shay cooper the lanesborough

Meet the chef: Shay Cooper of The Lanesborough Grill

07 Mar 2023|By Annie Lewis

Having built a Michelin star-studded career, The Lanesborough’s executive head chef reveals what it really takes to garner cooking’s greatest accolade

Shay Cooper has earned a robust reputation for turning average restaurants into coveted culinary successes. Having helmed the dining rooms at one of the biggest names on London’s hotel scene, The Goring, along with several other fine dining restaurants, 26 years into his career, Cheshire-born Cooper’s passion for food and strong work ethic show no signs of flagging.

Cooper joined Paul Heathcote’s School of Excellence in Manchester in 1997 before heading south and earning his first accolade — 3AA Rosettes — at Hotel Endsleigh in Devon. With the bright lights of the London culinary landscape calling, Cooper joined The Bingham in Richmond, gaining his first Michelin star in 2010. He went on to repeat the success five years later at The Goring, marking the first Michelin star in the landmark hotel’s history. 

Given his stellar success at The Goring, it’s perhaps no surprise that six years later Cooper landed at another London Grand Dame: The Lanesborough. Cooper took on the Michelin-starred dining room, Céleste, in 2021 but the path to success didn’t prove quite so smooth. The restaurant lost its star the following year and closed for a major refurbishment a few months later, reopening as the hotel’s reimagined flagship restaurant, The Lanesborough Grill. 

Inside, the glamorous dining room is akin to a scene from Bridgerton: think Regency-style golden accents, grand chandeliers and baby-blue furnishings. The menu is equally decadent and quintessentially British, featuring signature dishes of coronation crab salad, beef Wellington and Dover sole, some of which are served tableside on Gueridon trolleys, adding to the grand theatrics. 

So, with all eyes on Cooper to regain that Michelin star, we sit down with the chef to find out what it takes to earn such an accolade — and if he thinks he can deliver the goods. 

shay cooper
What was your first job in a kitchen?

I had a part-time job as a prep chef in a local restaurant at the age of 15. The owner took my friend and I under his wing and said he was going to help us become chefs. His belief in me really meant a lot at that point in my life.

Tell me a bit about your childhood.

I grew up in a working class family where I was encouraged to pick up a trade upon leaving school. My earliest memories of food centre around family get-togethers at my grandparents’ home. My grandmother was a trained chef and proud housekeeper.

You’re well versed in the Michelin star game, having earned them at The Bingham Hotel and The Goring. What’s your advice for anyone working towards a Michelin star?

Be prepared for a journey that requires a considerable amount of commitment — there is a certain amount of external pressure to meet expectations but also pressure put upon oneself which can often lead to self-doubt. Be sincere and always put the guests’ expectations first. Don’t copy: try to find your own identity through your food.

Having worked at other five-star hotels, what drew you to The Lanesborough?

Despite its imposing size and presence, The Lanesborough is a 96-bedroom hotel, meaning that, while it’s not a boutique operation, it’s manageable and we have the resources to put quality at the forefront of everything we do. I was very much taken by the atmosphere throughout the hotel.

What influences your menus at The Lanesborough Grill?

Best British produce, appealing approachable dishes and a humble, generous offering.

shay cooper
What is your favourite London restaurant?

I really like The Clove Club. The cooking is flavourful, confident and classy without being fussy or pretentious.

Are there any other London chefs you're impressed with at the moment?

Brett Graham at The Ledbury. The dining experience is impeccable but, more than that, he has a very strong vision for his restaurant and its legacy.

How do you spend your free time away from the restaurant?

With my wife and children, we try to explore and travel as much as we can.

What's your favourite dish on The Lanesborough Grill menu?

I don’t have a favourite dish but I do love our recently launched Sunday roast, simply because that’s my favourite meal of the week.

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