CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Face to face with Devon’s grumpiest chefs: John Burton and Chris Sherville

PUBLISHED: 15:53 17 October 2016 | UPDATED: 15:53 17 October 2016

John Burton Race and Chris Sherville launch The Grumpy Chefs catering business

John Burton Race and Chris Sherville launch The Grumpy Chefs catering business

Matt Austin

Catherine Courtenay braves coffee and croissants with Devon’s most bad tempered chefs

When John Burton Race announces a new venture called Two Grumpy Chefs, there may be an inkling of what’s in store. After all, he has his fair share of reasons to be grumpy; from scandal and divorce (he came home from starring on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! to discover his wife Kim, who was furious to discover he had a child with his then mistress Suzi Ward, had shut their Michelin-stared New Angel restaurant in Dartmouth), to subsequent bankruptcy.

He’s also not afraid to speak his mind, which is why restaurateurs would be forgiven for running for the hills when he visits. “Do they get worried when you pitch up?” I ask, having heard about a particularly disastrous ‘black potato’ experience at a local pub. “Yes, they do a bit.” He has a look in his eye. “I always tell them,” he says, adding that the pub roast was “unbelievably appalling”.

“It’s so unnecessary!” interjects an exasperated fellow Grumpy Chef, Chris Sherville. “It’s really not that difficult,” he says, explaining that potatoes should go in at 20-minute intervals for a busy Sunday roast. “There’s something about the way they’re storing potatoes these days,” he adds. “If they’re black they’ve been stored too cold, the supplier is not looking after them properly.”

“Do you see why they’re the grumpy chefs?” says Suzi, who has briefly joined us for coffee and pastries at the kitchen table.

I’m at John’s South Devon home near Strete, and he’s telling me about the private dining company he’s set up with Chris, a personal chef, who lives near Totnes. John’s career is well documented, achieving a string of one and two Michelin stars at the restaurants he’s worked in. Chris, on the other hand, is a bit of a surprise discovery. A former London buyer for Gianni Versace, he has 20 years’ experience in the luxury hospitality industry, with clients that include American Vogue and Virgin. He can conjure a dining event out of nowhere - if needs must; he’s even been known to have pop up kitchens built in the passageways of stately homes.

John Burton Race and Chris Sherville launch The Grumpy Chefs catering businessJohn Burton Race and Chris Sherville launch The Grumpy Chefs catering business

With their wives being best friends - their two 11-year-old sons grew up together - it was when John was asked to cater for a party on Dartmoor that the two chefs came together. In true no nonsense fashion, the event came up and John told Chris he was doing it. “I didn’t give anyone an option,” he grins.

From private dinners for a few guests, to weddings, sporting events and launch parties, there’s no end to where Two Grumpy Chefs can go and what they can cater for. They’ll perfectly match wines to their food, or people can supply their own drinks. Likewise with the waiting staff, whether it’s guests’ children stepping in to do service duties, or highly trained silver service waiters, they can provide - and Chris can even source a butler if needs be.

The culinary magnitude of what Two Grumpy Chefs is about only really hits when John starts explaining how it works.

“We go into someone’s kitchen, sit down with them and the first thing we’ll do is open all your cupboards…”

John Burton Race investigating my kitchen cupboards! I’m incredulous at the thought.

John Burton Race and Chris Sherville launch The Grumpy Chefs catering businessJohn Burton Race and Chris Sherville launch The Grumpy Chefs catering business

But this is exactly what happens and once John and Chris have seen the layout and checked equipment, they’ll present a plan of what they can do for you.

“We know straight away what sort of menu we can offer you. And if you say you want a ten-course tasting menu, I will say...‘No chance!’” beams John, before adding. “But we’ll say, instead of a sit down starter, why not have ten or 11 finger things to start the meal?”

It seems there’s a way around everything, but make no mistake, the Grumpy Chefs will tell it straight. On one job they had to ban guests from wandering through the kitchen. But, let’s face it, that is part of the charm, the addition of a certain feistiness to your dining adventure.

They seem to complement each other perfectly, each instinctively responding to what the other is doing in the kitchen, which may mean they don’t speak to one another for ten hours.

John Burton Race and Chris Sherville launch The Grumpy Chefs catering businessJohn Burton Race and Chris Sherville launch The Grumpy Chefs catering business

“Chris does the stuff I don’t want to do and have no intention of doing, and vice versa.”

“He just keeps shouting ‘SALMON!’ at me, is the response from Chris. “It may be I’m running around and making sure he doesn’t upset too many people.” Then he adds, seriously, “It’s always been me responsible for everything before, but now I’ve got someone to bat off, it’s a great thing for me.”

Likewise it seems John values the commitment of working with Chris. “It’s a responsibility,” he says. “Now I have to worry about money. If I don’t make money, then Chris doesn’t.”

There are more plans in the pipeline, including a potential restaurant, where the two will create “a great style of Devon cooking”. “The time will come when we will need a base,” says John. “A pub, a hotel or a restaurant with rooms - it will be inevitable one day. Not pretentious or high end, where Mr Middle Class can afford it.”

A Grumpy Chefs restaurant in Devon is a tantalising prospect, but in the meantime, the idea of hiring these two to cook for your event is excitement enough, and I’m inclined to agree with Suzi when she says, “You won’t need a magician or a juggler. I think they’ll be the entertainment, don’t you?”


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Food & Drink

Yesterday, 12:31

Kath Hope takes up the challenge to reduce her festive food miles and source her Christmas food and drink from within our bountiful county

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

SU CARROLL breaks bread with charismatic Devon restaurateur Edmond Davari as he embarks on a new venture

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

We hooked up with RACHAEL JOWITT, head roaster for leading South West coffee roastery, Voyager Coffee, to hear how the business is developing

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

From pale ale and real cider to craft beer, Devon is home to a number of real ale breweries and CAMRA award-winners, meaning a good pub is never far away – we pick 16 places to go in Devon to find the best pint

Read more
Friday, November 16, 2018

Devon Life’s readers and followers have been voting for their favourite food & drink stars and we can now reveal our winners who were honoured at our glamorous ceremony at Sandy Park on November 15

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Public Houses are a cornerstone of life here in Britain, dating back as far as the Roman invasion in 43 AD. Devon is no different and its humble establishments are steeped in history and nostalgia. We’ve taken a look at 11 of the county’s most historical pubs

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A traditional Christmas pudding recipe, served with clotted cream and a brandy Crème Anglaise with a dash of cognac

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

Whether you have strawberry or raspberry jam on your scones, or prefer Earl Grey to English breakfast tea, we’ve found 12 of the best tearooms that Devon has to offer

Read more
Monday, October 22, 2018

We’ve spoken to award-winning chef Michael Caines MBE to find out more about Lympstone Manor’s wine celebration evenings and when their new vineyard will produce its first bottle of wine

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Sunday lunch is an enduring British institution that’s incredibly important to get right. We’ve chosen 12 places in Devon that will guarantee sublime stuffing, mouth-watering meats and Yorkshire pudding perfection.

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

As the winter begins to close in, there’s nowhere better to take refuge than one of Devon’s many cosy pubs. Here are 9 you should look for when needing to escape the nippy British weather

Read more
Thursday, October 4, 2018

Check out Michael Caines’ column in the latest issue of Devon Life where you can read more about what this recipe will be perfect with

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We reveal the winner of Devon’s Tea Room / Coffee Shop of the Year. Sponsored by Radio Exe

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We reveal the winner of Devon’s Best Sunday Roast. Sponsored by

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search