- When did you realise you wanted to work in hospitality?
My mother and father owned pubs so I’ve been surrounded by food and booze since I can remember. From an early age I was always amongst customers: serving them, helping out in the kitchen, and when I was older, behind the bar pulling drinks. Prior to that, mum was an usherette and hosted the likes of the Stones and Nat King Cole. Hospitality has always been ingrained in me.
- Sum up your current work life in one sentence.
I've never been so tired, so poor and so happy.
- Where and how did you get your start?
From growing up in the hospitality industry and knowing the ins and outs of the difficulties associated with it, I didn’t think I wanted to be a restaurateur. My journey to MasterChef came after a boozy dinner with close friends, where they persuaded me to apply. As the application was only sent two days shy of the deadline, I didn’t make the cut initially. Two years later, my friend sent me a photo of the dinner and encouraged me to reapply. I really wanted to have food at the centre of my life so applied to MasterChef for a second time a few minutes to midnight, again two days away from the deadline. At 2:30am my mother passed away, further spurring me on to pursue the goal in front of me, only to be accepted. I used the preparation time for the show as a way to channel my grief, cooking for ten hours a day. MasterChef in 2016 was the start of my career.
- What’s next for you?
We have a new restaurant opening up imminently called Essay, a completely different concept to HOME. HOME is our history to date, Essay is the next chapter.
- What’s your one piece of advice to someone starting out?
Learn how to run a business. The only way you have a chance to cook great food is to know how to run a business effectively. Also, always focus on what the customer wants.
- Where is the most exciting city for hospitality?
The best service I’ve had is in New York at Eleven Madison Park. For me, it was the beacon of everything service should be. Another great experience for me recently was at a greasy caff in Pateley Bridge, where an elderly couple went out of their way to accommodate each and every diner. There’s nothing like great Yorkshire hospitality!
- Who has been really influential on your career and why?
Mark Owens, my business partner has been massively influential; I sometimes refer to him as my 'favourite kitchen gadget’! He's helped me accelerate my learning in a way that other chefs have never had. Having a Michelin starred mentor on a one-on-one basis has fast tracked my personal learning. Having been classically trained, Mark comes from a traditional background, which pairs so well with my contemporary flair in the kitchen.
- Who would you identify as a rising star?
Luke French, head chef at JORO in Sheffield. I like what he does, he does it with integrity and his food is great.