Words: Dan Thrippleton
My first head chef Sue Pender sat me down at 18 years old and asked where do you want to be in your career in a few years’ time? I just shrugged, I had no idea or money. Maybe a senior CDP position, hell knows! And she said stop buying tattoo magazines and start studying, write down every recipe you make, make it your own, never copy. I went on to open countless legendary restaurants and I’ve never followed a trend in my life, just followed my creativity, passion, and the love of food that feels right. Punk is how you do it, not how you use it!!
Which is what my attitude and integrity towards this industry has been for over my 30 years. The first thing I ever cooked, at 7 years old, was whitebait. My mum asked what I’d like to cook, gave me a book to choose from, and we went to the market to buy the products and followed the recipe. That was it. The first and last recipe I ever followed. Since then I’ve researched then made it my own.
As I keep cooking and getting older, my focus and taste constantly changes, and my style and execution of food develops when I learn, which I believe is the excitement of food. The food I’ve been creating for the last 10 years is to be eaten at any time and to be shared; a little bit of this with that. Maybe a more European approach you might say, but this has always intrigued me. By going here for them oysters we will then go there for that steak tartare; travel to eat! Which is definitely a distortion from when I was 18 years old in ’92 at Arts Café’s a la carte structure: Starter. Main. Dessert.
So many enthusiastic young chefs are coming up now without going through the ranks. Many are expecting recognition straight away, with new skills and equipment – and they’re good; respect! But you have to learn the simple basics of your art and know your history before putting it in a new piece of cooking time machinery. This does bring exciting new flavour and texture combinations but working on the frontline day in day out gives you more knowledge than anything you’ll ever read.
Discipline and organisation may not appear very punk, but it follows the ethos of getting out there and doing it. It’ll be gruelling and horrible some days, then one dish will make you feel like you’re the best in the world; proud because it’s how you execute it, personally, in real life, to a paying customer. Keep on cooking.
We’re spoilt for the high quality of ingredients more than ever in Yorkshire, but with true tradition, just like San Francisco for tattoos in the 90/00s. Yorkshire is the centre of this universe to me, born and bred. Now in autumn here you’ll find blackberries, greengages, gooseberries, mulberries all growing on every tree and hedgerow to be picked for classic pies or winter conserves. Mixed beans, French beans, broad runners and fresh peas, all amazing in raw salads or cooked along with lettuce. Cucumbers for a blitzed cashew nut salad with fresh dill and togarashi pepper. My favourite beetroot boiled, whipped, smoked, roasted. As back up, pulling out the pickles and preserves we collected from the past winter months.
For fish and meat, it’s great for crab, lamb, duckling, wild rabbit, venison, and pork cooked in milk. Harewood has exquisite produce on the whole estate, from gin, which is available at Latitude Wine, to meat, from the best chef in Leeds Josh Whitehead, who is pushing boundaries whilst keeping tradition, which I admire and respect.
The suppliers too are doing things their own way: Leeds Kirkgate Market is finally going in the right direction, with permanent food stalls like Owt, Tarbutt’s fish, and legendary JP Johnston’s butchers. Nell’s micro greens offers the freshest cuts of herbs and leaf; and Cryer and Stott produce award winning cheese at the Yorkshire Show and at world competitions, including their Duke of Wellington blue, eaten by the Queen. God save the Queen, huh!
There are loads of local places I’m excited about and eat at: Stuzzi, The Reliance, Noodle House, Doner Shack, Zucco, Ox Club, Arts Cafe, Diamond Dogs, and Soul Shack if you can catch em. Laynes for great coffee and a shackshuka. Bake My Day are doing amazing innovative and old school love well to stand apart from the herd. And Manjit’s have a permanent site in Kirkstall, which is the one to watch hotspot!
Pubs are back in full effect too… The Brunswick, Kirkstall Brewery, The Moorcock and The Beehive are doing simple food unbelievably well, with care and love, without the formalities. That is my childhood, and that is why I keep on cooking.