Meet Award-Winning Chef Bobby Geetha who Brings International Flavours to Fléur Restaurant in Leeds
Living North catch up with globetrotting, award-winning chef Bobby Geetha, who shares how his travels and childhood inspire the dishes at his Leeds restaurant Fléur
After entering chef competitions, Bobby was picked up by luxury Indian hotel company Taj Hotels who trained him in the kitchen, and he spent two years with the hotel group before deciding to move to the UK in 2009. He worked in fine-dining restaurants within Sofitel London St James and London Hilton on Park Lane, before taking a role at the legendary Michelin-star restaurant, Noma. ‘I had trained in all the European cuisines and I wanted to go back to my heritage so took an opportunity to move to Dubai where I did three years, as well as travelling around the Middle East working across 21 restaurants,’ Bobby says.
After globetrotting for many years and developing his skills across a number of fine-dining Michelin-starred restaurants, during the pandemic Bobby decided to move back to the UK, specifically Leeds, to set up his own restaurant. ‘The concept of Fléur is based around my travels across the world and I bring that cuisine back, incorporating those flavours with Yorkshire or local English produce,’ he explains. Offering exceptional contemporary cuisine infused with international flavours, head chef and culinary director Bobby adds a twist to the classics. ‘You’ll see a roast brunch which is like an English breakfast with roast barbecue brisket, hash browns and baked beans served in a giant Yorkshire pudding,’ he explains. However, Fléur is perhaps best known for its signature French toast made with a large chunk of brioche, pan-fried with cream and eggs, coated in cornflakes and served with berry compote, strawberries, maple syrup and rose gold dust.
‘We also have something called Kerala salmon. Kerala is where I was born so that heritage is incorporated [on the menu] and the salmon is served with a chickpea and onion tomato sauce – it’s one of our top dishes,’ Bobby explains. ‘Each and every dish has a story as to why it is on the menu, and what kind of flavour we use. I’m from a coastal area [of Kerala] and there is a big fishing harbour just five minutes from my home, so we used to get really good fish and we’d even have it for breakfast,’ he says.
Now owner of his own restaurant and a chef consultant, Bobby draws on his childhood memories as well as his travels when he’s in the kitchen. ‘I’m a creative person and I don’t like repeating things. One of the best things about being a chef is when you can produce something new out of nothing. With fish you can make a pie, you can make a stew and so many other dishes – it’s like a drawing, it’s just a canvas and a pencil but what you can create is an abundance of amazing things. I treat cooking in the same way,’ he says.
Bobby’s creative and experimental flair has led him to write five cookbooks, the most recent being Fine Dining Indian at Home. ‘My recent cookbook happened during lockdown and I used the ingredients I had around me. I started [writing my cookbooks] when I was experimenting in the kitchen and my head chef at the time told me I couldn’t use ingredients to create new things because I was wasting food, so I decided to go home and do it [in my own kitchen], picturing the recipes and documenting them on a blog. That blog then became a book and I went onto Amazon and self-published the books,’ Bobby explains.
His creativity also shone through when he took part in MasterChef: The Professionals in 2016 where he reached the quarter-finals of the competition, as well as during his time on Great British Menu where he represented the North East and Yorkshire. ‘I believe I cook better when I’m under pressure and when I was working I didn’t get much opportunity to experiment. Now that’s different and I have the freedom to create because it’s my own business. During MasterChef I was making dishes up on the same day as the programme and I could get any [ingredients] I wanted. It’s about marrying up your culture or creating a story. For me the food and the dishes are the stories you tell.’
Bobby is now planning a new project in Harrogate. ‘You’ve always got to be pushing and we want to have a restaurant where the produce is from in and around Yorkshire, but the flavours are Indian and the techniques are European,’ he says. ‘We want to use local scallops, local spring lamb and Yorkshire beef, but the flavours will be Indian and everything will be served in small tapas-style plates. It’s going to be a very limited menu, maybe 15 dishes all together, but every dish will be unique.’
An ingredient you can’t live without?
Salt because it balances all the flavours. Without salt I don’t feel you can enjoy anything.
Your favourite dish to eat?
Always a biryani. Like a risotto, it’s a complete meal where you don’t need anything extra.
Always Indian first but then Spanish, Italian and Japanese. When I travel I always look for the local speciality and what is unique to that place. In Leeds, I tend to try new places, particularly anywhere which cooks with natural fire or wood-fired ovens.
What’s the best thing about Yorkshire?
The natural countryside, it’s beautiful.