Ross Gibbens and his business partner, Michael Kennedy, launched The Wellbourne Group with the support of a team of like-minded and passionate chefs. The portfolio now includes Wellbourne Clifton, Wellbourne Salardu and the most recent venture, Wellbourne Brasserie in the heart of White City Place. The restaurants all have a unique personality but are all focused on informal, informed dining.

Having worked in some of the UK’s most highly acclaimed restaurants and hotels including Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saison, The Vineyard, The Square, Launceston Place and Dabbous, Ross was our first resident innovation chef here at Belazu. In comparison to the 80-90 hours a week in restaurant kitchens, this ‘part-time’ (9-5) job gave Ross the flexibility to begin designing his own business plan.

Ross was encouraged into a culinary career by his dad, a chef and co-owner of a sandwich bar in the City of London.  Having got a taste for the industry in the family business aged 14, Ross decided to take a professional diploma at Westminster Kingsway. During this time Ross worked part time in a local restaurant in Dulwich called Belair House.

Speaking about his first role, Ross said: “We were cooking really good food and, even though it was just a local restaurant, we were using quality ingredients such as diver caught scallops from Orkney and native lobsters.

“I didn’t know who the Rouxs were or anything like that and these chefs took me under their wing and started talking to me about Michelin, big names like Marco Pierre White, the Roux brothers and I found it fascinating.”

 

“I didn’t know who the Rouxs were or anything like that and these chefs took me under their wing and started talking to me about Michelin, big names like Marco Pierre White, the Roux brothers and I found it fascinating.”

After college the chefs Ross was training under at the time recommended he went to work at Raymond Blanc’s 2 Michelin star restaurant Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saison. He went from working in a small team of 3-4 chefs to working with about 40-50 during a two-day trial. He was offered the job and he started straight away, quickly learning about high standards, seasoning down to the last grain of salt and the importance of respecting produce. Ross said, “the fact that so much is grown on site gives you a sense of connection with what you’re cooking. It was a fantastic place to start off.”

Ross’ parents travelled the world with their careers and, having heard all the glamourous stories, he became increasingly curious and planned an adventure. Australia and New Zealand were on the agenda and, following his globetrotting trip, Ross was offered an exciting job to work under a former boss in Newbury at John Campbell at The Vineyard so returned to the UK.

Renowned chef Phil Howard came to eat regularly at The Vineyard and Ross developed a professional relationship with him and moved back to London to work at The Square. “The numbers were eye watering and it was relentless – just nonstop, high pressure and a bustling busy kitchen – but [Ross] absolutely loved it.”

Ross added a head chef position to his repertoire at Launceston Place under Tristan Welsh, where he began to work with wild foraged ingredients – long before it was fashionable. After two years at Launceston Place and prior to working as Belazu’s resident innovation chef, Ollie Dabbous, a friend from Le Manoir, offered Ross a head chef job at Dabbous. The restaurant was dubbed a “game changer” by the Evening Standards critic, Fay Maschler and AA Gill awarded the team behind Dabbous, ‘Restaurant of the Year’.

Are there any chefs that have had a big impact on your cooking?

“Ollie’s probably the most naturally talented chef I have worked with.” Ross commented, “You often hear “there’s no such thing as an original idea” but that guy genuinely used to come up with things that made me like “wow, that’s genius … who would have thought of that”.”

Any chef top tips?

“Cook with the seasons! If they grow at the same time they tend to go together so as a chef you kind of …follow! The ingredients write the menu for you and it’s also more financially beneficial because you know supply and demand, prices go down.”

Would you say sustainability influences your choices? 

“Sustainability is so important now, we build trust with all of our suppliers and know them on a personal level, we only work with suppliers that make a conscious effort to keep things like that going. It’s not in any of our favours to drain the seas or over farm or anything like that so it’s definitely something we’re conscious of.”

What’s your favourite Belazu product?

“Favourite product…god it changes…I’ve got to say at the moment I am a massive Black Venus Rice fan – I love it – it’s really complex, almost got a far east, Asian or Japanese flavour.

I love the fig leaf oil, we use it in Clifton on a slow cooked chocolate fondant with a sea salt crumb and pour it over. Sweet and savoury it doesn’t matter. I can’t wait for the summer you know; halved ripe peaches, just touched on a hot barbeque – marzipan ice-cream – fig leaf all over the top … I can’t wait to use it already.”

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