With some of our combinations, from the outside it can look like ‘how did they come up with this?’, but for us it’s normal, we’re just growing different ingredients. It becomes a natural thought process and it is our palette to create these dishes. We had to force some ideas at the start but after a few years it started to work and now comes naturally. It is important that we keep the same thought process, of being creative and always getting better.
That is one reason why Roots is totally different to The Black Swan, as it’s never a good idea to clone what you already have. Oldstead is a destination for a special visit, and whilst York isn’t not special, it is more casual, we can open through the day and accept walk-ins. I enjoy the differences, plus being less isolated and simply having shops around is a revelation – if something breaks in the kitchen I can just cross the road to replace it instead of waiting for deliveries!
The reason we chose York to open the new restaurant was partly because it is the closest big city to Oldstead, and also because it is a beautiful city that is starting to thrive. Until recently there were few independent restaurants, now there are lots; fantastic people have been popping up at awesome places like Skosh and Le Cochon Aveugle, and my secret favourite is just outside York in Newton-on-Ouse, The Dawney Arms; I’m there most weeks for their Sunday lunch…
Since gaining recognition and expanding, of course my daily routine has changed. I used to simply be head chef at The Black Swan and so all my time was spent cooking there, now I move between places and help out when and where I need to. The ethos is the same, though you have to change the infrastructure and keep improving, so now there is a development chef and such a wide bunch of people.