Top 50 Gastropubs

Jesse Dunford Wood

At some stage, chefs have to make a decision in life, whether they go for a creative, exciting kitchen career or a better-paid lifestyle job


Jesse Dunford Wood cooks food firmly based in Britain though, his experiences in cooking have international hints from previous experience with superstar chefs in Chicago with Charlie Trotter and in Sydney with Mark Best.

An apprenticeship with Michael Caines and time spent with British chefs Rowley Leigh and Mark Hix gave Jesse a key grounding in the Nation Dining Rooms at the National Gallery in 2006.

Together, with restauranteur Oliver Peyton, now a TV authority on Great British Menu, they won Best British restaurant from Time Out for original and interesting food.

In April 2010, Jesse relaunched the Mall Tavern In Notting Hill Gate which resulted in him winning the Rising Star Award from the Tatler Restaurant Award and was number 20 in the Top 50 Gastropubs.

Jesse opened Parlour in May 2013 which has featured in the Top 50 Gastropubs every year since opening.

Aside from pubs and restaurants, Jesse has appeared in Masterchef, Market Kitchen and The Truth About Food.

He has also been a regular contributor to a variety of cookbooks and magazines including the Forager handbook by Miles Irving.

Last year saw menu development work with British Airways and United Airlines for European and transatlantic business and first-class cabins.

Jesse published his first cook book this year, entitled Modern British Food, which highlights the fun style of British food available.

Recipes include the pub’s iconic Cow Pie, scrambled eggs and Gala Pie, alongside instructions on how to make the Parlour’s roast dinner.

Get to Know Jesse

What got you into cooking?

A need to literally survive and eat, I enjoyed the sharing aspect of it and thought it could be a brilliant career.  Creative, scientific, teamwork, community based - plus everyone loves to eat. Everyone!

Why did you choose the gastropub route?

Opportunity rather than strategy and more financially accessible but fell in love with the ‘serving everyone’ concept and the democracy of a pub. Bin men sitting next to bankers & families. Love it!

What do you enjoy most about your industry?

People who I work with every day and those we serve every day. Always changing, always the same. The creative process of menus and food and the balance of making sure all the bits fit- location, ambience, professionalism, food drink - and the ever-changing landscape we live in.

Where’s your favourite place to eat in the UK?

I love burger joints as much as a 3 Star restaurant. We must judge each on their merit and reach, but everyone tries hard to deliver whatever level they operate at. I really love Sushi with the family and fancy places for date night with my wife.

Who’s your biggest influence?

Rowley Leigh has been massive, taught me about cooking everyday food for people who come back and back. But all my ex-bosses have been huge influences, Charlie Trotter, Michael Caines, Mark Hix, Mark Best (in Oz) Oliver Peyton, they have all shaped me into who I am today.

What does being a Top 100 Gastropub mean to you?

Great recognition for me and the team, some customers really love the fact their local is one of the best! Proud at how we have been involved together for so many years.

What advice would you give to an aspiring chef?

Work hard - open your eyes, listen, and eat out. There are NO LIMITS. Choose your mentors carefully and chose them for particular reasons.

Best country for food?

Japan has a simple confidence and beauty we can all take from. Love classic French food too though!

Sweet or savoury?

I like balance / but I really LOVE a pudding!

What do you think the future holds for Gastropubs?

Really healthy, really exciting, happy that I have been an important part of it for nearly 15 years. There has been so much progress and development over these years.

Key dishes

  • Cow pie
  • smoked salmon, raw vegetable ravioli, blue cheese custard
  • Toasted marshmallow wagon wheel

Worked with

  • Michael Caines
  • Rowley Leigh
  • Mark Hix