Sat, 24th Aug 2019
CODE Special
CODE Careers Q&A: James Donnelly


When did you realise you wanted to work in hospitality?

When I was 16, I worked in a small restaurant (The Rupert Brooke) in Grantchester, Cambridge. The roast dinner I helped produce every Sunday was so much fun to cook it was then I realised I was pretty good at it! After a few weeks, I started to get a real love for it. The busier, the better!



Where and how did you get your start?

My 1st real kitchen job full time was at The Three Horseshoes in Madingley, Cambridge. I went around the whole of Cambridge on my bike handing out CVs and Richard Stokes (now head chef for Tristan Welch-Parkers Tavern, Cambridge) decided to take a punt on me! He took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. Richard was doing really great things with beautiful Italian and English produce. I was pretty green at that time and was thrown straight in on the larder section. The best way to learn in my opinion!



Sum up your current work life in one sentence.

A crazy Donnelly’s rollercoaster ride! Since starting in May we’ve seen successful days, happy days, challenging days but ultimately Donnelly’s has started to find its groove. Some of the tough times are the beautiful summer days which have killed trade, England do fantastically well in a World Cup but how can you complain at that?! Essentially it’s been a super exciting/scary time for us but we’re looking forward to what’s next!



Who has been really influential on your career and why?

In my career , Richard Stokes (Three Horseshoes, Cambridge) and Jamie Younger (The Palmerston) both took me under their wing and taught me many kitchen skills as well as plenty of life education. The effort they invested in me and looking at where i am today means so much to me. I’ll love those kitchens forever! Chef-wise, Tom Kerridge is an inspiration, taking the humble pub-grub style and pushing it to starred level is nothing short of genius.



What’s next for you?

We finish our Soho stint at Sun & 13 Cantons on December 22nd, then our next venture is still a secret for now but you will see us for another residency in London early January after a few weeks off for Christmas. Watch this space!



What’s your one piece of advice to someone starting out?      

Make sure you try to learn something new everyday. Push yourself and others around you, whether that’s a new technique, method, recipe, plating style. Any chef who tells you they know it all, has become lazy in their ways! 



Where did you last have a great meal?

Albert Adria’s Tickets tapas bar in Barcelona. Albert has been pushing boundaries for many years and to get a star for a tapas bar is quite something!



Are there any openings you are looking forward to?

Lino at St. Barts should be a very cool place to be end of this year when it opens. The Dairy is a firm favourite for me so to see what there ex-head chef Richard Falk will be cooking-up is exciting!



Where is the most exciting city for hospitality (after London)?

I would say San Sebastian has always been there but recently Barcelona has lots of new and exciting openings!



Who would you identify as a rising star?

Watch this space for Santiago Lastra, Santiago is hopefully opening something next year in London and it will be delightful I am sure!!


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