Overall ranking: 43
Chef ranking: 13
Philip Howard - Snapshot
Philip Howard is the head chef and co-owner, with Nigel Platts-Martin, of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant the Square in Mayfair, London. He also co-owns the two-Michelin-starred Ledbury restaurant in Notting Hill, with Platts-Martin and Brett Graham, and Kitchen W8, in Kensington, with Rebecca Mascarenhas.
Philip Howard - Career guide
Born in 1967, Howard studied microbiology at Kent University, during which time he discovered his passion for cooking. After a summer of cooking in the Dordogne he enrolled on an apprenticeship with Roux Restaurants. Nine months later he left after landing a job at Marco Pierre White’s Harvey’s restaurant in Wandsworth, south-west London, co-owned by Nigel Platts-Martin, but Howard fell out with White after just nine months and the pair parted company.
A spell under Simon Hopkinson at Bibendum followed, where he worked alongside peers such as Bruce Poole and Jeremy Lee before patching up his relationship with White and returning to Harvey’s. When Platts-Martin planned another site in St James’s he asked Howard to be head chef, and the pair opened the Square in 1991. It gained its first Michelin star in 1994 and added a second a year after relocating to Mayfair, where it stands today.
In 2005 he opened a second restaurant with Platts-Martin, the Ledbury in Notting Hill, with protégé Brett Graham behind the stove – who, at 26, was just a year older than Howard when he took over the Square. It gained a star in the 2006 Michelin guide and added a second in 2010.
In 2009 Howard added a third restaurant, Kitchen W8, to his portfolio, this time teaming up with restaurateur Rebecca Mascarenhas, owner of London neighbourhood restaurants Sonny's in Barnes and the Phoenix in Putney, and with another former Square sous chef, Mark Kempson, in the kitchen.
Philip Howard - What we think
Howard’s remains one of the most widely respected chefs in the industry, and his calm, patient and intelligent approach to mentoring young chefs sets exemplary standards to the rest of hospitality. As his former sous chef Brett Graham puts it: “Phil is one of the very few true gentlemen in this trade. He is very respectful of his staff and always treated me like an equal. He never talked down to me and we formed a very special relationship.”
Howard's background before taking over the Square, with no formal training, just a biochemistry degree under his belt and three years' experience in the kitchen – in which time he never held a sous chef position – helped form his intelligent, measured approach to cooking. His seasonal, intuitive French cuisine never overcomplicates dishes and he approaches cooking in a thoughtful, scientific manner, without any of the technological wizardry involved in molecular gastronomy.
Despite a chaotic start, when Howard fell into and – with the help of Platts-Martin – recovered from drug and alcohol addiction, the Square soon started to pick up awards. It was voted Best Newcomer by Time Out in its first year and won its first Michelin star in 1994 and a second in 1998. Howard won the Chef of the Year Catey in 1998.
His skills as a mentor have seen young charges such as Graham and Kempson thrive under his guidance, and he has been actively involved in nurturing young talent in this industry through events and competitions such as Young Chef Young Waiter, where he chaired the panel of chef judges for many years.
A chef’s chef, he is most at home behind the stove and has rarely taken time out to appear on television or write cookbooks, leading Platts-Martin to comment once that the chef “turns down a dozen book deals a year”.
Philip Howard - Further information