The Reason Michael Caines Resists Food Trends

Michael Caines marches to the beat of his own drummer. At 53, the British chef has faced more adversity and achieved more success than many of us will ever attain. 

Born to a white British mother and a Black West Indian father, Michael was placed for adoption when he was just two weeks old (via Food and Travel). He has fond memories of being raised by his adopted family, including cooking alongside his mother. This experience inspired him to pursue a culinary career (via Michael Caines Collection). There was one thing missing, though. Raised by a white family in a predominantly white neighborhood, Caines found it challenging to connect to his Black heritage. 

At age 25 in 1994, Caines had just landed his dream job as head chef at Gidleigh Park Hotel, a 5-star country house in Devon (via the Daily Mail). Two months later, a horrific car accident cost him his right arm. In the moments after the accident, Caines almost gave up. Per the Daily Mail, Caines recalls two rescuers: One was a military doctor who saved him physically by stemming the bleeding and the other was a woman he named Geraldine. She wrapped him in a blanket and encouraged him to think about the good things in his life.

"She made me realize there was more to life than work — such as family and friends," Caines told Daily Mail in 2014. "At that point I decided that, at 25, I was too young to die."

From adversity comes inspiration

Caines was back at Gidleigh Park Hotel two weeks after the accident and he hasn't missed a beat since. In the almost 30 years since that fateful day on the M4, Caines has built an impressive career, earning myriad awards and accolades. He spent 21 years at Gidleigh Park Hotel before relocating to the Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter (via the Michael Caines Collection). Sadly, the historic hotel was destroyed by fire in 2016.

In 2017, Caines realized a lifelong dream when he opened Lympstone Manor, a 5-star, 21-room country house in Devon. Within six months of opening, Lympstone Manor earned a Michelin star (Caines' third, according to the Michael Caines Collection) — an honor it has retained year after year.

While preparing to open Lympstone Manor, Caines laid out his culinary philosophy in an interview with Food and Travel, revealing his penchant for using local sources and developing relationships with growers to shape his menus. Asked about food trends, Caines was adamant on his perspective. "Don't talk to me about trends," he said. "Half the restaurants want you to think you're in Scandinavia and are trying to be Noma, making you sit on some uncomfortable deer hide on a minimalist table. That's not very English."

Instead, he said that it's a chef's responsibility to tuck away ego and focus on nurturing guests. "The chef can't see himself as the main reason people go out to eat; he is the conduit to a good night."