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Chef’s Table chats to Luke French – Chef Patron of Jöro Restaurant, Sheffield.

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Luke French

There are shipping container restaurants and then there are Shipping Container restaurants, Jöro in Sheffield is the latter. The restaurant is situated inside Krynki, a revolutionary new space created to showcase the best and most exciting independent start-ups and businesses from Sheffield, where they can share space, skills and innovative ideas.

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Chef’s Table & Luke French – Chef Patron at Jöro Restaurant in Sheffield

“I started off working as a Kitchen Porter at The White Pheasant in Fordham near Cambridge when I was 14 and then I got really interested in what the chefs were doing. I wanted to have a crack at it so I went full time into the restaurant after my GCSE’s.

I stayed at the Pheasant for about 4 years before moving into Cambridge and working in the university kitchens and local hotels.

“I was very lucky to have a couple of great restaurants locally and spent time at both Alimentum and Midsummer House. Sadly, I didn’t last very long at Midsummer, I bottled it! I was young and I definitely wasn’t ready for it at that time. Looking back I gave up on it way too quickly! I left to do a stage at The Fat Duck and ended up carrying on working there before travelling and working in Asia.

“I was not away long when the opportunity to take on the Head Chef position back at the White Pheasant was offered to me, which I jumped at. It was a couple of years later I moved to Sheffield to join The Milestone Pub Group in which over the six years I worked for them I progressed to Executive Head Chef for the Group.

Towards the end of my time with them, I began a pop-up restaurant called Joro (which translates as ‘Earth’ in old Norse.) to test myself and test the waters of Sheffield to see if they were ready for it. I ran the pop up for around 9 months in which time it gave me space to think and hone in what I really wanted to cook and serve, the style of service, find and train a team, and get some hype for the idea of opening a restaurant.

In December of 2016, we opened restaurant Jöro

Q: Which Chef/s influenced you in the past? Who continues to influence you now?

First of all of the famous chefs was Gordon Ramsay, I remember reading his books and watching him on TV when I was a kid, just starting to realize I enjoyed cooking and didn’t really have a clue about any other chefs in the world, I admired him! He got me interested in the industry. My first head chef Stuart Trangmar was a big influence, he is a great chef and taught me a great deal. He has a great palate and taught me a lot about flavour and tasting food. Heston Blumenthal was a big inspiration to me when I really started to pay close attention to cooking and I was obsessed with the science behind it so naturally, he inspired me a lot.

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I then began to really enjoy naturalness and simplicity of using ingredients once I realized how complex cooking can be but doesn’t have to be – Rene Redzepi and many of the Nordics – based chefs Like Torsten Vildgaard, Matt Orlando, Esben Holmboe Bang to name a few were where I would look to for inspiration. The most present inspirational chefs to me are Gareth Ward from Ynyshir in Wales and Kristian Baumann of 108 in Copenhagen, I really love what these guys are doing in their restaurants. They inspire me a great deal. Of course, my team influence me on a daily basis, they all have similar ways of looking at things and ideas organically come together very well.

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Q: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

It would have to be a roast rib of well-aged beef on the bone, with all the proper trimmings.

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Q: Before you chose to be a chef did you have another career in mind?

I wanted to join the military when I was a kid like most young lads probably do! But I was cooking before I left school and it felt good, so I didn’t look back. It’s the best job in the world.

 

Q: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

Too many to mention! But at the top of the list at the moment is Ynyshir, Carters of Moseley and Casamia.

**Fortunately Chef, Ynyshir is featured on Favourite Tables so you can book directly when you’re ready…..

 

Q: Have you ever been presented with a dish/ingredient that you just could not eat and where was that?

I ate at the KOKS pop-up at Den Vandrette in Copenhagen, it was one of my most enjoyable dining experiences I’ve ever had, but there was one dish that I just couldn’t stomach. It was a little cracker with fermented lamb intestine fat shaved over it and it was just insanely strong in flavour, I just couldn’t eat it! I admired and understood the reason they serve it and its traditions, but I just couldn’t do it.

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Q: Which city or country is the most innovative in terms of food?

Personally, I think Either Denmark or Spain – the diversity and creativity coming out of them is insane.

 

Q: What is set to be the next ‘new’ ingredient? And which in particular interests you.

Well, It isn’t new, its thousands of years old but it is only now beginning to really hit a lot of chefs reach, and is gaining more attraction; it is Koji – grains that have been cooked and inoculated with Aspergillus Oryzae (a friendly bacteria). It’s the building blocks for soy sauce, miso, sake and so on.

We have been experimenting with it for over a year now at JÖRO, so early days! But it has completely changed the way we cook now and it is part of our cooking DNA. Incredible stuff. We began using it traditionally to make miso’s and following other recipes we’d researched, and then we took a different path with it and it is used in all sorts from bread to ice creams, brining and curing proteins etc. It is magical stuff.

 

Q: If you could change any misconceptions about restaurants/restaurant food, what would they be?

As a whole, the service we as an industry provide, and the food we deliver to guests is NOT expensive. The time, labour, thought and energy that goes into providing it all is worth far more than what we charge people for it. It really pisses me off when people think they are being hard done by in an honest restaurant providing high levels of food and service (all aspects of it) and I’m not just speaking about my own. We have such a high level of respect for the people that get our ingredients to us, whether it be a wine producer or farmer, and everyone in between. Sometimes this gets forgotten. People don’t think about what it has taken for them to receive it, from the welfare of an animal to sustainable fishing and farming etc to getting ingredients from them to training people to prepare and serve it, energy consumption, the people that take away the waste etc. It’s all relative, people must understand it more and I do think some restaurants give away too much, however, I do think that some milk it a bit too. It’s a tough topic.

 

Q: With the increased TV food programmes, is there a greater rivalry among chefs?

I don’t think so. Healthy competition! I think it has made us all more aware of each other, brought us together and in my opinion, it has made us talk more and help each other out. At the end of the day we always want to be the best at what we do, it’s natural, but I don’t think anyone should have a rivalry as such, surely this would stem from a personal problem between chefs and not what they’ve seen on TV… it’s more inspirational no?

 

Q: How important is a Michelin star? A chef in France, who has 3 Michelin stars, recently asked that they be removed because of the pressure – your thoughts

It is the highest accolade. It would make me very happy if we were ever awarded one, either where we are now or in years to come somewhere else. But first comes having a healthy, growing business, happy staff and happy guests, I think if these boxes are ticked and we get better at what we do every day then we can achieve it. But obviously, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to retain these kinds of accolades. I have seen what it takes to retain stars and it is pretty scary to think about if you were ever in the position where it was your reputation on the line…

 

Q: What do you think about negative reviews?

Some reviews take the biscuit, but the really bad ones are mostly just because some people do not understand or research into what it is we do and what we offer, or they have made it up! But everything is taken on board seriously and looked into.

All negatives lead to positives. It makes us work harder and focus more, failing is learning, learning is knowledge, knowledge is a big part of is what makes us better at what we do.

Everyone expects different levels of service, has different opinions and palates, and of course we can’t please everyone all of the time as much as I’d like us to, but so long as they don’t happen regularly and the business is not affected and what we do every service is the best we can, then I’m happy. You just have to take them on the chin and react proactively.

 

Q: You have said that although you love where the restaurant is right now the plan is to have a restaurant with adjacent access to land/farm (like Winteringham Fields) What influence do you see that having on the menus.

We would have better control over when and what we serve. Nature is my biggest inspiration of all so obviously being surrounded by open land would better our style of cooking better than a steel city, we’d have to travel less to forage, food miles would be less for some ingredients, to be more self-sustainable would be great, having to depend less on others. Ultimately it would just make me a happier chef so naturally I think it would benefit the menu, the happier we are the more creative we are and the better we cook.

Q: What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use foraged ingredients or produce from your most local supplier?

Wild Mallard with blackcurrant and cabbages. The mallards are shot 8 miles away on the Wortley Estate and brought to us the same day, sometimes still warm! The blackcurrants are from a mile away, picked by the team and preserved, the cabbages are grown half an hour away.

Q: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

Paul Cunnigham (Henne Kirkeby Kro), without a doubt! What a legend. It would be a good laugh with plenty of banter, and the look’s good too!

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My Favourite Tables – Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Restaurant (1): Fera at Claridges, London – always a solid meal with great service.

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Restaurant (2): Ashoka, Sheffield – banging curry.

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Head Chef at Adam’s Tom Shepherd talks to Chef’s Table

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Tom Shepherd Profile

Chef Tom Shepherd has a career that includes being Senior Sous Chef in 2 Michelin starred Latymer restaurant at Pennyhill Park Hotel and Head Development Chef at the eponymously name Restaurant Sat Bains, also a holder of 2 Michelin Stars. Tom has recently joined Adam’s in Birmingham which is owned and run by Adam & Natasha Stokes. Adam’s is a 50 cover restaurant in Birmingham city centre on Waterloo Street. Now it’s permanent location having spent almost 3 years as a ‘pop-up’ style restaurant. The restaurant premises has an impressive bar area, private dining room and a chef’s table that overlooks the kitchen.

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Chef Owner Adam Stokes, commented ‘we are really excited Tom is joining the restaurant and looking forward to progressing together, we feel his food ethos and management style will really suit the restaurant’

Tom’s culinary career had more humble beginnings in the Birmingham/Sutton Coldfield area and commented: ‘I am relishing coming to work at Adam’s and alongside Adam and the team to progress to the next level, also that I am returning to my hometown. I  feel that I am joining the best restaurant in Birmingham which has the perfect platform to achieve our targets’.  Could this suggest a second Star for Adam’s is one of this local lads dream targets?

  • How important is it now to be cooking in the town where you grew up?

A. I am delighted to be cooking in my home city, I always knew I would return at some point in my career and for this opportunity it had to be it. I am immensely excited and intrigued to see what the future holds with Adam’s.

  • If you could invite any chef past or present to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why?

A. Very simple, Gordon Ramsey. He genuinely was and still is a huge inspiration to me. For what he has done, continues to do for our industry also his own achievements are there for all to see. A true legend who I would one day love to meet and maybe even cook for!

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  • If you could change any misconceptions about restaurants what would they be? 

A. The main misconception about restaurants and food which I would like to change is that some people feel that Michelin star restaurants are posh and stuffy environments that only serve tiny portions of food and you pay a premium for this. This is so far from the truth and the modern interpretation of a Michelin starred restaurant, in actual fact, it is the polar opposite. Here at Adams and many of the top restaurants in the country, we offer an extremely relaxed and comfortable dining experience, that showcases the team’s ethos and skill set of food. Hopefully giving you a meal that surpasses your expectations.

  • If you were not a chef, what could you have been?

A. If I was not a chef I would have been either something to do with sports or racing. I love pretty much all sports from football to fishing and darts to golf. I equally enjoy all types of motor racing, Formula 1, Speedway and Moto GP, so I would definitely be involved in a competitive sport!

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  • With the increases TV food programmes, is there a greater rivalry amongst chefs? 

A. I feel the increase of TV has only strengthened and united the ‘rivalry’ among chefs. It is fantastic that our industry is getting so much coverage and is so popular. There are so many different avenues within this industry and it is great that so many of them are being noticed and prompted. It will only get stronger hopefully with more interest from the new generation of chefs coming through.

  • Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you have not had the opportunity to visit yet)

A. I would love to visit Alinea in Chicago, I have always held this restaurant in very high regard and the book was on another level when I bought it. The food seems so interesting and innovative and it is somewhere that visually excites me and therefore constantly on the top of my ’To go’ list.

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  • What is your favourite dish on the current menu in which you use produce from your most local supplier?
 

A. One of my favourite dishes on the menu at the moment is a Mushroom dish. We use beautiful Scottish foraged Girolles, make a rich roasted puree from the trimmings and it is finished with black truffle, local organic egg yolk, crispy skin also some homegrown micro tarragon. Delicious

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My Favourite Tables – Two restaurants I have visited and why?

  1.  Ynyshir restaurant and rooms – @GarethWard1  – @YnyshirRest

This one is simple, Gareth Ward is cooking the tastiest, flavour driven, locally sourced plates of food in the UK. I love him and Ynyshir. It is the complete package, it is all about flavour and the simplistic yet incredible depth of delivery of every course. I can not recommend it enough!

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  1. Henne Kirkeby Kro @coquus69 @paulfood @hennekro             Paul Cunningham at Henne delivered my best dining experience I have ever had, again local and very much flavour driven but using the best ingredients I have ever eaten. I was spoilt rotten and watched them cook it too. It was unorthodox and the most unique team I have ever seen, an institution in how every kitchen can be run. An amazing setting with amazing people serving and producing some absolute knockout food. The best yet.

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Crockers Chefs Table

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If you’re looking for a different kind of dining experience then ”this could be the place for you. The clue is in the name of the restaurant seating a maximum of 10 around the chef’s table so that you can watch the chef prepare the food right in front of you and also engage in conversation with the chef Scott Barnard & owner Luke Garnsworthy and also with the other guests. On this occasion, there was just the two of us but believe me that didn’t take away anything from a fantastic Tasting Menu Lunch where the food was amazing and matched with a great choice of wines. We started with a lovely selection of snacks before we tried the fantastic Tring Brewery Bread & Marmite Butter.

Then a nice refreshing Sardine & Tomato course this was followed by an Aerated Pea & Broad Bean Soup before a delightful Plaice course with a fricassee of Lobster & Cauliflower.  Then came the main a fantastic Rump of Lamb a Caesar Dressing & Baby Gem Lettuce. The next course was cheese but not what you think as it was a Lancashire Bomb cheese and homemade Piccalilli served on a cracker and it was amazing.

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Then followed a refreshing pre dessert before yes dessert itself a Chocolate & Tonia Bean Cremeaux, Kirsch parfait , poached cherries & almonds this brought to end a great lunch which I would highly recommend whether you’re a couple a small group plus the fact that the menu is changed every month which also makes it ideal if you decide to become a regular customer which I myself could quite easily become

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Autumn/Winter Newsletter for Restaurants

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Click Here for the latest Favourite Tables Newsletter

  1. The Roster of Great Restaurants Continues to Grow

  2. Now in their third year on Favourite Tables

  3. Chef’s Table a very popular Read

  4. Some great restaurants and gastropubs are “not on the high street”

  5. #FTbadboys a fun Twitter Photo Competition

  6. Coming soon FTbadboy Burgers and Sausage Rolls

 

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Favourite Tables at the Italian Embassy…again!!

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Imagine our excitement at being invited to the Italian Embassy again ( Chefs Table with Danilo)

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The occasion:  MasterChef The Professionals 2015 finalist and head chef at the Italian Embassy in London Danilo Cortellini would be launching his new cook book

 

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‘4 Grosvenor Square’, the first cook book from Danilo Cortellini is a celebration of his time at the Italian Embassy in London, featuring recipes that reflect the day-to-day life at the Embassy; from business lunches to grand gala dinners and family meals to drinks receptions.

The reception was attended by world famous chefs, television celebrities, food writers and critics who all welcomed the fresh approach Danilo has applied to his book. Chef’s family and friends where also on hand to lend support.

 

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The hardback book contains authentic Italian dishes using some of the finest produce available. Featured dishes include some of the Ambassadors personal favourites; multi-coloured burrata tortellini with Sicilian red prawns in a smoked artichoke broth; Veal Cheek “pizzaiola”, and a Pumpkin panna cotta with apples and mosto cotto.

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You can read about Danilo’s culinary career in his “Chef’s Table Interview

The book is divided sections that reflect the running of the embassy based on style of occasion instead. This provides an insight on how Danilo plans his menus at the Italian Embassy, and how certain recipes are perfect for particular events. If you are looking to impress someone at home, each dish is applicable to home cooking and home kitchens. Nothing is regimented in this book, and Danilo encourages you to experiment and interpret dishes and elements of recipes as you like.

Danilo says: “I never underestimate the comforting side of food and cooking is truly an act of care and love. He is a great believer in using quality produces and also an advocate of not wasting food. A section of his book is dedicated to supporting the food charity Food Cycle (@foodcycle) and the work they do supporting people at risk of food poverty and social isolation.

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Despite no Ferrero Rocher.. the evening was a great success and we wish Danilo every success with his book “4 Grosvenor Square” – the address of the Embassy if you were wondering.

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4 Grosvenor Square is published in English and Italian and available for pre-order from Amazon now with general released on 30th November from Waterstones and all good book shops. RRP: £25.00.