Let's Eat

Former JFS pupil and Gordon Ramsay trainee wins restaurant cooking award

Chef Stella Harris, 18, who works at the Savoy Grill, says she was inspired by her heritage


A former JFS pupil has received a cookery award for a dish part-inspired by her Jewish roots.

Stella Harris, 18, who has been working as a trainee chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy Grill for nearly a year, won the “best dish” award from Westminster Kingsway College for her herb-crusted lamb rack, confit tomato and olive jus – with baba ghanoush. Entrants to the competition were invited to devise their own dish centred around lamb, and Harris turned to her heritage for inspiration. “I thought, ‘I love Jewish cuisine. Let's see if I can make it a bit more modern.’”

Harris, who lives in Mill Hill, had a surprise when Ramsay walked into the Savoy Grill kitchen and congratulated her for winning the competition.

“I was absolutely losing it,” she said. “I had to stay calm because he was standing there. It was crazy. He said, ‘Stella, come over here, explain your dish to me,’ and he was impressed that I’m working in his restaurant at 18. He was just chatting to me. He's a really nice man, very friendly. He's not at all what you see on TV.”

Harris has cooked with the help of her grandmothers from as early as she can remember, and her fondest memories are of preparing meals for the chaggim.

"I've always been cooking, from baking to just helping in the kitchen, usually with my grandma and my bubbe. It could be for Chanukah or Pesach or Friday night dinners, literally anything. I do love cooking for the Jewish festivals.”

She credits her “bubbe”, her maternal grandmother, with teaching her most of her early skills. “She makes the best pickles from scratch and salt beef. I’d go over for the day and she’d teach me stuff; we made cheesecake together.”

It was during lockdown that Harris really began to hone her skills, when she started a cooking account on Instagram and a baking business for friends and family. “It was something to do because I was so bored. I was baking and thought, 'maybe I could sell some of this stuff.’ Everyone loved it.”

Ramsay is one of Harris’s biggest professional inspirations, as is the Michelin-starred Angela Hartnett who trained under the Kitchen Nightmares star. She describes Hartnett as “iconic” in the industry.

“She is the top female chef in the world. She's a really good representative for female chefs so she's a big inspiration for me.”

As for the skills and character traits needed for success in the culinary world, Harris says it’s a strong mind and personality. “I'm not fully there yet," she said. "I love cooking for people because everyone loves food, it makes people happy. I love the process of cooking and the end result is serving it to people and seeing their reactions.”

On the young chef’s win, head chef at Savoy Grill Arnaud Stevens said: “Stella has been an integral part of our larder team here at Savoy Grill producing our signature Arnold Bennett soufflé with drive, focus and passion.”

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