Norwich: Meet the couple who are the backbone of Benedicts

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Published:
7:15 a.m. September 7, 2022



Foodies in town have probably heard of Richard and Katja Bainbridge running Benedicts, but another couple have also been instrumental in its success.

The award-winning restaurant in St Benedicts Street opened in June 2015 – the same year Mr Bainbridge won BBC2’s Great British Menu.

From the gourmet restaurant’s humble beginnings, 27-year-old Ashley Williamson has been its right-hand man, rising from sous chef to head chef.


The Benedict’s chef, Ashley Williamson
– Credit: Sonya Duncan

Meanwhile, 31-year-old Luara Santos started there in January 2016 and rose from courier to restaurant manager.

The couple are Benedict’s dream team in more ways than one, as they are also a couple.

Mr Williamson said: “I remember she came in for a trial and my jaw hit the ground.


Luara Santos who is the manager of Benedicts restaurant.

Luara Santos who is the manager of Benedicts restaurant.
– Credit: Sonya Duncan

“It’s fun to work with your partner, especially in this industry with long hours, and we feel like a powerhouse together.”

Both met Mr Bainbridge when they worked as teenagers at Morston Hall, where he was the head chef under Galton Blackiston.

Mr Williamson started as a kitchen clerk and Miss Santos as a pot washer, but they worked there at different times.


Benedicts Chef Ashley Williamson and her partner Luara Santos who is Benedicts Restaurant Manag

Benedicts head chef, Ashley Williamson, and her partner Luara Santos, Benedicts restaurant manager.
– Credit: Sonya Duncan

When Mr Bainbridge announced he was opening Benedicts, Mr Williamson jumped at the chance to join him.

Mr Williamson said: “At 14 I got a part-time job at The Carpenters Arms in Wighton where I lived and really enjoyed the atmosphere.

“Then one day one of the chefs fell ill and they handed over the reins of the evening to me and it went from there.”


The Benedict's chef, Ashley Williamson

The Benedict’s chef, Ashley Williamson
– Credit: Sonya Duncan

He then went to the Wiveton Bell aged 16, before heading to Morston Hall aged 17.

He added: “We worked from scratch to bring Benedicts to where it is today with a newly renovated restaurant.”

Miss Santos, who was born in Brazil and moved to Holt aged 10, also peaked at Benedicts.


Benedicts Chef Ashley Williamson and her partner Luara Santos who is Benedicts Restaurant Manag

Benedicts head chef, Ashley Williamson, and her partner Luara Santos, Benedicts restaurant manager.
– Credit: Sonya Duncan

She said: “I love it here and I had a lot of life skills to learn which the front of the house gave me.

“I was promoted to supervisor and then manager in 2020 because Richard and Katja believed in me – it was an incredible challenge.”

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