In England, a Bermudian restaurateur is getting noticed
Jahdre Hayward didn’t grow up with much but he always had people who pushed him.
It’s how got from “the back of town” to Essex, where he and his wife Amanda opened Haywards in 2013.
In Epping, a village 17 miles outside London, England, Haywards’ “modern, European” dishes have earned it three Rosettes, a ranking given to only ten per cent of properties within Britain’s AA Restaurant Guide.
Trip Advisor puts Haywards at the top of 59 restaurants in the region; the Michelin Guide praises it as follows: “Appealing dishes follow the seasons and flavours are well-balanced. Service is extremely welcoming.”
“I think if I didn’t have certain people in my life to push me I wouldn’t be where I am now,” said Mr Hayward. “I grew up on The Glebe Road in Pembroke – St Monica’s Road, 42nd Street, I grew up around there.”
He was “quite young” when his mother passed away leaving his grandmother to raise him and his sister.
“We joined something called Big Brothers/Big Sisters. I was paired with a man called Jeff Conyers who is amazing. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him,” Mr Hayward said. “He gave me money to go to college in America, he gave me money to come over to the UK and his advice was just amazing. I’m still in contact with him to this day.”
Without that help he might have stayed in Florida where his options were limited to theme parks. Instead he completed his culinary training and nabbed a “massive opportunity” at The Savoy, a five-star hotel in London.
“It was an amazing place and it gave me the foundation of where to take my career forward. The kitchen had 80 to 90 chefs and I started out as second commis chef, on the lowest [rung]. It was quite hard and I was doing 80 hours a week but I was learning, which was the main thing.”
Mr Hayward made his way on a work permit and then a working holiday visa before he was able to take advantage of a new law allowing Bermudians to become British citizens, which “really changed my life”.
“I met Amanda back then and I think if I didn’t meet her I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said explaining how he had a job offer at Alain Ducasse’s three Michelin-star restaurant in Monaco but turned it down in order to travel with his then girlfriend to Australia in 2003.
“We went for a year, backpacking. We did Sydney, New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii, and then we ended up in America. We did the west coast to the east coast, travelling over 16 months.”
While in Australia he worked at the Sydney Opera House under “an amazing chef” who taught him in the traditional French way.
Back in the UK he progressed even further under another famous chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli. And then he learnt how Australia was desperately in need of “chefs, plumbers and teachers”.
In two years, he and his wife earned their permanent residency and made the move there in 2007.
“Again we did a bit of travelling. We went up to Queensland, did a bit of New South Wales. We’d already lived in Sydney so we decided to give Melbourne a try and absolutely loved it – all of the hospitality, the sports; the weather is similar to the UK and there were a lot of Europeans there.”
Although his wife was trained as a chef, in Australia she decided to move to the “front of house” and eventually became the manager of a “two hats” restaurant where she “learnt all about her wines” and other necessary skills.
And then they decided to return to the UK and open Haywards.
“The first year was quite hard,” Mr Hayward said. “We had to establish ourselves and we were doing fine dining and no one in the area was used to it.”
The chef describes himself as “very hands on”. Everything in the restaurant except the butter is made by his team of four.
“We make our ice cream, we make our bread. I do all the meat, I do the fish prep, I do all the bread. I do all the sauces but then I have a chef who will cook all the meat and I have a chef who will do all the pastry.”
Business has been up and down since opening. Mr Hayward’s appearances on television shows A Taste of Britain and Master Chef: The Professionals have helped draw people in.
In 2019 the restaurant was awarded its third rosette, which Mr Hayward attributes to the work of “the team behind me”, and then Covid-19 hit.
“It was Mother’s Day that week and we were quite busy,” he said. “I remember looking at the news – it was a Wednesday – when the Prime Minister said come Friday, all restaurants and pubs would be closed. We had 20 people booked for dinner. I remember going around giving people champagne and thanking them for coming in to eat. I remember being very afraid for my business because I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Haywards survived Britain’s months-long periods of social restrictions with a bit of out-of-the-box thinking: takeaway meals, special occasion food hampers and a pop-up van that sold coffee, cakes and other treats.
Mr Hayward’s dream is to have his restaurant awarded a Michelin star. Although recent months have been tough he wouldn’t trade the many opportunities that being a chef has given him.
“It’s taken me from a little country in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean all across the world,” he said. “I’m happy for that. Me and my wife are both Australian citizens. I would love to go back to Australia but because we have a young family we’re going to stay put. But I would love to do something in Bermuda. That would be amazing to come back and cook in a hotel for a night or two nights a week.”
For more information visit haywardsrestaurant.co.uk