The Woods Chapel Allerton: Meet the young head chef who is transforming this Leeds bar's food offering
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After honing his skills at some of Leeds’ great culinary institutions over the last two years, Ben has rejoined the Chapel Allerton kitchen - and has crafted a new specials menu which has transformed the bar’s food offering.
Known for its great beers and wood-fired pizzas, The Woods has introduced new dishes which Ben hopes will push the boundaries of the venue’s culinary offering, showcasing the skills he has learnt since first becoming head chef in 2021.
Ben, now 24, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “It was a real achievement to have been made head chef at the time and I really appreciate what they did for me. It opened up a lot of doors for me and gave me the opportunity to go onto places that were more food-heavy.”
Ben has spent the last two years working at former gastropub The Reliance and Italian restaurant Stuzzi. With no formal training, the experience allowed Ben to hone his skills and come up with new ideas.
He added: “Working there opened up my mind and gave me an insight into the industry. It gave me the opportunity to see how dishes come together and learn that you don’t have to follow one way of doing things.
“You can mix and match and as long as you know how to make things work, you get your own freedom. My cooking style is relaxed, fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
When the owners of The Woods invited Ben to rejoin the kitchen, with freedom to create new specials to sit alongside the much-loved pizza menu, it was an opportunity that Ben couldn’t turn down.
“It’s such a cool venue,” Ben said. “It’s an absolute gem in Leeds; it’s good vibes, good energy, and particularly when the sun is out it’s a beautiful place to be.
“I knew the menu inside and out, so there was an opportunity to really push the food offering and take it to the next level, particularly as the competition around Leeds is so good at the moment. The owners have given me a great opportunity.”
The Woods’ new menu includes a range of bar snacks and small plates, including two of Ben’s favourites - pan-fried mackerel with dill dressing, pickled radish, crème fraîche and cucumber and confit fennel with romesco sauce, dill oil and curried seeds.
There are new mains, including a homemade cheddar, leek and truffle pie, Aberdeen Angus beef burger and pappardelle with pork ragu, as well as lunch specials and desserts.
Ben added: “The Woods hasn’t had a menu like this before and it’s going down really well. It shows there’s an appetite in north Leeds for this kind of food.”
As well as his day job, Ben runs his own independent pop-up venture, Brown Butter Supper Club, hosting supper clubs throughout the city every month.
“The job is exciting,” Ben said. “It’s an absolute slog, and it can really take it out of you sometimes, but the benefits of it - those little highs and the buzz of service - are what keep you going. And we want to do something really special here at The Woods.”