Sarto Leeds: Meet the head chef behind the Leeds restaurant that's crazy about fresh pasta

Sarto's head chef doesn't overcomplicate his food.

By Abbey Maclure
Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 4:55 pm

Ian Chapman, known in Leeds as Chef Yanni, spends more time sourcing the finest ingredients and less time "faffing about" with them - putting fresh pasta at the heart of his menus.

Yanni grew up in Gloucester where he spent his childhood baking, watching cooking shows and helping out in his mum's garden.

“I was chucked into the kitchen at a very young age,” the 32-year-old said.

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Ian Chapman, known in Leeds as Chef Yanni, is the head chef of Leeds city centre restaurant Sarto (Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

“I was an energetic child and my mum quickly realised that the best way to shut me up was to pop me on the floor with some plastic bowls and things to mix.

“It would keep me entertained for hours.”

Yanni moved to Leeds aged 19 to study a degree in fine art.

After graduating and working as a car salesman for two years, he stumbled across an apprenticeship at Headingley restaurant Salvo's and began his culinary career, working five days a week while going through catering college.

Sarto offers a concise menu of fresh pasta dishes including several vegetarian and vegan options, such as the bucatini pasta with cauliflower, pine nuts and truffle (pictured)

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He later joined the team at North Street gastropub The Reliance where he climbed up the ranks.

“I’d worked across all the sections, but I was feeling a bit bored," Yanni said.

“I decided to do something about that. I bought a pasta machine and my head chef was very supportive of me.

"When I was doing fine art I loved making sculptures, so it was a balance between using my business sense, bringing back the creativity of fine art and combining that with my interest in food."

Yanni's monthly pasta special quickly turned into a weekly dish and, a year later, he was approached by Dave Olejnik of Laynes Espresso with the concept for a new restaurant.

Launched with the team behind The Brunswick in October 2019, Sarto is designed around fresh pasta - and Yanni was the perfect fit for head chef.

“I’ve been open from day one that I’m not Italian," he said.

"But I’ve worked in Italian restaurants and understand European food and flavour combinations.

“It’s all about simplicity, using the best local and fresh ingredients you can get. It’s seasonal, we don’t overcomplicate it and we spend the money on the ingredients rather than the time faffing about with them.

“And we’ve created an environment that’s easy-going. You can drop in for a pint and a snack or you can get dressed up for a nice meal with your partner and your family.”

Sarto offers a concise menu of fresh pasta dishes including several vegetarian and vegan options, such as the bucatini pasta with cauliflower, pine nuts and truffle.

It has survived lockdown by turning to deliveries and DIY pasta kits, which have been sold all over the country.

Yanni added: “Having customers leave with big smiles on their faces, saying the food was really good, is why we do it. There’s lots of other ways to make money and I’ve chosen one of the hardest.

“But it’s something that keeps me engaged, I get a buzz when it’s busy and things go smoothly.

"I’m easily distracted and when you're working in a kitchen, you’re focused on all the things you need to concentrate on.

“I guess it goes back to when I was that energetic little kid on my mum's kitchen floor."

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