Chef to Watch: Laura Kimber, Head Chef, Salt

Alex South

Alex South


Moving from strength to strength, head chef of Michelin-starred Salt, Laura Kimber is a rising culinary talent, who is quickly establishing herself as a force to be reckoned with, producing sensational dishes alongside chef owner, Paul Foster.

Laura started her hospitality journey at the age of 16, washing pots in a local pub, before falling in love with the job and deciding a kitchen career was what she wanted to.

After completing her A-Levels, Laura enrolled at Bournemouth and Poole college, where she undertook a two-year foundation degree in professional culinary arts, which included a placement abroad at a family-run restaurant in France’s Loire Valley.

Graduating from college, Laura started working at The Slaughters Country Inn, a two AA rosette hotel in Cheltenham, where she worked alongside Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines.

Describing her experience working with Michael, Laura said: "He's just an amazing chef and I did learn a lot off of him. We had to follow a lot of his recipes and specs that were based on like Gidleigh Park recipes, so we really understood it and understood his philosophy on food. I'm glad that was my introduction into the industry, just being at that high-end level."

After spending eight months in this position, Laura took up a position at the Chester ABode where she continued to develop her fine dining skills, before signing up to management training programme run by Sue Williams of Whatley Manor, where she worked across a number of four- and five-star hotels across the country.

Explaining the programme in more detail, Laura said: “I started on the reception at Chester Grosvenor, after that I did events at Calcot Manor, and then my third placement was my kitchen placement, which was at Mallory Court, and that's how I met Paul [Foster].”

Upon completing the 25 month-long programme, Laura joined Salt as a chef de partie in 2017 before moving up the ranks, becoming the restaurant’s head chef in 2021.


Laura’s impressive career history working across some of Britain’s most respected hotel kitchens, for some of the industry’s most respected chefs, makes it difficult to pinpoint a particular style of cooking, with the chef showcasing an extensive range of experience instead.

Explaining her style and what guests can expect from her cooking, Laura said: "I don't have a particular style myself. I still follow Paul's philosophy now and we're very much seasonal and ingredient-led. We would never over complicate anything, nothing on the dishes is overpowering, there's never too many elements, we celebrate the best quality ingredients that sit on the plate."

The start of 2023 for Laura has been largely based around her experiences foraging and her desire to learn and develop techniques such as fermentation, adding these skills to her already impressive repertoire of culinary attributes.

"I went down to Cornwall in September and met up with Bello Wild Food and they took us foraging for the day. It was just a great insight into how we all should be thinking about food and really using the stuff that is out there, food for free,” she said.



Since joining Salt, Laura’s presence at the restaurant has been instrumental in helping it develop and grow to the next level.

Located in the heart of Stratford upon Avon, Salt opened in March 2017, following the launch of a successful fundraiser by chef owner Paul Foster in 2016, and describes itself as a fine dining restaurant using the best produce in a relaxed atmosphere.

Open Wednesday to Saturday, Salt serves 24 covers a four or six-course tasting menu for lunch, and a seven-course tasting menu for dinner.

Joining both Paul and Laura in the kitchen is a team of four chefs, with a two front of house staff serving guests.

In 2018, the Staffordshire based restaurant was awarded a Michelin star, which it has retained for the last five years, as well as 3 three rosettes in the AA Food and Drink Guide.

Describing the transition of moving from luxury hotel restaurant environments, to a smaller more close-knit team, Laura explained she made the right decision.

"I really understood the ethos of this restaurant and I didn't find it hard. It's interesting, I like learning new things so it was nice to just come in and start a fresh in like a brand-new restaurant and develop it to the point where we've got it now,” she explained.



Looking ahead, Laura hinted she will be submitting applications to a number of professional cooking programmes with the aim of continuing to develop Salt further.

"We're just going to keep doing what we're doing at the moment, really focus on it and develop the menu a bit more. I'd like to achieve a few more accolades but without too much pressure, if that happens, it happens; if it doesn't, so be it,” she explained.

Discussing the importance of not getting sucked into cooking solely for awards, Laura said: “I've never had it in my mind that I want a Michelin star because I think then that reflects in your cooking, and I think your cooking needs to be really natural and organic and honest to yourself. I think if you start gunning for an accolade, and it doesn't happen, you're going to be more frustrated with yourself."



When asked what advice would she give to younger chefs breaking into the industry, Laura said: “I think there's a tendency in the industry to rush and to be promoted maybe a bit too quickly, which again I guess falls into staff shortages doesn't it. You need to find a place that you're happy in.

Discussing the importance of not rushing and finding the right kitchen, Laura added: “All kitchens are different, it doesn't mean that you'll get on in every single one, so you need to find somewhere that you're comfortable to be in, where you know you've got support; whether that be from your sous chef, junior sous, head chef, you need to find that sort of level.”

For young chefs looking to develop their skills and further their learning, Laura recommended putting down social media and picking up cookery books instead.

She advised: "I think there's a slight lacking in people reading cookery books, just pick up a book like forget about Instagram, as lovely as it is. If you just absorb and read books and learn from others then I don't think you can go wrong."



With the industry going through so much upheaval, one of the biggest problems the industry faces in Laura’s eyes is that a career in hospitality is still not recognised as a legitimate career in the UK.

"I think the staffing is the most heart-breaking thing for me in this industry at the moment and something needs to change and I think education in this country needs to change,” she explained.

Laura added: “I think that is the foundation of it all and until that changes the industry won't see a change. We will be seeing the effects of people walking out of the industry for the next 10/20 years unless the government really changes the education system, and encourages hospitality from the age of 15, 16, when you pick your options of what to go on to. I just think it's devastating that this industry isn't celebrated as a career in this country."

Images courtesy of Tom Humphries:

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Alex South

Alex South

Editor 6th April 2023

Chef to Watch: Laura Kimber, Head Chef, Salt