Chow Down Leeds: Meet the man behind Mediterranean kitchen MorMor that's arrived at the Temple Arches

Chow Down has flung open its gates for a summer of street food, cocktails and live entertainment.

By Abbey Maclure
Saturday, 16th April 2022, 4:30 pm

The pioneering Temple Arches venue and Oliver Awards winner has become renowned for its eclectic mix of rotating street food vendors, feeding hungry revellers as they soak up the sunshine.

Among those kicking off the food offering is MorMor, a Leeds-based business that is inspired by the cuisines, cultures and colours of The Levant – the historical name given to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Founder and head chef Hugo Monypenny studied to be an actor, before managing an events company for eight years.

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Hugo Monypenny, 31, the founder of MorMor (Photo: Steve Riding)

But he has always had a flair for food, stemming from his childhood growing up in Chapel Allerton.

“Growing up was all about mealtime," Hugo, 31, said.

"We’d get home from school, have our meal at 6.30pm and we weren’t allowed to leave the table until we'd finished everything.

"I remember nine family members crammed around a table not fit for nine people, eating a crazy roast dinner or fish that had just been bought fresh from the market.

The Chow Down menu includes barbecued mackerel and slash-cooked chicken, doner kebabs and a range of meze dishes (Photo: Steve Riding)

“My family have always been big foodies, it was such an integral part of our lives.

"Although at the time I didn’t have any idea that I would get into food, in retrospect, it’s not surprising it turned out that way."

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When staying with friends in London in his early 20s, Hugo became renowned for his culinary flair, often spending six hours cooking up spreads while his friends were at work.

Hugo with the ingredients for his popular chicken shawarma dish (Photo: Steve Riding)

After he visited Dinerama, a street food event in the capital, he realised he wanted to set up something of his own - and MorMor was born.

Hugo said: “The countries in the eastern Mediterranean and the Levant all take bits from other parts of the region, so it’s easy to do a broad-ranging menu.

"I love chicken shawarma, so I think that’s where it stems from, but over time I’ve broadened my horizons and my repertoire.

“I love the vibrancy and the richness in flavour and colour. Everything is bold and punchy."

Hugo is excited to start his seven-week residency at Chow Down, serving thousands of hungry revellers from the Downtown Food Village.

The menu includes barbecued mackerel and slash-cooked chicken, doner kebabs and a range of meze dishes.

Hugo loves cooking with vegetables and swerves meat alternatives - expect vegetarian dishes such as the king oyster mushroom and smoked aubergine kebab with cucumber salsa and sumac onions.

Chow Down is the latest in a line of MorMor residencies and pop-ups across the North, from a vegetarian menu at a restaurant in Todmorden and a pop-up at a brewery in Farsley, to serving kebabs in a big music venue in Manchester.

Hugo added: “I love being the master of my own destiny, but also doing so many different things - there’s not too many people who can see they work in such different settings.

"I love creating new dishes, experimenting with stuff, and improving. Every time I do something, I get a little bit better at doing it.

"Then there’s also a competitive steak, where I’m trying to be the best at what I’m doing. The customers are the judges of that and the feedback we get is always really positive.”