Published 7 December 2021
by Josh Barrie
CODE sat down with Luke French and Stacey Sherwood-French, the husband and wife team behind Sheffield restaurant JÖRO and Nama in Liverpool, and one of the most exciting culinary partnerships in the North.
Hello! Sunny and a little chilly – we think it’s safe to say winter has arrived.
We knew we always wanted to work for ourselves. I think that was predominately the dream – to work with no restriction to our creativity, and take control of our work life balance. Working with creative people and the most amazing food and drink is certainly a highlight. The dream was to deliver unique dining experiences that we would enjoy ourselves. We saw a gap in the market in Sheffield for high quality dining in a casual, affordable environment… I think that dream has become a reality in that sense!
I guess probably what we were to become. We built the restaurant from scratch with the view that JÖRO would be more of a neighbourhood dining spot. That’s not to say we didn’t want it to become what it has – but at the time we didn’t think a restaurant like this would work in its location, or at least be sustainable as a long-term business model.
We started back in 2016 with small plates and tasting menu options. Guests would usually choose the small plates. Since then, we have worked hard to build trust with our guests to the point we now only offer a tasting menu and we haven’t looked back since. I enjoy cooking like this and prefer it to choice menus. It’s what we’ve become known for. From a business aspect it also makes everything easier to run in terms of keeping orders consistent, eliminating waste, and operationally it’s a lot smoother.
I love to eat Japanese, Thai, south east Asian food – the flavours are unbeatable. I use a lot of these flavours in my cooking purely because I cook what I like to eat. But my cooking I would say is modern British for sure and you’ll see inspiration from all over to be honest – I have no rules other than using the best tasting ingredients, which are carefully and responsibly sourced.
– Sheffield Honey
– Wortley Wagyu
– Tomlinson’s Rhubarb & Veg
– The Courtyard Dairy
– Forged Spirits
– Moss Valley Farm
– Annabel’s Makin’s Strawberry Farm
– Mick Newman brings us fish direct from the Yorkshire coast
– Alysia Vasey & Chris Lewis forage and bring us wild ingredients from the region
– KC Caviar
– Our Cow Molly Dairy
– Sheffield Organic Growers
Sustainability is something we have focused on since the beginning and we have been asked before why we never shout about it. Our answer was because we didn’t feel educated enough to. We are always learning and adapting processes with sustainability in mind. It’s why our plates of food never look identical and aren’t concisely shaped to perfection. We have always believed this to cause unnecessary waste and are huge fans of wonky ve. We eliminate most waste by preserving, fermenting and crossing over ingredients onto our drinks menu. By serving tasting menus we reduce the amount of meat on a dish significantly and a lot of dishes are 100 per cent veggie. Tasting menus allow us to control how much protein is served in our restaurant. Where as your stereotypical fixed a la carte is allowing the consumer to dictate the restaurants weekly consumption. We have battled this actually over the years and often endured remarks of ‘not enough meat’. We have persevered and strive to keep explaining why that is and why it’s important.
From day one we looked to source produce with sustainability in mind. Choosing only those themselves who have ethical practices. We also make a conscious effort with packaging and have always spoken with suppliers to reduce waste in that department. Supplying and receiving produce in re-usable and recycled containers is important to us. We use Kintsugi to repair chips in crockery – it is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum.
A Yorkshire Nama is the next step. More news on that soon! We would love to venture down south too at some point. Luke is actually from Cambridge so it would be great to appear south some time and Luke has enjoyed recent events and residencies in London too.
We opened House of JÖRO as an extension to JÖRO – we were getting a lot of guests travelling big distances to visit us. So when we were approached with the development just a few minutes walk from the JÖRO, we snapped it up. Here we have four rooms, each designed with relaxation in mind. They’re available to guests having lunch, dinner, or just bed and breakfast.
We also have a ten-seat chef’s table. It’s a great opportunity to experience JÖRO intimately and meet Luke. It gives guests an insight into the menu and produce without interruptions.
We absolutely love Ynyshir in Wales. The whole experience for us is special, from the location to the building, the food, the service, the atmosphere – the restaurant has the best vibe and we really feel like we have had a holiday every time we visit.
Stephen (Pro Green) started following us on social media a little while ago and we were already huge fans of his. A relationship blossomed! We’re both huge fans of each other’s work and with a mutual love for food, we got chatting about doing a collab and through a joint appreciation of the best meal of the week, the Sunday roast box was born!
We are both not drinking currently – we made the decision after lockdown and entered 2021 alcohol free. Drinking is quite socially led and with little alternative in bars and restaurants, it’s very easy to stick to old habits. We wanted to change this and try to match up the quality of non-alcoholic drinks to the rest of our food and drinks offering by giving quality choice.
We had already started enhancing the offering on our menu but this pushed us more to discover and create. The product range out there now is also way better than in previous years so this helps us grow. We currently offer a no and low drinks menu along with soft drinks pairings to match our tasting menus. So far the reception to these has been fantastic.
I think support and trust are probably the biggest pros to a married working relationship. Knowing each other inside and out helps when running a business too. We can both recognise when the other needs support, advice or assistance. Likewise trust in each other’s decisions and abilities.
We both know what we’re good at and combining our skills makes the business partnership run smoothly. We also don’t tread on each other’s toes with this either, so there is an element of independent working and decision making still.
There aren’t many cons you know! But probably the amount of time you could spend together at work. We make a point of rarely being in the same space at the same time in working hours. It’s not very often we are both in service all day every day as that could get a bit too much.
Lots! We have some great plans for 2022/2023 that we have already been hard at work on, including new venues, events and focusing on our retail side of the business – but more on that later! (BOTH!)