Mother of three and chef owner at The Kingham Plough, Oxfordshire, Emily Watkins has a lot on her proverbial plate. But it hasn’t stopped her from becoming one of Britain’s leading chefs.
Watkins decided the life of a chef was for her after spending six torturous months working in an office. She fled to Florence – as you do – without a word of Italian and with no employment lined up, eventually finding a waitress role at Ristorante Beccofino which afforded her two days a week in the kitchen.
After two successful years at Beccofino – during which time Watkins had progressed to a full time role in the kitchen and learnt enough Italian to grasp the excoriations of her bosses – the young chef was in need of a new adventure. Luckily, her Head Chef recommended her to fellow culinary conquistador Heston Blumenthal and Watkins soon found herself working at Britain’s best restaurant: The Fat Duck.
If she had learnt the rules in Florence, Watkins was soon learning how to break them while working for Heston; developing her signature cooking style that seamlessly sutures traditional influences with modern techniques.
The Kingham Plough’s website describes Watkins’ food as ‘Modern British’, but there are subtle hints, too, towards her time in Italy – particularly evident in her emphasis on regionality.
In 2013, Emily represented the South West in BBC’s Great British Menu, scoring a perfect 10 for her ‘Shoot Lunch’ dish. A year later, in 2014, she got through to the final banquet with her fish course.