The Ivy Leeds: How head chef Tom Crocker's culinary journey was sparked by his Italian grandma
The Ivy brought a touch of luxury to the masses when it opened in Leeds three years ago.
The Victoria Quarter restaurant prides itself on offering a fine-dining experience at affordable prices, with British menus spanning breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Head chef Tom Crocker is the man behind the enticing food on offer, with an impressive CV that includes The Man Behind the Curtain and Bolton Abbey's Devonshire Arms.
It was his Italian grandmother who sparked his passion for food, making his transition into the industry feel seamless.
“Some of my earliest memories are of being at her house and smelling the things she was cooking," Tom told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“She used to make a dish which was very regional to where she was from in the northeast of Italy - gnocchi stuffed with cinnamon, sugar and plums, roasted off in a pan with brown butter and more cinnamon and sugar. It’s a fantastic dish and the smells are very nostalgic.
“There was always something going on in her kitchen, so cooking felt natural to me.”
On the day Tom received his GCSE results, he had an interview for his first full-time job at the Royal York Hotel (now the Principal), attached to York Station.
It was a daunting first gig for a 16-year-old, but Tom had big dreams for his career from the start.
"[American chef] Thomas Keller has been my favourite chef for a long time," the 37-year-old added.
"I had one of his books recommended to me when I was a young chef; it opened my eyes to the craft of cooking and the way I wanted to go in my career.
“It was a different world to what you saw in small restaurants in York 20 years ago. I love his ethos and he’s always changing with the times, but his classics are well-recognised within the industry.”
Tom's career has taken him all over Europe, from working at a Michelin-star restaurant in Paris to catering for the rich and famous in Monaco.
Now he's back home, he's excited by the ever-changing Leeds food scene - leading the way with his seasonal menus at The Ivy.
Tom said: “The Ivy experience starts from the moment customers walk through the doors and it runs through the style of service - the way the tables are set, how the food is presented and the ambience.
“We’ve got something for everyone. You can have something quite simple and classic, like fish and chips or a shepherd’s pie, or something more intricate with a nod to fine-dining."
After months of closures, the buzz quickly returned to The Ivy when restrictions on indoor dining were eased in May. Customers are enjoying everything from bottomless afternoon tea to cocktails and nibbles.
“It’s been a stressful time for the industry, but it’s brought the team and the restaurant closer together," Tom added.
"The camaraderie between your team is one of the main reasons a lot of chefs get into the industry and stick with it.
"Everyone has bonded and shown what we can do when things get pressured - and hopefully the light at the end of the tunnel is now coming.”
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