Paul Heathcote MBE

Presented by Professor Frank Sanderson

Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Paul Heathcote for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.  

Paul Heathcote, the celebrated entrepreneur, chef, restaurateur, food consultant, author and regular TV pundit, has done more to raise culinary standards in the north-west of England than any other person. 

He learned his trade under some of the best chefs in the UK and took a big risk in opening his first restaurant in 1990. 

The risk paid off and now he has growing numbers of restaurants and catering contracts across the north-west. Not surprisingly he spends little time in the kitchen these days.  

Paul was born in Farnworth, Bolton in 1960 to Ken and Brenda Heathcote. Ken and Brenda are here today, along with Paul's wife Gabby, their children Georgia and Sam, and not forgetting Sue, who describes herself as "the infamous mother-in-law". 

One member of the family not here today is grandfather Joe Heathcote, now 94 year's old, who has been a great inspiration to Paul throughout his life.   

Joe was a professional boxer in the 1930s, fighting championship matches in between shifts down the pit. He has taught Paul the value of persevering in the face of adversity and not letting the negatives get in the way.

Paul started cooking at home in his early teens and enjoyed it so much that after leaving Turton High School, he attended Bolton Technical College where he obtained catering qualifications. 

His early career included spells in Switzerland, the Sharrow Bay Hotel, Ullswater, The Connaught in Mayfair, and Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons in Oxfordshire under Raymond Blanc. His career thereafter is an against-the-odds success story.  

At the age of 29 he sold his house and took out a large overdraft to open his restaurant Heathcotes in Longridge, Preston, just at the start of a major recession - and in an area which had been described as a gastronomic desert. Thanks to a positive review in The Guardian which prompted full bookings for 3 months, the business survived and within two years he had been awarded his first Michelin and Egon Ronay stars, with Heathcotes being named as The Good Food Guide's 'Restaurant of the Year'. 

At this time, the Charles Heidsieck Champagne Guide voted Heathcotes 'one of the best restaurants in the world', and Paul was also nominated 'Newcomer of the Year' in the Catey Awards.    

In 1994 he was nominated Chef of the Year by the Egon Ronay Guide and Michelin awarded him a second star, and he's still the only chef in the North West to achieve this accolade. His second Catey Award followed in 1997 when he was voted Independent Restaurateur of the Year. 

In 1995 Paul opened the first Simply Heathcotes in Preston which was soon named Brasserie of the Year by both Lancashire Life and The Independent, and featured in the Michelin Red Guide. Three more Simply Heathcotes were launched, including one in Liverpool. There are now 13 restaurants across the north-west, including an Italian Pizzeria -themed collection, The Olive Press, which has proved very popular in Liverpool and elsewhere.

In 1997, Paul diversified into training for chefs, establishing The Paul Heathcote School of Excellence in partnership with South Trafford College in Manchester. In partnership with Gary Bates, Paul created the sports and events catering operation, Heathcotes Outside in 1997. 

Since then, they have secured contracts at several major sporting venues, including Liverpool FC, and Chester and Aintree racecourses. They provide corporate hospitality at Liverpool's Summer Pops and many other prestigious events, and have recently secured the much sought-after catering contract for the new Liverpool Arena.   

He has been readily embraced by the media, attracted by his remarkable success and dynamic personality. There have been frequent TV appearances, a regular spot on Sky's Food Channel, features in OK Magazine and Hello!, and weekly columns for The Liverpool Post, Manchester Evening News and Lancashire Evening Post.  

Paul has also written two best-selling books focusing on traditional Lancastrian recipes. The media profile has also triggered other kinds of accolades, such as 'One of the Top Entrepreneurs in the North West', and the very keenly contested title of Best Dressed Man in Liverpool. And apparently he's also quite handy at cricket with bat and ball, known to many as "The Freddie Flintoff of the cookery world".  

He also uses his celebrity status in support of a number of childrens' charities, including the NSPCC and Childline. Paul Heathcote carries the flag for the North-West as the pre-eminent champion of regional cuisine. His business success has been sustained by his flair, high culinary standards and his ability to manage change: with well over a thousand staff, he recognises the importance of training, leadership, communication, teamwork and rewarding success - interestingly, all this without an HR department… 

His affection for Liverpool has been backed by investment in restaurants and in a number of city-based catering franchises. He once described Liverpool as "a bloody good soufflee", by which he meant that Liverpool is rising to the top. We can say the same about Paul Heathcote, a man of many talents, who is a most worthy recipient of an honour today.  

Thus I have pleasure in presenting Paul Heathcote, this most distinguished son of our region, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.