Fergus Henderson was born in London in 1963. He attended King Alfred School and, as a son of two architects, went on to train to follow in their footsteps. It was during this period that he started cooking seriously. Whilst studying at the Architectural Association, he took a job at Smith’s Restaurant in Covent Garden and thus began his career as a chef. Following on, he worked occasional stints at The Globe in Notting Hill and eventually Fergus, along with his wife Margot, took over the dining room at The French House pub in Soho where they quickly earned a loyal following and critical praise.
Fergus was introduced to Trevor Gulliver over supper and, having found the abandoned smoke house on the edge of the city district, the pair opened St. JOHN in 1994. Critical acclaim for Fergus’s brand of simple cooking set in an architecturally pared-back setting followed and, in the years since it opened, St. JOHN has won a large number of awards and high rankings in national and international listings.
Fergus was awarded his first Michelin Star in 2009 for his restaurant St. JOHN in Smithfield. He is widely recognized as one of the most influential figures in the modern restaurant scene and received an MBE in 2005 for his services to gastronomy. In 2015, Fergus was given the Lifetime Achievement Award in the influential World’s 50 Best list. Fergus is also a published writer: Nose to Tail Eating – A Kind of British Cooking, first published in 1999 and re-published in both the UK and the US (as The Whole Beast) garnered much acclaim and won the Andre Simon award for food writing. A follow up book, Beyond Nose to Tail Eating was published in 2007 and The Complete Nose to Tail was launched in October 2012. In 2016, Fergus’ Nose to Tail Eating was voted ‘most influential cookbook of all time’ by public and industry peers. As well as running both St. JOHN Bar and Restaurant in Smithfield and St. JOHN Bread and Wine in Spitalfields, St JOHN has a Bakery supplying bread to St. JOHN restaurants, to other restaurants and fine food establishments across London. Fergus and Trevor also have a winery in the Minervois in France, from where they produce their own critically acclaimed Boulevard Napoleon wines, sold in the UK, Canada and the US.
Trevor Gulliver has been a leading restaurateur for many years, creating several award-winning wine bars, microbreweries, diners, the seminal fire station in Waterloo and of course St. JOHN with Fergus Henderson.
Before becoming a restaurateur, he had a successful t-shirt operation, printing band merchandise (it was he who was responsible for the eponymous Frankie Says Relax t-shirts).
At St. JOHN it is said that Trevor puts it in the glass and Fergus puts it on the plate – Trevor’s passion for wine lead to the creation of HG Wines, St. JOHN’s own wine company, founded out of a refusal to accept only those wines bought in by others. Just as St. JOHN goes direct to the producer for ingredients, so Trevor sorted to go direct to the vigneron.
Nowadays the wine department flourishes and enjoys being a “shop window” for wines that otherwise would never make it far, championing as ever the smaller and often happily mad producers. Trevor still finds time when not busy with St. JOHN to be an international food and wine judge, occasional commentator and a speaker at international food and wine festivals.
Photograph: Jason Lowe