Patrons of Exeter College

In acknowledgement of the exceptional achievements of alumni and other distinguished friends of the College and to allow the organisation to benefit from the accumulated knowledge and experience of those designated, Exeter College invites exceptional individuals to become members of the prestigious Patrons of the College. Membership of the Patrons of the College is the highest honour that the College can bestow on its alumni and friends.

Michael Caines MBE

Michael Caines is one of Britain’s most acclaimed chefs. At Gidleigh Park, where he was at the helm for 21 years, he earned and held two Michelin stars serving distinctive modern European cuisine utilising the finest local and regional produce and ingredients. Amongst numerous other accolades, Michael has cooked in 10 Downing Street for the Prime Minister, was awarded AA Chef’s Chef of the Year in 2007, and received an MBE in 2006 for services to the hospitality industry. He now helms Lympstone Manor, his own country house hotel, restaurant and vineyard in a Grade II listed Georgian mansion overlooking the Exe estuary.

Michael was born in Exeter in 1969 and adopted into a large and loving family. He gained his passion for food from his mother who he used to enjoy helping in the kitchen. He attended Exeter Catering College where his precocious talent was already evident, earning him the accolade ‘Student of the Year’ in 1987. He subsequently spent a year and a half at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane in London, before embarking on three influential years under his mentor Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire. From here he moved to France for a further formative period of training, honing his profession under the guidance of such superstars chefs as the late Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu and Joël Robuchon in Paris.

Michael Caines First Patron of Exeter College
Michael Caines – First Patron of Exeter College

Michael returned to Britain in 1994 to take up the position of Head Chef at Gidleigh Park. Gidleigh’s restaurant was already rated amongst the most prestigious in the country so the position represented a massive challenge and opportunity for a young and ambitious chef. Yet, only two months into the job, Michael suffered a terrible car accident in which he lost his right arm.

Remarkably, he was back in the kitchen part time within two weeks, and full-time after just four. With the support of then owners Paul and Kay Henderson and an unwavering belief in his own ability to overcome obstacles, he returned to the kitchens of Gidleigh Park more focused and determined than ever to pursue his dream of reaching the top of his profession.

Michael’s 21 year tenure at the helm of the Gidleigh Park kitchens came to the end in January 2016. Michael currently oversees Michael Caines restaurants in North Devon (The Coach House by Michael Caines at Kentisbury Grange); Palé Hall, north Wales; and Abu Dhabi (Pearls by Michael Caines). He is also a partner and ambassador for Williams Racing, overseeing the catering at Formula One races throughout the world. Lympstone Manor is the realisation of Michael’s dream location for country house hospitality in the 21st century.

Sir Steve Smith

Sir Steve Smith is a renowned academic and higher education leader, having served as Vice Chancellor at the University of Exeter for 18 years and overseeing the development of the University to Russell Group status.  

Sir Steve is a graduate of the University of Southampton and holds a BSc in Politics and International Studies, an MSc in International Studies and a PhD in International Relations.  

During his career in academia, Sir Steve has written or edited 17 books, published well over 100 academic papers and given over 170 academic presentations in 22 countries.  

Vice Chancellor of University of Exeter, Sir Steve Smith. (Jim Wileman)

Internationally respected in his field and higher education circles, Sir Steve became only the second UK academic to be elected President of the International Studies Association in the USA when he took post in 2001.  

Sir Steve was appointed at the University of Exeter in October 2002 and began to shape the future shape of education in the region. He has overseen the University’s development to an institution that is consistently recognised as one of the top in the country. He also served as President of Universities UK from 2009-2011 and was Chair of the UCAS Board from 2013-2019. 

From June 2007 until May 2010, he led for higher education on the Prime Minister’s National Council of Excellence in Education, which provided advice to Government about strategy and measures to achieve world-class education performance for all children and young people. 

Sir Steve’s burgeoning list of honours was topped off when, in 2011, he was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to higher education locally and nationally.  

A passionate supporter of Exeter College, Sir Steve has collaborated with the College on a range of initiatives and the two institutions have worked together to provide an exceptional education experience in Exeter.