What attracted you to take on the Box Tree back in 2004?
It was a massive opportunity to take over an iconic business. I’d known of it
since I was a young boy and when the opportunity came up we threw everything at it.
What would you say are the key things you have done to put your own stamp on the restaurant?
We’ve tried to move with the times but maintain its classical roots. It’s been tricky but I think we’ve made a good job of it. More specifically we have kept up refurbishments to give the place a modern, classical feel. The food has moved forward significantly with substantial changes this year. We felt the menu was looking dated and neededbringing into line with other top modern restaurants. I feel we have done that and the standard of food is as high as its ever been at the Box Tree.
The Box Tree is a husband and wife operation, how does that dynamic work?
We are both very driven and quite competitive. So we are always pushing each other to improve standards. I’m pushing in the kitchen and she is pushing in the restaurant so we work really well together in that respect, we’re a good team.
Are you still motivated by the same things or is that constantly evolving?
I’m motivated at the moment by an ambition to make sure the Box Tree is better than its ever been. The industry is contantly evolving as are food trends so we need to make sure we stay focussed and driven to stay on top of our game.
How do you approach motivating your staff, is it a softly softly approach or are there pan’s flying across the kitchen?
A bit of both. Although softly softly works most of the time, my staff have to know there is a sting in the tail and that I’m always going to have that. If I didn’t I wouldn’t care. It doesn’t mean there are pans flying everywhere but if standards aren’t met it undoes all the good work everybody has done. So we can’t allow for complacency.
You recently took on Michael Carr, who stood out on the Great British Menu this year, what impact has he had on the restaurant so far?
He has settled in well and we work very closely and very well together. He has brought a new feel and a new modern approach to the food so I’m looking forward to seeing how that relationship develops going forward.
What’s your favourite ingredient to work with? And do you have a particular dish that stands out as a favourite?
I love working with all high quality ingredients really. If I’m eating for myself I’m a big meat fan but I love working with fish. A favourite dish would be roast sea scallop with celeriac, apple and truffle.
That’s pretty special.
How did you get into cooking?
I started cooking in school holidays, when I was 12. When I got to 15 and left school to start work in a very classical French Kitchen.
Other than the Box Tree, What’s the most memorable place you have worked at?
Rascasse in Leeds.