He has only just marked his 20th birthday but Luke Thomas already has not one but three restaurants to his name.
And there are plans to open more, with America, Abu Dhabi and Chester all in his sights.
His latest eaterie is Luke’s Broadway, in the Cotswold town of the same name.
Specialising in homespun British dishes with a difference, including the traditional Sunday lunch, business is booming.
The bistro forms part of the historic Lygon Arms hotel, which dates back to the 16th century.
His other eateries are Luke’s Dining Room in Cookham, and celebrity haunt Retrofeast, at Mayfair’s famous Embassy Club.
And he’s worked with everyone from Heston Blumenthal to Gary Rhodes since his school days.
“When I was three I had a red table, and we drew rings on the top to make it look like a stove,” Luke recalls. “I had a set of old saucepans so I went out and pulled vegetables out of the garden, put in a pan of salted water and left it on my stove for an hour.
“Then served them, completely raw, to my dad,” he explains.
“With guidance from my gran I was cooking by myself at the age of five. I was 12 when I went to work in the local butcher’s shop in Connahs Quay, and I managed to get work experience at a local hotel.
“When that ended the chef said: ‘Give me a call whenever you want to come back’. I rang the next day, and just carried on going, working in the kitchen in between doing my schoolwork. In the end they gave me a job.
“When I reached 14, though, the chef took me to one side and said: ‘I don’t want you to think we’re pushing you out of the door but you need to move on to realise your potential’. I realised from an early age that I wanted to be a chef.
“The day I left school I was offered a job and that was really difficult. I didn’t want to have a job. Doing the same thing in the same place every day for years would kill my passion for food.”
Instead, he spent 18 months on a road trip, learning the food business.
“I worked with everyone from Gordon Ramsay to the guy who creates ready-meals for Waitrose, working behind bars and in restaurants,” he recalls.
“During that time I met Mark Fuller, who owns Sanctum On The Green. He asked me what I could do to change the place – at first I thought he wanted me to decorate the walls – then offered me my own restaurant.”
“When I opened Luke’s Dining Room, I have to admit that my unique selling point was that I was just 18 years old,” he says.
“People were surprised when I opened the first, amazed when I opened the second, and the third, well...
“I had chefs aged 25 and 30 in the kitchen and I was years young than them – but you find people who buy into it.
“It’s like if you’re a footballer. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 28. If you have a position on that pitch, do something for that team then you’re doing something worthwhile. If you have something that will fill a restaurant, then you’re doing something right.”
His heroes, he says, are Jamie Oliver for his all-round brand genius and Heston Blumenthal for his favour combinations.
So what does he cook at home?
“I don’t,” he admits. “I manage the odd Pot Noodle. And I have a thing for Coco-Pops. My mum’s too scared to cook for me!
“She makes good home food but she’s not the greatest. I learned cooking at my grandmother’s knee from the age of three.
“Besides, I prefer to eat out when I can because I’m always learning from what I see and taste.”
His latest menu includes a mouth-watering grandmother’s trifle, inspired by those early days.
“But it’s not the way gran made it,” he grins. “It’s tweaked. I don’t used tinned fruit and Rowntrees Jelly. There’s no Ambrosia either.
“And my rice pudding and jam isn’t one of hers either.
“My version is cooked like a risotto, with orange essence and crushed vanilla, port and cointreau – and then more vanilla.
“It’s home cooking but done to a very high standard. British cooking with a difference.”
Signature dishes at Luke’s Broadway include pan-roasted scallops with mussel curry and mango, potato dumplings, mushroom and sun blush tomato ragu, and beef slowly cooked in a water bath for 13 hours.
Next up at Luke’s Broadway will be live music nights, starting with a Halloween- themed evening. But Luke won’t be trick or treating.
“I’m not a massive dark chocolate fan,” he says. “I’ve got this theory that the best chocolate in the world is Cadbury’s Dairy Milk by far.
“You know when people spend about £20 on a bar of dark chocolate from the supermarket, they say it’s nice just because they feel they have to, because it was so expensive. But you notice, they never finish it!
“They take a few chunks and say they’ll finish the rest tomorrow and never do. But actually they all much prefer Dairy Milk and I certainly do, or a Twirl or a Crunchie, they’re the best chocolate bars!”
* For more information visit www.lukesbroadway.com