An executive chef, who has cooked for the likes of the Queen, Robbie Williams, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen, has been appointed to oversee all of the restaurants and catering at The Vale Resort, south Wales, including Hensol Castle.
Justin Llewellyn, 42, rejoins the resort having previously held the post of head chef in 1999 for almost five years. Before returning, he was the executive chef at Park Plaza Cardiff for four years, and was also resort head chef at the Celtic Manor Resort between 2007 and 2012, encompassing the 2010 Ryder Cup.
When Mr Llewellyn left The Vale Resort, the 400-year-old castle was derelict. It has since undergone a £10 million refurbishment, reopening in 2015 as a first-class conference and wedding venue. As part of that redevelopment, a 120-cover, top-end restaurant is due to be launched in the next 18 months, which will be a major project for the Cardiff-born chef.
“This new restaurant is going to be really special,” said Mr Llewellyn, who has attended the AA Rosette Academy workshop, where chefs are tested on their culinary knowledge and ability to taste flavours. “We’re going to grow a lot of produce on the Hensol estate – our own vegetables and herbs – and we’ll be using local suppliers and small, artisan producers as much as possible.”
He will be overseeing the resort’s three restaurants: the Vale Grill, its signature restaurant, which has an AA rosette; La Cucina, where the menu is inspired by Italian cuisine; and the forthcoming Hensol castle restaurant.
“We are so lucky in Wales to have access to so many good Welsh producers; by working closely with all of them it ensures our guests can enjoy fantastic, seasonal Welsh food each time they visit,” he said.
With its world-class sports facilities, the four-star Vale Resort is the official team training venue for the Welsh Rugby Union, Cardiff Blues RFC and Cardiff City FC and regularly hosts major sporting teams. In May, the 2017 British and Irish Lions team will spend their first training week there. Having cooked for A-listers, from Madonna and Bruce Springsteen to the Queen, Mr Llewellyn is undaunted by the idea of cooking for them.
“I’ve catered for major sporting teams and events before, including the 2010 Ryder Cup, and really enjoy the challenge these occasions present,” said the chef, who first started cooking at his parents’ bed and breakfast as a teenager.
“I’m a Welsh chef, cooking Welsh food for one of Wales’ leading resorts. It doesn’t get much better than that. It’s hugely rewarding and I feel lucky to be paid to do what I love.”
Paul Beddoe, sales and marketing director at the Vale Resort, said: “We are delighted to welcome Justin back, now in the role of executive chef. We know how talented and hardworking he is, having made a huge impression on our team during his previous time with us. His return marks an exciting time for us and for dining at The Vale Resort. I have no doubt he will once again prove an essential and valued member of the team.”