"I've worked incredibly hard, and it’s paid off"

Alex South

Alex South


The Staff Canteen spoke to Mae Dionio, Junior Sous Chef at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons about her blossoming career, her experience on winning competitions, and how she entered the hospitality industry.

Mae started her career studying professional cookery at Exeter college before she was entered into a competition that would later further her career and kickstart the beginning of her successful journey into the industry.

Describing where it all began, Mae explained: “I went to Exeter college to do professional cookery for two years. Whilst in college I entered Ray Kenny Bursary, which was the first competition I've ever done.”

Explaining the bursary in more detail and the opportunities that it provided her at an early stage in her career, Mae added: “Ray’s wife Isabelle had created the bursary as a legacy to her husband, who died of leukaemia in 2007. The competition gave me a chance to go to Lucknam Park for work experience for a week.”


Whilst working at Lucknam Park in Wiltshire, Mae met the hotel’s Michelin-starred chef Hywel Jones, Executive Chef of Restaurant Hywel Jones at Lucknam Park, which has retained one Michelin star since 2006.

After impressing Hywel, Mae was offered the opportunity to work at Lucknam Park full-time before she quickly developed her fine dining culinary, which would later open doors at Raymond Blanc’s critically acclaimed two Michelin starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

Describing her career progression, Mae said: “Hywel Jones gave me an opportunity to work with him full time which I took. I worked Lucknam for nearly five years starting out as a commis, working to CDP. I left Lucknam in 2020 and joined Le Manoir as a commis before working to a junior sous level.”

Despite working in the industry for a lot less time than many other chefs of her calibre, Mae’s CV boasts two of the finest restaurants in the country, environment’s where she has cut her teeth and built an incredible foundation as a truly talented chef.

Discussing her inspiration, Mae answered: “It would be Gary Jones and Raymond Blanc. They inspire me every day the way they teach the young ones to pass on the knowledge.”


In 2022, Mae was announced as the Craft Guild of Chefs' Young National Chef of the Year, where she fought off fierce competition and impressed the event’s panel of judges, which included Michelin starred chef Lisa Goodwin Allen.

Describing what winning the competition meant to her, Mae said: “Winning the Craft Guild of Chefs’ Young National Chef of the Year means everything to me. It feels incredible, it’s boosted up my confidence and hopefully I've inspired other young chefs.”

Mae’s winning menu consisted of a starter of Mayfield Hen’s egg with mushroom, lemongrass and ginger tea.

Her main course comprised of Confit salted Norwegian Cod with piquillo pepper, garden courgette, crispy salted cod and chorizo brandade, shellfish sauce, followed by a Apple tarte tatin with miso ice cream for dessert.

Commenting on her performance whilst citing one of her biggest influences, Mae added: “Gary Jones had a saying ‘what you put in is what you get out,’ and I've worked incredibly hard, and it’s paid off.”


As a chef who’s still very early into her career, Mae’s achievements represent a lifetime’s worth of work, with a bright promising future already in the making.

Looking to move from strength to strength whilst eager to help other chefs break through into hospitality and make a name for themselves, Mae shared her best advice for young chefs looking to make their mark in the industry.

Looking back at her own successes, Mae recommended: “Keep aiming high, keep doing what you're doing, be with the best, and do something that pushes your comfort zone to be better yourself. For me this was competitions.”

She added: “Put everything that you've got into it and enjoy it.”


Regardless of age and experience, everyone’s insight into how the industry operates, how it’s improved and what still needs to be worked, is a conversation that all chefs need to be having.

When asked about how the industry has changed and what more could be done to encourage young people to start a career in hospitality, Mae looked at the changes which have been brought into place Le Manoir since COVID

“Since lockdown I think everybody had to adjust. At Le Manoir at the moment, we're doing a 4-day working week which gives everybody a social life,” she explained.

Looking at how workplaces are focusing more time on improving conditions for staff, Mae added: “We've got training going on for different stuff. In the industry it is common to have problems with mental health, and therefore having a talk with the Burnt Chef Project helps. Having an Executive chef/ Senior Chefs or Kitchen Manager who is approachable is vital, so chefs feel like they can talk to somebody before it's a problem.”

Mae’s vision for her future is clear with the chef committed to sticking to her principles of working outside her comfort zone as continues to grow as a professional.

Discussing her plans, Mae revealed: “At the moment I'm just pushing on at Le Manoir and planning for my wedding happening in 2024. In the next couple of years hopefully I’ll still be at Le Manoir learning and pushing on.”


A post shared by Mae Dionio (@maedionio13)

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Alex South

Alex South

Editor 12th May 2023

"I've worked incredibly hard, and it’s paid off"