Top London chef Phil Howard to make debut appearance at fine dining festival in Aberdeen

A top London-based chef is heading north this November to join the glittering line-up of talent for the return of a popular fine-dining festival in Aberdeen.   

Published 26th Aug 2019
Updated 8 th Aug 2023

South African-born Phil Howard, described by the late restaurant critic AA Gill as one of the best chefs in Britain, will be making his debut at the Signature festival at the Chester Hotel in Aberdeen.

Having trained under the Roux brothers and Marco Pierre White and after selling his two-Michelin starred Mayfair restaurant The Square, Howard has gone on to gain further acclaim for his newest venture, Elystan Street in Chelsea.

In just three years, this modern British restaurant has racked up an array of awards, being named AA London restaurant of the year 2017-18 and gaining a coveted Michelin star.

The celebrated chef has never visited the Granite City before, but he’s gearing up to
deliver a showstopping menu to a whole new audience later this year as part of the festival of fine food and drink.

The event, which takes place from 3rd to 15th November, brings together six of the UK’s top chefs, creating a line-up that holds a collective six Michelin stars and 19 AA Rosettes.

Howard will be joined by the likes of Scots-born world-class pâtissier chocolatier William Curley and Daniel Clifford, chef patron of two-Michelin starred restaurant Midsummer House while returning chefs will include Glyn Purnell, Martin Wishart and Roy Brett.

Phil Howard Aberdeen

world-class pâtissier chocolatier William Curley will also be in attendance.

The experienced chef will be working with the team at The Chester Hotel – Aberdeen’s four silver star venue - in devising the menu for discerning diners attending his sell-out event on November 11, one of the highlights of the 12 day festival.

Taking his inspiration from the flavours of Scotland and looking to the best of what’s in season, Howard has stated that he will let the flavours speak from themselves using his renowned modern French style.

Giving a taste of what diners can expect, Phil said: “In creating the menu, I will be
thinking about the season, and using prime ingredients associated with Scotland. The backbone of my style is the French technique and I will be applying that in cooking using best of Scottish ingredients that will be available in November.”

Howard's culinary style is described as being characterised as modern and progressive with punchy flavours kept in check by a "rigorous approach to seasonality and outstanding technique".

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He said: “I am an absolute believer, both as a consumer and a professional chef, in classic flavours. Tomato and basil, cholate and orange, duck and figs, it all works, it has stood the test of time and it can be cooking at its most delicious.

“I understand young chefs may want to make their mark and stand out using innovative processes, but that must always be in the eater’s interest. For me, it’s about clean seasonal that have distinct flavours.”

Phil receives no shortage of requests to join all kinds of epicurean events but he’s
selective about what he takes on.

Signature 2019 appealed because of its charitable element. Last year’s event made an incredible £239,000 donation to Friends of the Neonatal Unit at Aberdeen Royal
Infirmary, with a further £12,000 going to Friendly Access – a charity supporting those with hidden disabilities.

This year’s event will once again raise funds for good causes.

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Phil says: “I’m asked to do all sorts of things and Signature’s charitable side is great,
and Aberdeen is somewhere I would like to get to know.

“Scotland has the best shellfish in the world. No other country can beat Scottish lobster, scallops or langoustine. Then there’s game, hare, venison and grouse, some
phenomenal produce. I will have Scottish ingredients well represented on my menu.”

Having worked in the industry for decades, Phil has never lost the vigour or energy for working in the beating heart of a restaurant kitchen, he said: “Amid all the comings and goings, the thing I enjoy above all else is the cooking. That’s why we opened Elystan Street, where I’m regularly on the rota. I wouldn’t want it any other way and I am careful to consider everything that I get involved in because if I go on tour, or do a gig, I have to think about what I can deliver without my own identified equipment or having the familiarity of my usual team.

“It is absolutely critical not to compromise, and to be able to have the right offering to serve to clients as eating is a pleasure and that has to be at the forefront of all we do.

“I know that in coming to Aberdeen I will have the best ingredients to work with. I’m looking forward to doing Signature, and the industry, proud and meeting some lovely people.

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“Then I hope I can carve out some time to be able to explore the area. It doesn’t always work that way because life is busy, but I certainly hope to have some time to stay on.”

• More information is available via the website

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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