Restaurant Ynyshir is located in the far wild west of the UK, in west Wales, to be more precise. Some say in the middle of nowhere, while Gareth Ward, the chef patron, corrects them saying that they are actually at the end of nowhere. Being so far away from the big cities (London is four hours away while from Liverpool and Birmingham it is a three hours journey) and pretty expensive (£350 per head only for food) one could think that it must be easy to get a table there. Well, this is not the case. Ynyshir is booked many months in advance and when cancellation happens, even if it’s in the middle of the week, the available table becomes unavailable within minutes.
Ynyshir is a crazy place with a great vibe and even better food. This ingredient-led, flavour driven, fat fuelled, protein obsessed restaurant serves a 30 courses menu that starts with a welcome soup at arrival (which should be planned for 3 pm) when guests get the keys to their rooms or tipis and then continues with amuse bouche at 5.30 pm. The hours spent at the restaurant are filled with fun dining (instead of fine dining) but they do it with the finest ingredients that can be found. For many years was the British food community expecting Ynyishir to get the so long deserved second Michelin star. This year it finally happened. To celebrate it, meet the five main players of the team.
Gareth Ward, Chef Patron
Gareth Ward is the Chef Patron of Ynyshir. Ynyshir’s heart and soul. The good giant with heart of gold and a laugh that would wake up even the dead. He, his wonderful partner Amelia and their toddler Karl live at Ynyshir and bring the family feeling also into the team. What did Gareth say about the two stars?
“I am hugely proud of Ynyshir and what we have achieved so far. But in my opinion, we have only just scratched the surface for what we can do and I believe there is still so much more to achieve! Watch this space 🙂 “
Gareth is super proud of his team, so meet the guys!
Lewis, Head Chef
“I am now 22 and am working at Ynyshir for 4 Years now. Started as a commis, moved to CDP, Junior Sous, Sous then Head chef under Gareth. Also worked at the two Michelin starred The Raby Hunt, and several pubs and restaurants in the northeast. Staged at Delibrije, Henne Kirkby Kro and The Black Swan. As soon as I could drive I started at the Raby Hunt and was taught by James Close for just under 2 years then came to Ynyshir for a meal and never left. I now run the kitchen alongside Gareth and Corrin.
The most important things in my world are food and then my family and girlfriend, they mean everything to me and push me to be better every day. Making them proud is what makes me want to be the best. When my dad passed away it pushed me even harder to get as far as I can. He always knew we would get 2 stars and I’m just sad he wasn’t here to see us getting them. He was close with the whole team here and knew us all by name, I’m glad he got to experience Ynyshir before he passed. My mum, sister and grandparents are my world, they ring me every weekend and tell me how proud they are and constantly remind me of how far I’ve come and to keep pushing. I think my grandad, although he would never admit it, actually cried when I told him we had finally got two stars. Also, my girlfriend, Becca, has been massive support since we got together and always puts me and my career first.
I’ve always loved food ever since being a child, I used to do lots of cooking and baking with my grandma and I have great memories of being sat in Whitby in the pissing rain under a bus shelter eating crabs from the shell with my grandad. Ever since I was 16 I’ve been eating all over the world and visiting as many restaurants as I could afford, my most recent travels for food have been Japan, Denmark and Belgium.
I don’t have many secret talents although I do like to throw a few dance moves in service, in lockdown I found out I’m pretty good at DIY, I renovated a small van into a camper, made my whole family random pieces of furniture from old pallets and learnt the gift of drinking 10 Guinness in a small amount of time and still being able to beat the whole team at pool, don’t know if they’ll admit to this. It’s a sour point.
I have a lot of hobbies, not many I would consider unusual however I did take up paddleboarding last year at my home in the North and had lots of fun doing that. I would really like to get into doing some steelwork with our blacksmith, Lee Jones, he is a close friend of mine now and I’m going to make an effort this year to spend more time with him.
Something I don’t like to admit, but when I was a young lad I was actually quite talented at ballroom dancing. My mum wanted me to be like Phil Spencer one day but I got bored of this idea quite quickly, I really enjoy music and have good musical knowledge down to my dad being obsessed with it, I have lots of tattoos and want loads more and I also really love bears. They’re my favourite animal and I have no clue why.
For me, this is my entire life, food and hospitality is in my heart and soul every day that I wake up, no matter where I am in the world I’m thinking about food. Working at Ynyshir has enabled me to work and live with people that think the same way I do and have the ability and passion to produce high-quality food with world-class ingredients at the highest standard. I’ve worked in many kitchens around the globe and this is the only one I feel every person is fully dedicated to their job and every single one of us aims for Ynyshir to be the next best restaurant in the world. Every chef in this kitchen inspires me to be better and I’m so proud of them all.”
What do the 2 stars mean to Lewis?
“Being awarded the second star was for me quite easily the proudest moment of my life. I’ve been a passionate chef from a very young age and I’ve missed out completely on my teenage life, I’ve missed out on lots at home as I have always been fully dedicated, but an award like this makes it all worth it. I have worked incredibly close with Gareth for the past 4 years and have been there alongside him every step of the way. It’s been hard and we’ve been through a lot but we have come out the other side as great friends, more like family actually and he has allowed me to show my personality throughout the restaurant too. I am incredibly grateful for everything Gareth and the team have helped me achieve and I will continue to push hard and make this restaurant even better. This award is everything to me.”
Corrin, Head Chef
“I am 31 and I have been a chef since I was 17. I met Gareth back in 2017 when I came to do a week with him after hearing from a friend in the industry “there’s a guy in the middle of nowhere in Wales making unbelievable food”. I had to come and see myself, and when I got here Gareth opened my eyes to a completely different way of thinking.
I took the job 6 months later and spent a year and a half working at Ynyshir with Gareth, Nathan (SY23) and Zak (Casamia) until I decided to go back to London for some time.
Gareth and I always stayed in contact and in 2020 he reached out and offered me the head chef position, so I came back and over the last two years working alongside Gareth and Lewis I feel we have made some incredible changes and steps forward and I feel now we are finally seeing the rewards for our endless passion and hard work.
I’m completely in love with the produce we get through the door, there aren’t many places in the world that get such amazing produce on a daily basis as we do. And to work with that in an environment where creativity and passion are always respected and encouraged is amazing.
It’s rare to work in a team with zero arrogance and with people who are so dedicated and passionate. We truly have an incredible team and everyone is like family here
In my free time, I’ve always been massively into football and recently I have joined a local team. Hopefully if our plans to change to a Tuesday-Friday working week work out, then ill actually get to play some matches 🙂 I just need to get Gareth and Lewis to sign up because I feel together we are unbeatable and hopefully, that would transfer to the football pitch.”
What about the second Michelin star?
“Unthinkable, on one hand, I’m completely blown away by what we have achieved but on the flip side, I knew from the moment I ate the food Gareth produces that this is the best food I’ve tasted and I’m still surprised every week by how much we improve constantly. The fact we are the 1st two Michelin starred restaurant in Wales is a huge achievement. Gareth deserves this so much and I’m humbled to have been part of it <3”
Charlie, Sous Chef
“I am happy to support Gareth, Lewis and Corrin in the running of the kitchen. I’m incredibly proud to be part of this team. I’m very much into nature and the outdoors which is what attracted me to Ynyshir, obviously apart from the amazing food. To extend from that I am into fishing on rivers and lakes in my free time, but only when the sun is shining usually. 🙂 I’m also massively into music, I’m quite sporadic with what I listen to, however. To finalise, this area of Wales is my favourite place to be and it is home to me now. In my eyes, Ynyshir is a family, not just a fantastic team but a top-class family. I love every minute of it. The produce is second to none and I’m incredibly proud to say I work here. It’s a recipe for success.”
And what does Charlie say about the second star?
“What an achievement! I think Gareth and Amelia have deserved it since I first saw what they do here. Every single meal I have eaten after Ynyshir does not cut the mustard – at Ynyshir the flavours are just mind-blowing The rate we move forward is impeccable. The pushing never stops. I’m very excited to see what else the future brings here at Ynyshir. Much love <3”
Rory, Drinks Director
“My position at Ynyshir is Drinks Director, something I’m very proud to have achieved.
There are many reasons why I love Ynyshir. The pursuit of creative progression pushes both myself and my colleagues to be the best we can possibly be; it is organic in our combined passion and dedication. Gareth trusts me in what I do and for that, I will always be grateful. To work in an environment where you are encouraged to be the best, not hindered, has allowed me to develop as a person but also a sommelier. Lastly, the produce. I know of very few restaurants that work with such pedigree of ingredients. Working closely with these and choosing wines accordingly has been a huge pleasure.
Outside of restaurant life, my hobbies include music, foraging, skating and cooking; though not to the standard at work! I find music as a form of escapism and rarely spend time without something playing. My two loves are folk and Hip hop, quite polarised, I know. I rollerbladed for years when I was younger and took it back up over the lockdown periods. It’s a great way to exercise and have fun at the same time. I am a keen forager when the seasons permit it. We are completely blessed by the range and quantity of ingredients that are available on our doorstep. West Wales really is a gem of a place to live.”
And about the second Michelin star?
“Even saying two stars is still yet to stick in. It is easily one of the proudest moments of my life. To achieve this alongside friends has been amazing. To be the first two-star in Wales is a piece of history and Gareth, rightly, deserves this accolade. Knowing how hard Gareth, Amelia, my colleagues and myself worked towards this is extremely rewarding. I will remember that day for the rest of my life.”
Do you want to see the reaction of the team when they received their second star? Have a look at my Instagram post here. And let me reveal you something – Corrin has one more secret talent he doesn’t like to admit. Check it here.