Oliver Stephens returned to Priory Bay last autumn as Head Chef and was joined by his childhood friend, James Trevaskis, who took up the role of Restaurant Manager and Sommelier. James and Oliver were brought up in Bembridge and St Helens and started their careers at Priory Bay.
Now they have established a network of local suppliers and base their menus on whatever is in season and at its best. Oliver said: “Much of our fish comes from the bay and our crab and lobster straight from Bembridge. We get fresh herbs from the garden and wild herbs from the orchard and beach.”
Oliver’s first school was Nettlestone Primary. He met James playing football in Bembridge; it was a start of a lifelong friendship which developed through Forelands Middle School and Sandown High. James was best man at Oliver’s wedding to his charming French wife, Caroline. They now have a 10 month old son, Louis.
Oliver first worked at Priory Bay at the age of 16 and soon established himself as a potential star when he took over the role of head chef at the Beach Bar. After the summer he returned to the main kitchen and asked for a chance to go to the one Michelin starred Roussillon restaurant in London. His hard work and commitment led to opportunities to go to Paris where he worked under Jean-François Piège, at the 2-Michelin Star Les Ambassadeurs in the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris.
On his days off he worked and made friends in many of the more casual bistros to gain an understanding of more rustic regional food. Oliver wanted to broaden his experience and after a trial at Noma, Copenhagen, he was asked to work with René Redzepi for two years.
“My childhood memories of finding food in the hedgerows and catching shrimps and crabs on the beach got right into my DNA. I have worked in some of the top restaurants and I have learned a lot from amazing people, but I realised that some of the best produce I had worked with was on the Isle of Wight. It is such an inspiring place for me and it’s just incredible how much beautiful produce is available on our doorstep” said Oliver.
James went to university to study BSc Business & Marketing. Each holiday he came back to work at the Priory Bay to feed increasing interest in food and fine wine. James went to study under Sommelier Roberto Della Pietra and was hooked on food and wine matching. He became Head Sommelier at Gauthier Soho.
He has returned to Priory Bay to develop his passion for interesting wines and fine food. He particularly enjoys seeking out wines from small producers making unique wines, using a combination of biodynamic techniques and traditional grape varieties.
“Sunshine and rosé by the sea is something to be cherished. We think it is something everyone should share. Just come in, relax, enjoy the food and wine and leave feeling spoilt and happy” says James.
James and Oliver are creating a special experience using the very best local and seasonal ingredients. The Priory Oyster and its terrace enable them to cook fantastic local ingredients on a simple barbecue.