Originally from Malta, she delights in creating robust, hearty dishes made with fresh, local produce. “I like what Hotel du Vin stand for: they always take lovely old buildings and do them up really smartly. And the whole ethos of serving people simple but really good quality French bistro food,” she says.
“I came over from Malta in 2005 and trained in the Sofitel, East Sussex, where I moved from commi to sous chef in just four years. Then I went to work in Le Gavroche in London, which is owned by Michel Roux Jr. His dad and his uncle came over in the 70s and really brought French food to England. It was very long hours but rewarding; I learnt a lot.
“I moved to Cambridge when I took this job; my first head chef role. I’m loving Cambridge, though I wish I had a bit more time to explore!”
Not normally one to seek the limelight, Alison took part in MasterChef: The Professionals in 2011, wowing the judges and critics with her imaginative dishes.
“I’d always hated competitions, but my old boss suggested I do it. And because I don’t do things in half measures I threw myself into it. It was nerve-racking, but the judges were lovely. For the classic dish challenge I cooked a French dish of quail and grape sauce, and chef Michel had nothing but good comments to say.”
Asked what makes a great chef, she replies: “You need a passion for food, and to try and make it the best meal you’ve ever made every time, whether you’re making bangers ’n’ mash or a Michelin star meal. I want people walking away thinking: ‘That was fantastic’.”