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Matt Gillan

Matt Gillan

Leaving in 2005 for a long-planned trip to Australia, Matt spent a year travelling the country, during which time he spent a painful couple of weeks vegetable picking. This experience instilled in him a real respect for the patience, dexterity and hard labour involved in producing fresh foodstuffs. Returning from Australia in 2006, he started working at South Lodge Hotel in Sussex, where he remained for the next ten years. In 2008 he moved from the hotel’s Camelia restaurant into a purpose-built extension to head up The Pass – a twenty-two-cover restaurant with eleven chef’s tables, each inside the kitchen, eating the chef’s tasting menus. The chefs delivered the food to the tables, on hand to explain the thinking and inspiration behind every technique and ingredient. In 2011 Matt received his first Michelin star, as well as 4 AA rosettes and 7/10 in the Good Food Guide, the latter describing his offerings as 'small plates of phenomenally dynamic food … What arrives is inventive, clever and full of flavour.' The dishes at The Pass changed very regularly, but his duck breast salad with burnt coconut, pineapple and cashews or steamed duck leg with glazed carrots, lemon and turnip show his style at the time well.

When pushed to describe his style of food, Matt reluctantly sums it up as 'progressively British', but with the caveat that 'we do take influences from everywhere'. He elaborates: 'To me it’s whatever excites me really. I like something a bit unusual to feature in a dish, a new ingredient that I, or a lot of people, haven’t seen before.' His dishes are neither traditionally French nor British; instead, they couple the styles of multiple food cultures with both classical technique and modern technology, taking the best various countries have to offer and presenting them in a new way.

In April 2016, Matt left The Pass and spent a couple of years working on his own projects, including the Pike & Pine restaurant in Brighton and his own Electro Pirate brand. In late 2018, he stumbled upon an old pub – The Chequers Inn – not far from Horsham where he made his name. He took to Kickstarter to raise £60,000 required to turn the pub into a restaurant to call his own and raised the funds in just six days, finishing with a grand total of £89,000. Six months and a lot of hard graft later, Matt opened Heritage in Slaugham – a beautiful restaurant with rooms, a bar and lounge, and gorgeous views of verdant Sussex countryside.

Three things you need to know

Aside from being a talented chef, Matt has also written a children's book called 'The Herder'.

Matt is hugely passionate about goat meat – he grew up eating it, and has pioneered its use in Michelin-starred kitchens.

Matt has appeared on two seasons of Great British Menu to date, reaching the final banquet in his second appearance with, you guessed it, a goat dish.