that his love for food and cooking came from the fact that his adopted father grew many of his own vegetables in the garden and with a large family his adopted mother had to be a good cook. The love of preparing food and sharing it at family mealtimes left a big impression.

After leaving school he attended Exeter Catering College and it was evident that his talent had been spotted because he was Student of the Year in 1987. He then went on to the Grosvenor House in London, Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons and after that moved to France, honing his skills under some superstar chefs in Paris. He admits these formative years were incredibly important and fully acknowledges the influences that they had on his development. It taught him the importance of using local regional ingredients, something that he passionately believes in and has developed in the Westcountry, and discipline and perfection.

He returned to the UK in 1994 to take up the position of Head Chef at Gidleigh Park. Under the Hendersons, this was already rated one of the most prestigious country house hotels in the UK and was an incredible opportunity and challenge. Yet with only two months in the job he was involved in a terrible car accident and lost his right arm. Remarkably, he was back in the kitchen part-time within a couple of weeks and full-time by the end of a month. Where most of us would have probably given up, this year's recipient focussed even harder on his determination to reach the top of his profession. Gidleigh Park went on to win more awards under his guidance and classical French training, using the best of fresh Westcountry produce.

By 1999 he won his second Michelin Star, 2001 Chef of the Year at the prestigious Catey Awards, and then the Hendersons sold to Andrew and Christie Brownsword and the partnership continued with the opening of Michael Caines Restaurant and the Royal Clarence in 2003. This subsequently led to the development of several Abode Hotels opening around the UK for whom he is now Executive Chef. He was awarded the MBE in 2006 and by 2007 had been voted the AA Chef of the Year. He has cooked at Number 10 Downing Street for the Prime Minister and took part in the Queen's 80th birthday celebrations. Since then he has been involved as a director of Abode and now inspires chefs at all their other hotels and restaurants.

The story doesn't stop here, he is a patron of several charities: West Country Voluntary Adoption; Families for Children; PORT-ER which supports patient mobility; Journey of a Lifetime Trust, providing a difference for hundreds of disabled, abused or neglected young people, and many of us will know him more locally for being involved in the Exeter Food and Drink Festival. The list of other charities including those supporting cancer around the country goes on.

One that is of importance to the tourism industry is the Michael Caines Academy at Exeter College which provides work placements and apprenticeships for 16-19 year olds and was launched in partnership with the City & Guilds at the end of April this year. His inspirational leadership has allowed new talent to begin and experience just what it takes to reach the top level in the industry.

This year's Award for Outstanding Contribution to Tourism goes to Michael Caines MBE.

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