Overall ranking: 70 (ranked 56 in 2010)
Chef ranking: 21 (ranked 15 in 2010)
Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft - Snapshot
Nigel Haworth is the chef-proprietor of Northcote - the Michelin-starred, three-AA-rosette restaurant with rooms in Langho, near Blackburn - which he co-owns with general manager and wine expert Craig Bancroft. Under the umbrella of Ribble Valley Inns, the duo have also opened the Three Fishes at Mitton, the Highwayman at Burrow, the Clog and Billycock at Pleasington - all in Lancashire - and the Bull at Broughton in North Yorkshire. The pair also run corporate hospitality at Ewood Park, home to football club Blackburn Rovers.
Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft - Career guides
Nigel Haworth was born in Lancashire in 1958. After training at Accrington and Rossendale College, he worked at the Royal Berkshire hotel in Ascot and London’s Grosvenor House hotel and, from 1978, spent several years in Switzerland.
Dismayed by the standard of catering he found in Lancashire on his return, Haworth became a lecturer at his old college for 18 months.
Meanwhile, Craig Bancroft, who was born near Blackburn in 1961, had taken his first job as a kitchen porter at the Kensington Close hotel in London before joining the Trusthouse Forte management trainee scheme. He served as a chef at the Grosvenor House hotel and the two-Michelin-starred Plaza Athénée in Paris, followed by trainee roles in food and beverage, housekeeping and front of house at the five-star Brown's and Westbury hotels in London.
Following stints at London’s Regent Palace Piccadilly and Strand Palace and Yorkshire’s Beverley Arms hotels, and with just six months' training left to complete, Bancroft was lured to the unimpressive Northcote Manor hotel in December 1983 as general manager. One of his first moves was to bring Haworth on board as head chef in March 1984.
In 1986 Haworth and Bancroft acquired a stake in the business and, in 1989, bought it outright. The duo set up outside catering arm Northcote Offsite in 1999, two years after Haworth became consultant chef to contract caterer Baxter & Platts, now BaxterStorey. They sold Northcote Offsite at the end of 2007 to the company’s operations director, Martin Jones, to concentrate on developing the hotel and expanding Ribble Valley Inns, which they had launched three years earlier. However, they have continued to run Northcote at the Rovers, the corporate hospitality at Blackburn Rover’s stadium Ewood Park.
Ribble Valley Inns’ first pub – the Three Fishes in Mitton – was an instant success, serving up to 1,300 covers a week in the first months and scooping three awards in 2005 – the Catey for Pub and Bar Operator of the Year, the Publican Pub of the Year and the Campaign for Real Ale's Kids' Food award.
The company currently operates two other pubs in Lancashire – the Highwayman in Kirkby Lonsdale and the Clog and Billcock at Pleasington – while a fourth, the Bull, opened in Broughton, North Yorkshire, in June 2009.
Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft - What we think
It's become commonplace to talk about local sourcing in UK food circles, but Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft have been championing Lancashire produce since long before it was fashionable to do so.
Over the past 25 years at their flagship hotel restaurant Northcote (formerly Northcote Manor), menu items such as Lancashire hotpot and Herdwick lamb have become as established as the Edwardian detailing and the array of fireplaces.
Haworth is involved in Chefs Sans Frontiers, a group of chefs who promote the North-west of England with demonstrations in Paris, Barcelona and London, as well as being a member of the Academy of Culinary Arts and of the Masterchefs of Great Britain. Warrick Dodds, Northcote's former head chef, has won the Young Chef of the Year award and was a finalist in the Roux Scholarship. Northcote's former sous chef, Jason Birkbeck, has also won the Young Chef competition. Current head chef, Lisa Allen, has competed twice on the BBC’s Great British Menu, winning through to cook for Prince Charles in 2010, and recently picked up the Restaurant Chef Award at the Craft Guild of Chefs Awards 2011.
Haworth’s skills and passion for giving a contemporary twist to classic British dishes such as Lancashire hotpot, combined with Bancroft's development of a strong front-of-house team, won the partnership a string of accolades during the 1990s, most notably the Lancashire Life Restaurant of the Year 1993, a Michelin star in 1996 and the Independent Hotel of the Year Catey in 1999. The icing on the cake was the well-deserved Special Award won by the duo at the Cateys in 2009. Their annual 10-day food festival, Obsession, has be running for ten years and attracts top-name chefs to Northcote to cook dinner for one night each.
Haworth says his major inspiration as a chef has been the farmers, growers and producers who have worked with him for more than 20 years, enabling him to produce an honest and hearty repertoire that is loved by customers and critics alike. Long may it continue.