AN award-winning chef is taking on the “biggest challenge of her career” by getting a hotel restaurant that has been closed for three months back up-and-running with an all-star service.

Southend chef, Jessica Sampson, has taken on the role of head chef at the Westcliff Hotel, in Westcliff Parade, and is eager to hit the ground running.

The chef previously featured on BBC Two’s Chefs Brigade in 2019, where she travelled around Europe cooking in different kitchens and living the life of a Michelin chef.

Echo: Open - The Westcliff HotelOpen - The Westcliff Hotel (Image: Jessica Sampson)

Jessica, 29, is aiming to reinvent the struggling restaurant with a fresh and modern menu, an emphasis on variety and quality, as well as nostalgic food that “captures what makes Southend special.”

The restaurant will be offering an extensive breakfast menu alongside classic ribeye steaks, fish and chips and quality seafood - freshly selected from markets based on Jessica’s experience.


Jessica said: “This is going to be the biggest challenge of my career.

“Where we have been closed for three months, people don’t know we are open and the restaurant has had a high turnover of chefs where people have left for new places, meaning there have been no new menus or variety.

“My grand plan is for a seasonal menu that changes every four to six weeks, I want people to tell me when it is not good, I want to know that Southend is happy when I change it.

“We have a great team, our pastry chef worked at the Garret Club in London for 13 years and I started cooking at the 1935 restaurant at the airport when I was 19, before taking part in Chefs Brigade and getting a taste of the Michelin life.

Echo: New Team - Manager Kim, pastry chef Liz and head chef JessicaNew Team - Manager Kim, pastry chef Liz and head chef Jessica (Image: Jessica Sampson)

“That was really inspiring, and I want to bring that excitement back to Southend. The only great places to eat here are massive hotels and I want to be able to offer that kind of food in a bistro space, to keep it affordable.”

Jessica has also stated her aim to lend the kitchen to up-and-coming chefs on Monday and Tuesday evenings for pop-up events, to help them make a name for themselves.

“We are going to offer the best version of what people want, that classic seaside dining culture made nicely and to capture the charm of what to many is so nostalgic about eating here,” she added.

“I have dreamed of opening a 30 person bistro and I am excited to finally progress that work.”