Leeds restaurants: Meet the head chef at Dakota Grill serving comfort food classics in lavish surroundings

Diners are often surprised to hear Craig Rogan's accent after feasting on his Yorkshire-driven menu.

By Abbey Maclure
Saturday, 19th March 2022, 4:56 pm

The executive head chef of Dakota Leeds grew up in Southampton but is invested in sourcing his produce as "close to the door as possible."

Craig is the son of three-star Michelin chef Simon Rogan, but he had no intention of following in his dad's footsteps as a youngster.

Food was never an interest, apart from eating it," Craig, 32, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

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Craig Rogan, 32, is the executive chef at Dakota Leeds (Photo: Simon Hulme)

“I’d come in from playing football all day and get my tea down as quickly as I could so I could get back out again.”

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While Craig dreamed of becoming a professional footballer, his dad was building his culinary empire - opening the now three-star Michelin restaurant L'Enclume in 2002.

It was while working as a pot wash for his dad when he was 14 that Craig cooked his first dish.

You'll find an array of Yorkshire ingredients proudly displayed on Craig's menus (Photo: Simon Hulme)

He said: “I still had no interest in food, I was just there for the summer earning a bit of cash.

“Someone asked me to help make a simple wild mushroom pasta and I still make that dish to this day.

“Mushrooms now are a massive part of everything I do, so maybe it started there.”

When Craig's footballing career didn't take the path he'd hoped, he signed up to construction college to become a carpenter after finishing his GCSEs.

But while working as a waiter for his dad during the summer and experiencing the buzz of the restaurant, something was ignited in Craig.

Two days before the term was due to start, he decided to cancel his course and enrolled in catering college.

“I’ve never looked back," Craig added.

His impressive CV includes notable names including Manchester House, Fera at Claridge’s and the Grand Hotel in York, where he won back its 3 AA Rosettes.

He joined luxury Leeds city centre hotel Dakota in July 2019 and is building its Grill into one of the city's best restaurants.

“Our main ethos is really good food," Craig said.

"It’s about having fun with the food and not being pretentious. We want you to come in and feel like you’ve had the best meal you’ve ever had and not feel like you’ve been robbed.

“You can come in a suit if you want or you can come in a tracksuit, but the main purpose is to have an amazing meal and leave happy.”

Craig oversees the menus for the Grill, as well as Dakota's two bars and events, serving comfort food classics in the hotel's lavish surroundings.

You'll find an array of Yorkshire ingredients proudly displayed on his menus, from Whitby crab and Thirkleby duck breast to Ribblesdale goats cheese and Yorkshire Nduja.

“I absolutely love Leeds," Craig added.

“It’s got so much potential as a city to be a foodie spot, there’s so many cool little places.

“But in terms of higher accolades, I think there needs to be somewhere that gives Man Behind The Curtain a bit of company.

“Leeds is going places. And the way it looks now compared to 12 years ago is unrecognisable.

"It’s only going to get better and with that you’ll get better restaurants and higher profile chefs coming to the city.”

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