At 16 Jake Watkins worked for Jean-Christophe Novelli at a long defunct restaurant in Southampton, his home town. By 20 he had his first job as head chef and since then (he is 42) has acquired the skills and experience to make him one of the most competent and exciting chefs in the country. Cooking at Holne Chase, a country house hotel on the edge of Dartmoor, earned him recognition in the guidebooks at the end of the 1990s, but his cooking developed its own identity when he opened JSW, a 22-seat restaurant, in Petersfield in 2000. A Michelin star followed in 2002 and he moved to his present restaurant, a larger converted inn, around the corner in 2006. He is one of the few Michelin starred chefs in Hampshire, a considerable achievement.
Jake achieved a highly fought over place on BBC 2's Great British Menu, Matthew Fort, Guardian Food editor and one of the programme's judges and Elizabeth Carter, Good Food Guide editor dining at the restaurant to sample his menu.
He is keen to share his expertise with local catering students and has cooked alongside Heston Blumenthal (Fat Duck), John Williams (The Ritz) and David Nicholls (Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park) at a Charity Fundraising Dinner at South Downs College, Havant and champions students, taking on trainees at the restaurant.
When time permits Jake continues to do the rounds of Europe's famous restaurants as well as those in Britain to gain knowledge and inspiration to further his many ideas. He has stayed true, he believes, to the kind of food that he does best and allows it to change naturally: "I think you've got to make food taste nice and then when evolution happens it just happens." Helen, my elder sister, who had a Michelin red M at her Bishops Stortford restaurant in Hertfordshire has been a big influence on my life from an early age,' he adds.
When not at the stoves, Jake is an avid fisherman. He also believes in Petersfield's and areas' communal spirit and won the Petersfield Society President's Award for the sympathetic conversion of the 17th century building which houses the restaurant with rooms.