Michael Caines is one of Britain’s highest profile chefs. He is based at Gidleigh Park, the prestigious 2-star Michelin country house hotel on the edge of Dartmoor at Chagford, Devon. In partnership with hotelier Andrew Brownsword, Michael and Andrew are currently in the process of creating a group of individual boutique ABode hotels throughout the United Kingdom which will each have a Michael Caines Restaurant, Michael Caines Champagne and Cocktail Bar, MC Café Bar, MC Boutique and/or MC Tavern. ABode Exeter, the first ABode, is fittingly in Michael’s hometown Exeter in the Royal Clarence on the city’s Cathedral Yard. There are further ABodes opening soon in Glasgow, Canterbury and elsewhere. There is also a signature Michael Caines Restaurant in the Bristol Marriott Royal.
Born in Exeter in 1969 and adopted into a large and loving family, Michael gained his passion for food from his mother who he used to enjoy helping in the kitchen. Says Michael, “I grew up in a large family, and my love of food and cooking came from the big family meals we always shared together, prepared by my mother, who was a wonderful cook. My father loved to grow vegetables and fruit in our garden, and so I grew up appreciating the flavours of the freshest foods, picked that day and simply prepared.”
Michael attended Exeter Catering College where his precocious talent was already evident, earning him the accolade ‘Student of the Year’ in 1987. He subsequently spent an influential three years under his mentor Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, before moving to France for a further couple of years, learning his profession under the guidance of such superstars chefs as the late Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu and Joël Robuchon in Paris.
Michael returned to Britain in 1994 to take up the position of Head Chef at Gidleigh Park. Gidleigh’s restaurant was already rated amongst the most prestigious in the country so the position represented a massive challenge and opportunity. Yet, only two months into the job, Michael suffered a terrible car accident in which he lost his right arm. Remarkably, he was back in the kitchen part time within two weeks, and full-time after just four. With the support of Paul and Kay Henderson and an unwavering belief in his own ability to overcome obstacles, he returned to the kitchens of Gidleigh Park more focused and determined than ever to pursue his dream of reaching the top of his profession.
Michael’s cuisine is truly original and brilliant, a fact recognised not just by appreciative visitors to Gidleigh Park but by guidebook editors and those who give out awards and accolades. With his classical French training in some of the finest restaurants in the world, and utilising the best and freshest local produce and products from the West Country, Michael has created a style that is uniquely his own, at once classic yet also highly innovative, a fact recognised with the award of a second Michelin star in 1999. In 2001 he won Chef of the Year at the prestigious Cateys Awards.
Michael founded Michael Caines Restaurants Ltd in 1999 and the next year opened his first signature restaurant Michael Caines at The Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter. Michael Caines at the Bristol Marriott Royal, Bristol followed in July 2003.
In 2003, a chance meeting with Andrew Brownsword resulted in a dynamic partnership and the purchase of the Royal Clarence in October of that year. Michael and Andrew’s shared vision for ABode and Michael Caines Restaurants is ambitious, exciting and far-reaching.
Says Andrew, “Michael is so enthusiastic and inspirational. We share the same values in food, hotel, and life in general. The creation of ABode gives us a wonderful opportunity to create a modern lifestyle group of individual boutique hotels that can cater for our customers’ needs in all ways, from fine food and wine, to the most modern comfort and hospitality, to a good pint of local cask-conditioned ale.”
Even with all the ongoing activities and developments, Michael continues to cook regularly at Gideigh Park and alongside his head chefs in Exeter, Bristol, Glasgow and elsewhere. Says Michael, "Cooking is my passion. I love it and I can never see not being in the kitchens."
Whether dining at Gidleigh Park, Exeter, Bristol, or Glasgow, enjoying an informal meal in the MC Café Bar, or a pint and a traditional pie in the Well House Tavern (the first MC tavern), a glass of MC champagne in the Champagne and Cocktail bars in Exeter and Bristol, or a takeway duck wrap from the MC Boutique, Michael believes passionately that good food – and yes great food – should be accessible to all, at whatever level.
Michael, who currently lives in mid-Devon, roughly between Gidleigh Park and Exeter, with his partner Ruth and their small son Joseph. is an active supporter of a number of local and regional initiatives such as the Exeter Festival of South West Food and Drink.
He is furthermore involved in a number of community activities and initiatives. As Patron of Families for Children, a Devon adoption charity, he is able to bring to bear his own experiences of being adopted into a loving family. Says Michael, "I intend to use my profile to raise awareness of adoption and the changes it makes to your life.”