Largely self-taught, Mr Hill is one of those eclectic British chefs whose cooking so confuses Michelin inspectors. When they demoted him from one-star status in 1990, it was generally assumed this was punishment for wilful use of such ingredients as ginger and coriander. In its 1993 edition, however, Michelin gave Mr Hill his star back, and recommended his sauteed scallops with lentil and coriander sauce.
But he is now behind schedule with his book about culinary techniques; and as a judge of this year's Glenfiddich awards for food writers he has a lot of reading to do. His longer-term plans are vague: he will help Paul Henderson, the proprietor of Gidleigh Park, to search for and install his successor, and he will then look for a country pub that he can call his own.
In the meantime, Londoners will have a chance to sample Mr Hill's food when he joins his protege, Martin Hadden, in the kitchen of the Halcyon Hotel on Holland Park Avenue: the pair will be cooking there for three days from 15 February.
THE UBIQUITOUS Shaun Hill will also be one of the judges of a competition to find the Young Organic Cook of the Year. Organised by the Henry Doubleday Research Association, which promotes environmentally-friendly growing techniques, its intention is to persuade the youth of the nation that oven-ready chips and micro-waved pizza do not constitute the ideal diet. There are two age groups, 8-12 and 13-16; entry forms and further information from Jackie Gear, HDRA, Ryton Organic Gardens, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Coventry CV8 3LG.
WANDERING around the London Contemporary Art Fair last weekend, the Gastropod was stopped in his tracks by a large portrait of Mercy Fenton, who last year became the first woman to win the title Young Chef of the Year. The artist, Cathy Fenwick, told the Gastropod that she noticed a photograph of Ms Fenton in the Independent on Sunday and was inspired by the expression on her face: 'She showed a slightly sweaty anxiety and a peculiar coyness, as if she wanted to be exultant but was wondering whether she should be.' If Ms Fenton would like to see herself in oils, the portrait is on display at the East West Gallery in Blenheim Crescent, west London.