What led you to becoming a chef?
My gran was a great cook, so I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her. She really got me hooked.
How and where did you gain your experience?
My first job was at a pub near where my mum lives down in Kent, and whilst I was there, the Head Chef gave me a copy of the Anton Mosimann book. It showed me there are no real limits to what you can do in the kitchen. I ended up going on to work at Le Gavroche in London and The Star Inn in Harome, both of which have Michelin stars, before going on to become the Head Chef at The Box Tree in Ilkley, where I retained their star too.
You opened HOME with Liz Cottam. What led to you opening a restaurant together?
I was Head Chef at The Box Tree and Liz had just finished as a semi-finalist on MasterChef. She was doing stages in different kitchens, but wanted to get a proper feel for hospitality. We started chatting over a burger and beer and discovered that we actually liked a lot of the same things. We both had a very clear idea of what we felt a restaurant should be – it all grew from there and we opened HOME around eight months later.
Where did the concept for HOME come from?
It was a combination of ideas. Liz used to do supper clubs and lots of dinner parties. She’d invite people into her home and just loved the feeling it gave both her guests and herself. I don’t particularly like the stuffy atmosphere of some restaurants, usually when they feel intimidating then they’re not a very comfortable place to be. At HOME we believe the more comfortable our guests are, the more they will relax and enjoy the experience, even though we’re serving a fine-dining style of food.
Tell us your favourite dish to make on the menu at HOME at the moment?
Parsnips, cooked in aged lamb fat, with olives, walnut and sheep’s curd.
The Owl is a new challenge. Why did you choose Kirkgate Market as the home for your new pub?
Liz has such a passion for Leeds’ Kirkgate Market, and it’s infectious. She’s really on a mission to show everyone how good it is. She showed me around, into all the nooks that no-one else sees. When we opened The Owl we designed a food offering to suit both the market and the people of Leeds. It also just happens to be the market’s first ever pub.
What sets The Owl apart from other pubs in the area?
Our team. We try to nurture everyone involved in the business, so that they feel like they’re part of a family. We want The Owl to be a place where they come and grow. That results in an experience that feels authentic for our customers – they can really tell when people care about what they are doing.
What kind of dishes can we expect to see on the menu at The Owl?
There is a lot of fish and game, but generally you’ll find warming dishes that are a little more refined.
Are there any plans for the future of The Owl?
We’re converting our upstairs into a private dining area.
What is the proudest moment of you career so far?
Retaining the Michelin star at The Box Tree, and opening HOME, our first restaurant.
Favourite ingredient to cook with?
Venison. It has a great flavour, but it’s also very adaptable.
It’s got to be a cheese board.