Heaven & Hell: Chris and Hayley Lee

Chris and Hayley Lee of The Bildeston Crown

Chris and Hayley Lee - Credit: The Bildeston Crown

Chris and Hayley are directors of C & H Hotels and proprietors of The Bildeston Crown. The couple recently took The Three Kings in Fornham All Saints under their expert wings. It opens later this month serving traditional pub favourites with a twist. Here they talk to Gina Long.

Q: What is your connection to East Anglia?

A: We arrived here in 2004 when James Buckle invited us to become head chef and manager at The Bildeston Crown. So we've now been here 17 years!

Q: What is your East Anglian Heaven ie what do you love most about East Anglia?

A: We love the variety of local produce, from fruit to game to meats and the range of artisan food suppliers.

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Q: What is your East Anglian Hell ie what you hate most about living here?

A: There is not much to hate. The lack of staff, especially chef talent, is both challenging and disappointing.

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Q: What’s your favourite East Anglian restaurant?

A: Our favourites are run by too many of our friends to mention.

Q: What’s your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?

A: Sitting in the late sun with a glass of something cool, bubbly and refreshing.

Q: What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

A: Ipswich Waterfront when the sun is shining, and we are surrounded by friends.

Nibbles of scampi and duck gyoza at The Bildeston Crown

Nibbles of scampi and duck gyoza at The Bildeston Crown - Credit: Mark Logan

Q: What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

A: The Suffolk Show which we now miss. Chris has much enjoyed being on the cookery stage showcasing local produce.

Q: What’s your specialist Mastermind subject?

A: Fine wines and fine food.

Q: What is always in your fridge?

A: Cheese, Budweiser and wine.

Q: What’s your simple philosophy of life?

A: Work very, very hard, play hard and be happy.

Q: What are your favourite films?

A: Chris’s is the Shawshank Redemption; Hayley’s Top Gun and we both enjoy Ratatouille.

Chris Lee's asparagus tart with truffle hollandaise

Chris Lee's asparagus tart with truffle hollandaise - Credit: Mark Logan

Q: What was your first job?

A: Chris's was pot washing and Hayley's waitressing

Q: What is your most treasured possession?

A: We are very proud of our three AA Rosettes

Q: Who do you admire most?

A: Each other.

Q: What is your biggest indulgence?

A: Food and drink with friends and a good lie-in on our days off.

Q: What do you like about yourself most?

A: Consistency and attention to detail

Q: What’s your worst character trait?

A: Chris’s OCD, (everything has to be lined up in the right place) and Hayley making no time for housework.

Q: Where is your favourite holiday destination? 

A: Greece for a quick break and any Caribbean island for a longer break.

Q: Best day of your life?

A: Being given the opportunity to run The Bildeston Crown as business owners.

Q: What’s your favourite breakfast?

A: For Chris it’s anything cooked by anybody else and Hayley loves Chris’s eggs royale.

Q: What’s your favourite tipple?

A: Chris enjoys a Budweiser and Hayley a glass of Tattinger Champagne.

Q: What’s your hidden talent?

A: Keeping it hidden.

Q: When were you most embarrassed?

A: Chris as a trainee chef disposing of the consommé instead of the used oil just before service began for a group of wedding guests. Chris remembers Hayley wolf-whistling at him in the early days, which led to the dropping of lots of glasses as she fell over.

Q: What’s your earliest memory?

A: For Chris it’s being dropped off at school by his mother and running back after her. For Hayley it’s putting a hair grip in a plug socket.

Chris and Hayley Lee with some of the team at The Bildeston Crown

Chris and Hayley Lee with some of the team at The Bildeston Crown - Credit: Mark Logan

Q: What song would you like played at your funeral?

A: Tragedy!

Q: Tell us something people don’t know about you?

A: Chris used to sell double glazing before he went into a career in hospitality. Hayley was a semi-professional golfer.

Q: What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

A: For Chris it was when he handed in his notice and was told by the head chef, “I’ll double your wages if you’ll stay.” A customer once wolf-whistling at Hayley for service!

Q: Tell us why you live here and nowhere else.

A: Bildeston is the centre of the universe.

The garden dining area at The Bildeston Crown

The garden dining area at The Bildeston Crown - Credit: Mark Logan

Q: What do you want to tell our readers about most?

A: After nearly 18 months of pandemic disruption, times have been tough for everyone in the hospitality sector. We have had amazing support and we would like to thank James Buckle, Babergh District Council and our takeaway customers without whom, life would have been a lot less happy.

If you have a story, email gina@hallfarmfornham.com or follow Twitter: @geewizzgee1 Instagram: @ginalong_geewizz

Visit thebildestoncrown.com to make a reservation.

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