Sven Hanson Britt - From Derbyshire farm to Masterchef the Professionals

Sven cooking in the countryside he finds so inspiring

Sven cooking in the countryside he finds so inspiring - Credit: Sven Hanson Britt

From Derbyshire farm to London fork, Masterchef the Professionals winner Sven Hanson Britt is putting British produce at the centre of attention, and shining a spotlight on Derbyshire in the process.

Striving for the best has always been a part of chef Sven Hanson Britt’s mantra.

From starting his career at the Ritz Hotel and travelling the world as a chef, to winning Masterchef the Professionals Best of the Best Series in 2019, it’s part of his DNA that he keeps on pushing the boundaries and aiming for the top. 

And striving for the best of the best doesn’t stop at career ambitions either, but it’s also something that has become a core part of Sven’s ethos when it comes to cooking.  

Last month saw him open the highly-anticipated Oxeye, an exclusive and unique six-table restaurant in London that celebrates artisan produce.  

If the food isn’t provided by some of the best suppliers in the British Isles, it will have been sown, picked, reared, fished or aged on the land and hedgerows in South Derbyshire.  

But where did it all start?  

Sven has a huge affinity to Derbyshire

Sven has a huge affinity to Derbyshire - Credit: Sven Hanson Britt

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‘I think Masterchef gave me the confidence to know I could go out on my own and that my own thing was good, and was something that people liked,’ says Sven, as he tells me about his journey from apprenticeship to award-winning chef.  

‘My own thing was celebrating the ingredients, the produce and the people who grow it, make it, rear it and produce it. I want to showcase the farmers, who are the real heroes.

'Masterchef gave me the boost to go out and grab my idea and the opportunity with both hands.’  

It was this ethos of celebrating the best of Britain that brought Sven to Derbyshire originally, where a friend of a friend helped him explore this idea of provenance and artisan production on a deeper level.  

‘It cemented to me that the principle of a farm to table restaurant was a good one,’ explains Sven.  

‘A place that would celebrate ingredients and where I could produce them myself, harvest ingredients when they are exactly right for a dish and help staff to understand exactly how the food they are using grows.’   

Then, six years ago, Sven met Tori and Ben Stanley, who own Park Farm, just outside of Kings Newton.  

Park Farm, near Melbourne, South Derbyshire

Park Farm, near Melbourne, South Derbyshire - Credit: Colin Dilcock

With their support and friendship, he worked with them on the farm through lambing seasons, calving seasons, and learned all about the ins and outs of growing and farming. 

‘It’s through them that I built up such a firm connection with Derbyshire and the provenance that surrounds it,’ explains Sven.

‘Really understanding what farms actually go through has made me into a better chef.’  

This, ultimately, gave him the pedals to really turn his idea for Oxeye into a reality.  

The finished concept was formulated in the fields of Park Farm and, as a result, the restaurant works week in, week out with the smallholding to produce food on British soil and serve it up in London.  

Sven wants to truly showcase the incredible bounty of produce found on the British Isles, and it's incredibly exciting that Derbyshire will be sitting right at its heart.  

Oxeye is now officially launched in Embassy Gardens, London, and is a full celebration of British produce, a lot of which has come from, or is inspired by, our wonderful county.   

‘I just thought we needed a better focus in UK restaurants where we celebrate the producers, farmers, the locality of amazing ingredients and tell the stories of these people and the hyper-seasonality of produce,’ Sven continues.  

British produce is the star of the show at Sven's Oxeye restaurant

British produce is the star of the show at Sven's Oxeye restaurant - Credit: LarryJ Photography

‘It took many years for the idea to become what it is today, though!’   

Amazingly, Sven and his team will travel up to the farm every week once the restaurant is fully up and running to help and understand the processes.  

‘It’s important for us to be able to tell the story in the restaurant,’ he smiles. ‘My dream is for a member of staff to put a plate down in front of a guest and say, ‘Eat that. It’s delicious. And I know why because I planted it, cooked it and put it on a plate for you today!’’.  

Sven has evidently got his hands dirty in Derbyshire and really thrown himself into learning about the ways of the countryside and food production on farms.  

The name Oxeye even came about from the Oxeye Daisies that were growing from the first seeds that Sven, Ben and Tori planted together on the farm when working to increase the biodiversity on the farmland.  

‘I don’t even know how to express my gratitude for Tori and Ben, the amazing farmers in that part of the county, and the people who have welcomed me so warmly and helped me to where I am today,’ he says.  

‘There’s this amazing agricultural family in Derbyshire where everyone works together to help each other. I feel enormously privileged to have been taught by them.’ 

Sven tells me how special he finds his time spent in the fields of Derbyshire, and beams as he talks of the inspiration he gets from the county.  

Park Farm combines fantastic local produce with a sense of community

Park Farm combines fantastic local produce with a sense of community - Credit: Colin Dilcock

It all feels very full circle, too, given that in his winning series of Masterchef Sven actually cooked in the fields of Park Farm.  

‘It’s a very different part of the world to what I was used to,’ he suggests.  

‘People are so generous with their time and there’s a real spirit of old-fashioned community where everyone helps everyone.

'It comes down to the simplest thing of walking down the street and getting a smile and a hello from someone you don’t know. My parents have even moved from Hampshire to North Derbyshire, now!’   

Clearly, community and a feeling of camaraderie and companionship is central to Sven’s ethos, and you can’t help wonder if some of this is born from his inspiration from time spent in the countryside.  

In an uncharacteristic move for the hospitality industry, and a brave and commendable statement so soon after launch, Sven is shutting up shop at Oxeye for a full two-week period over Christmas to allow his staff the chance to have a proper festive break and spend time with their loved ones.  

‘We’re not going to do a Christmas menu with turkey at Oxeye, but we will do a beautiful seasonal menu with winter-based ingredients from great producers,’ he explains.  

‘We have an amazing events space too, so we will do lots of events over the festive period.’  

It’s hard not to feel inspired by Sven, and there’s something incredibly infectious about his passion for British farming and provenance, for people and for cooking. However, I wonder what other dreams he has up his sleeve for the future.  

Oxeye, in London, is heavily influenced by Sven's love of Derbyshire

Oxeye, in London, is heavily influenced by Sven's love of Derbyshire - Credit: LarryJ Photography

‘In a wonderful world, myself, Tori and Ben will open a beautiful hotel in Derbyshire with livestock, beautiful fields and fruit trees, that would be a stunning small place to go and stay,’ smiles Sven.  

‘It would have an Oxeye and we would offer hospitality to people over the course of 48 hours, instead of just one dinner sitting.  

‘It’s a dream come true to work so closely with Tori, Ben and the farmers, so I’m looking forward to building on that and taking it all step by step.’  

Well, folks of Derbyshire, watch this space…