JASON Atherton is the headline guest for this year’s Bruntwood Debate at the hospitality industry forum Northern Restaurant & Bar 2019 (NRB), which returns to Manchester Central on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 19-20.
This, the largest trade networking event outside London, has always attracted culinary luminaries to its centrepiece Debate and these days few come higher profile than Sheffield-born Jason, who has established a global restaurant empire since stepping out of the shadow of mentor Gordon Ramsay.
The last time ToM bumped into him was at 11.55am midweek in his Mayfair flagshig, Pollen Street Social. We’d arrivede early at this ultra-relaxed temple of fine dining to catch its bargain three course, no-booking, bar lunch. Perching on stool just as the action was about to begin we noticed the chef himself along the counter polishing the top and arranging cutlery. Attention to the smallest details, even beyond every dish that would come off the pass.
It’s only with the biog accompanying the NRB ‘scoop’ that we recall the first time we tasted his food. Now 47, Jason was in his twenties when he was given his first head chef role by Oliver Peyton at the legendary Mash & Air on Chorlton Street, microbrewery and pizza on one level, posh nosh on another.
We suspect it was fun before it gave up the ghost but also that Jason profited more from working alongside great chefs including Pierre Koffmann, Marco Pierre White, Nico Ladenis and Ferran Adria at el Bulli, before joining the Gordon Ramsay Group in 2001.
After launching Maze fro Ramsay, Jason left to launch Pollen Street Social, which was awarded a Michelin star inside six months. He now boasts four Michelin-starred restaurants in his 16-strong group that straddles three continents. At NRB he will discuss the reasons his success and explain why he became principal patron ofHospitality Action.
The Debate will also feature an expert marketing panel chaired by Lucy Noone-Blake (above) exploring how restaurant brands and businesses build loyalty and ensure their share of the marketplace in a digital world.
Speakers include Libby Andrews of Pho, Russell Danks of Punch Taverns, Oisin Rogers from The Guinea Grill and Andy Windsor of Mission Mars. Topics will include how to bridge the gap between an online presence and driving actual footfall, and whether social media really is more valuable than human contact in what is still very much a ‘people business’.
For those of us resistant to talking shops, however expert, there’s a lot to distract us across the two days with 275 exhibitors showing off every product and service a hospitality business needs, from time-saving tools, to the latest in technology.
A variety of chefs and local producers will also be there offering practical advice and inspiration during 65 live food and drink demos across various event stages.
The Bruntwood NRB Debate starts at 12pm on Tuesday March 19. Tickets are priced £55+VAT (£66) and include a buffet lunch. Book tickets now and save 20% online at nrbdebate.co.uk using CODE20. Free trade only tickets to Northern Restaurant & Bar 2019 are available now at northernrestaurantandbar.co.uk