Meet the team: Ben Smith

Our team make us who we are — they’re the people on the ground giving the pubs all the personality we know you love. This month, we’re shining a light on someone who works away behind the scenes, our Head Chef at the Duke, Ben Smith.

Tell us about what you do up at The Duke of Hamilton

I am the Head Chef up at the Duke, recently promoted from Sous Chef. I started out as a chef de partie, so things have moved quite quickly! My role is all about developing the food for the pub, as well as cooking it, of course. I love being able to be so creative with new dishes and menu layouts. It’s not my first role as a head chef, but I would definitely say it’s the best. We’ve just added two new chefs to the team, so it’s an exciting time for everyone.

How did you start out in the kitchen?

I started working in a kitchen at the age of 15. I skipped college and am completely self taught when it comes to being a chef. I learnt from all the chefs I’ve worked with along the way instead, and it’s served me well. I made my way to the Duke through a good friend and old colleague of mine, Didz, who is Head Chef at The Clifton. He needed chefs for a new pub in Hampstead, so I decided to make the move from Swansea.

What were you up to before the Duke?

I was at a restaurant called Loki, and before that I was Head Chef at a vegan restaurant and café/bakery in Swansea. I loved making fresh bread every day but it was a different style of food to the direction I was ultimately looking at going in, so I decided to move back to the culinary delights of London.

What’s the absolute best thing you’ve ever eaten?

What a tough question! I’ve been lucky enough to eat so much good food over the years. I think the best has to be a two-Michelin star Japanese restaurant in Amsterdam. It was a 14-course set menu and there were things on it I will probably never experience again. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of it but the experience will always stay with me.

What’s your favourite Duke menu item, past or present?

My favourite dish is one we had on recently – halibut with celeriac purée. It’s such a simple and classic dish that I changed around a bit and made my own. I’m really proud of it and our customers loved it, so it’ll definitely become a mainstay in coming weeks.

Tell us one thing about you we probably don’t know

One thing you may not know is that I am also a fully qualified carpenter, and I also could have been a professional footballer. I was invited to attend Manchester United School of Excellence and then the academy, but unfortunately I had a serious injury and had to concentrate on doing something else. Lucky for me, I found something else I had a big passion for very early on in my life, and here I am!

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