Honest Leeds: Meet the head chef at the new Leeds burger joint that's seen queues down the street
Honest believes that if you’ve got great meat, salt and pepper is all you need to make a tasty burger.
Located on Cloth Hall Street, near the Corn Exchange, Honest had queues of customers snaking down the street as it opened this weekend.
And at the head of its kitchen is Krzysztof Okun, an experienced burger chef who has moved more than 200 miles to bring Honest to Leeds.
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Krzysztof was born in the north of Poland and recalled his first memories of food growing up.
“I’m sure it will have been meat,” Krzysztof, 34, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“All my family loved meat - it was probably something like ribs, really soft and really tasty.
“For me, food was always important. I wanted to work with food all my life.”
After studying at a gastronomical college, Krzysztof worked at a hotel and fish restaurant on the Baltic coast, as well as catering for weddings and events.
His first job in the UK was at Byron, before he took up posts at Honest Burgers branches across the country, the last being Windsor.
Four months ago, he accepted the role as head chef at Honest Leeds, moving more than 200 miles across the country to bring the new restaurant to life.
Krzysztof said: “The reason why I moved from Windsor to Leeds - it was a huge stretch - was because I wanted to discover another part of the UK with great local produce.
“Secondly, I wanted to challenge myself, to start something amazing with new people.
“The best thing about travelling in the UK is discovering the local produce and local food.”
Krzysztof and his team make everything from scratch, including the beef patties, sauces, pickles, relishes and chips, and the pasture-fed British beef is chopped instead of minced.
The best-selling Honest burger is inspired by British farmer's market flavours - beef, bacon, cheddar and red onion relish.
“A great burger is a simple burger,” Krzysztof said.
“When I was growing up, there wasn’t always enough money to buy expensive stuff. But my mum always made amazing food with simple products.
“I believe simple, high-quality produce, with salt and pepper, makes an amazing burger.
“Of course, we do a lot of great fillings. But simple ideas and simple food is always the best food for me.”
While Krzysztof is a true carnivore, he said vegetarian and vegan options are a big part of the Honest menu - making up around 35 per cent of dishes.
He added: “When people in Leeds meet together and think about burgers, I want them to think about Honest.”
Krzysztof is working on specials for the Leeds menu and training up his team, who were thrown into the deep end as customers packed into the restaurant on its opening day.
“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback over the weekend,” he said.
“When customers come to the pass to say, ‘chef, thank you, that food is amazing’, that makes me so happy.
“We work really hard, but it’s a great job.”