Ross Lewis: A Biography
From Bishopstown in Co. Cork, in his early years Ross Lewis spent time on his uncle’s farm. His desire to be a chef is rooted in this early experience of the myriad connections between land and food. It helped that his mum once ran a very successful café on her family’s dairy farm.
Certainly his youthful experiences were enough to inspire him to study Dairy Science in University College Cork. However, the idea of cooking for a living came to him only while working on a student visa in the United States, and after that came a move to London to learn the trade of a chef. From there, through a schoolmate he found a job at the restaurant Odin’s, owned by Peter Langan. Next came a position as junior manager at Dolphin Brasserie and, later, as chef at Le Chat Botté Restaurant at the Beau Rivage Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland.
Lewis, then 24, returned to Ireland in 1990 and for three years worked as Head Chef at the legendary Old Dublin restaurant. In 1993 he took the opportunity, with Martin Corbett (now retired), of setting up Chapter One in the space below the Irish Writers Museum – formerly the home of John Jameson, the whiskey maker – on Parnell Square, in what was then a rather gritty part of central Dublin. The restaurant started trading in 1993, and thanks to a relentless focus on customer care and a commitment to creating dishes that reflect the best of Irish food and producers, it has enjoyed a loyal following ever since.
El Bullí, Ferran Adrià’s iconic restaurant in Spain, further inspired Lewis to refine his cooking. As well as holding a Michelin star since 2007, Chapter One has won countless awards including the Restaurant Association of Ireland’s award for Best Restaurant in Ireland eight times, the most recent being for 2017.
Lewis has been a member of Eurotoques since 1992 and served three years (2001–04) as Commissioner General. He has also been a member of the Taste Council of Ireland since its inception October 2003. In 2011, he was the head chef for the only State Banquet to be held during Queen Elizabeth II’s State Visit to Ireland. He is a passionate advocate of Irish food and food producers, and in 2015 published the book Chapter One: An Irish Food Story (Gill Books).
It is Lewis’s quest to reflect Ireland’s landscape, craftspeople and artists in everything he does at Chapter One, not just in the food, but in the art, design and crafts he commissions, including the ongoing Project Art, showcasing work by young Irish artists. He is also a firm supporter of the Food on the Edge conference, which since 2015 has been bringing together leading chefs and food producers from all over the world to explore the future of food.
Chapter One has won many awards and accolades, as has its chef/proprietor, including the Mike Butt lifetime achievement award in 2018, a leadership award from Chef Network Ireland in 2019 and, also in 2019, an Alumni Achievement Award from University College Cork.
Lewis lives in Blackrock, Co. Dublin with his wife Jessica and their three children.