Leeds restaurants: New head chef at Crafthouse swaps London living for Yorkshire fine-dining
Chef Josh Barnes has swapped London for Leeds as he takes the reins of the kitchen at fine-dining restaurant Crafthouse.
As the newly appointed head chef with more than a decade of experience, Josh has crafted the restaurant's new menu with his experimental cooking and knowledge of seasonal ingredients.
His love for food was sparked by his first job at a butchers in Lincolnshire where he grew up surrounded by rolling fields and fresh produce.
“I grew up in a very rural and agricultural area, there were lots of local farm shops and people who lived off the land," the 33-year-old told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“My earliest food memories were eating vegetables that were locally produced and I was into cooking from a young age. My first job was at a butchers where I was surrounded by food.
“It helped establish my values and the respect for the quality of the produce, giving me that understanding about where it comes from.”
After training as a chef at 17, Josh worked at an independent restaurant in Hertfordshire before moving to the Capital's prestigious Galvin La Chapelle.
As head chef, Josh retained the restaurant's Michelin star, three AA Rosettes and a spot in the Good Food Guide.
“My proudest achievement was retaining that Michelin star while working in London," Josh said.
"Anyone who has done it knows that's a special moment."
After Josh and his wife welcomed their first child last year, they eyed up a move back to his wife's home county of Yorkshire.
Crafthouse was the perfect fit for Josh with its focus on quality produce, seasonal menus and fine wine pairings.
Josh added: “Working in Leeds is a little slower and relaxed, especially during the week, whereas London is quite fast-paced.
“There’s a lot of small independent businesses here which I love; I’m new here so I’m still trying to work it out and find those hidden gems.”
As well as offering Sunday roasts, chargrilled meats and a seven-course tasting menu, Josh has added his signature dish to the offering - Gressingham duck breast, pickled red cabbage purée, confit leg pastilla and duck fat rosti.
“My food is seasonally driven, using produce as it’s coming into its prime and getting excited by it," Josh added.
"I play around with it, pairing it with other food that's in season or applying new techniques on combinations I know work well.
“We put on specials on the tasting menu and it’s nice to teach the team new dishes, something they haven’t done before. The cauliflower risotto with pickled cauliflower and toasted pine nuts is really popular and one of our favourites to cook."
While Josh welcomed the break with his family over lockdown, he's excited for the busy summer ahead as life returns to normal.
“Staffing at the minute is the biggest challenge, the whole industry is on its knees with how busy it is," Josh said.
"It’s a tough time, but everyone’s values pull together - everyone who is here wants to be here.
"You have to be passionate about working all the time, there’s a real buzz from working with a good team around you."
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