In 2010, chef Alex Rushmer had been finale runner-up on the BBC’s Masterchef series. A year later, he opened his own place, Hole in the Wall, in the village of Little Wilbraham. It grew into an award-winning restaurant that a food critic for the Independent claimed “satisfies four of my abiding loves—a proper English pub, Cambridgeshire, fantastic food, and real value for money.” According to the Sunday Times, it was among the UK’s top 100 restaurants. Life was good.
But a chef’s life is also notorious for its long hours and hectic pace. And Rushmer and his sous chef and comrade in arms, Lawrence Butler, knew they needed some time out. And after the 2017 closing of Hole in the Wall, and some serious R&R, the duo is now back with Cambridge restaurant Vanderlyle, which opened in spring 2019. It’s a 26-seat place whose five-course menu is completely based on what farmers and other producers bring in each day, and that is open four days a week in order for the staff to have a better balance between work and personal lives. And it’s named courtesy of a song by the band The National, which gave them their blessing to use it.
A writer as well as a chef, Rushmer had a blog called Just Cook It before he went into the world of restaurant kitchens, and he continues the tradition on Vanderlyle’s website, as well as writing for the Cambridge Edition.
Rushmer’s roots in Cambridge are more than those of the culinary sort. He graduated from the university, where he studied political science, and even briefly pursued a career in the field. But while working in a London cookware shop and talking food with people who loved it as much as he did, he realized that the kitchen, not the government, was where his heart lay.