Meet the Leeds chef and former pub landlord now famed for his pies at Rodley's The Railway Inn

Garth Kirsten-Landman has decades of experience as a pub landlord, but has swapped the pints for chefs whites.

By Abbey Maclure
Saturday, 2nd July 2022, 4:30 pm

The South-African born, self-taught cook is the head chef at the Railway Inn in Rodley, a cosy riverside pub with an old-school British menu.

Now famed for his home-cooked pies, Garth started his career on the other side of the kitchen door - running pubs for most of his 27 years in the UK.

But he would often wander into the kitchen to watch his chefs at work.

Garth Kirsten-Landman is the head chef at The Railway Inn in Rodley (Photo: Simon Hulme)

"I’m 70 per cent homeschooled, I’ve never been to college but I studied it from books," Garth, 50, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

“I worked with a great chef, Richard Graham, for a number of years. He perfected me until I felt more confident.

“I then gave up being a pub landlord as I loved the food side more than the drinks side.”

Garth got his first chef job at the Old Bell Tavern in Harrogate. Just two years in, he was given the opportunity to run the kitchen at the Swan on the Stray.

Garth with his bobotie special - the South African national dish (Photo: Simon Hulme)

He loved the experience, but prior to the pandemic he took on a very different role - working in Wagamama's.

“It was a wonderful place, not a microwave in sight," Garth said.

"It was all fresh food, but very intense - you worked a hard job but I loved it. The quality was great.”

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Garth accepted the head chef role at the Railway Inn in 2020 but before he could start, the pub had to close its doors in the first lockdown.

“I found it very distressing," Garth said.

"It was depressing to lose a job that wasn’t considered to be a key worker.

"I had to go and work at Asda and stack shelves - I had no choice. I’ve got a family and I had to support them.

"Hospitality has bounced back tremendously. People were so stuck in a rut in their houses, that when we first came out of lockdown the pubs and the restaurants went mental."

When the pub was finally permitted to reopen, Garth worked with its new owners to set up the tiny kitchen, where he is still the only chef - with just one pot wash to give him a helping hand.

Garth's menu is full of pub classics, but he also infuses his South African heritage into the specials board, as well as experimenting with food from across the globe.

He added: “It’s a small, family-run business so we were able to put on a good British menu.

"The only item bought in is scampi, but everything else is home cooked - the chillies, the curries and I’ve got a reputation for pie.

"I get there very early in the morning to make everything from scratch and sometimes there can be a wait, because I’m only one guy in the kitchen.

"But they are going see that it’s home-cooked if they have to wait longer for that wonderful option, and we get brilliant reviews on Tripadvisor."

“I love the freedom to express myself," he added.

"It gets very stressful, but it’s a nice stress - a buzz. And it’s a buzz working with great people under wonderful ownership, they make a big difference to your job."