Making ice-cream out of wood and building a pop-up fine dining kitchen in a secret spot among the 700 acre estate at Harewood House is all in a day’s work for Josh Whitehead.
He is one of the city’s brightest talents on the food and drink scene and having spent the last year at the Ox Club, the chef is about to start a venture at pastures new.
After a break in Bali he will start work with the Harewood Food and Drink project which is planning to stake its own claim on the thriving industry in 2018.
While some of the projects they are cooking up are still under wraps, Josh will be part of the re-creation of the walled gardens, leading collaborations with local producers and growers, developing Harewood Estate’s own line of products, staging more supper club pop-ups and - something that appeals to him the most - bringing in students from Leeds City College (where he studied too) for work experience.
He said: “I am looking forward to the challenge and it is a while since I have been in a job that is not in a kitchen every day.
“I was going to go to Asia and work but this was too good an opportunity to pass up. Everything used is from the estate and everything about it is what I wanted. What it will be in 12 months is pretty special.”
At one of the Harewood Secret Supper Clubs held last year, Josh shaved wood from trees, roasted it and mixed it into the ice-cream telling City Buzz it is quite a normal idea.
He said: “I had seen it done before with blackcurrant wood and when Eddy drove me around the grounds and showed me the 200 year-old Mulberry trees, it looked like something out of Harry Potter and I thought I will give it a go.
“You see pine trees, I see ice-cream. Stuff like that I don’t particularly see as weird. I don’t do it for shock value but when people eat it and are quite surprised that is pretty cool.”
It is this kind of vision which appealed to the Food and Drink project run by the Lascelles family which owns the Estate.
Eddy Lascelles said: “After the success of the two Hidden Harewood events we had working with Josh we’re really excited to have him come and join the team. Josh is one of the most talented chefs around and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with as the project develops over the next couple of years.”
Away from the kitchen Josh says he never switches off and he will be getting his inspiration from his travels in Bali over the next few weeks - already knowing which restaurants he will eat at.
Tastes of South East Asia influence his own cooking as he puts them into traditional dishes and he says his favourite places to eat in Leeds also give him food for thought.
He said: “You can never get bored of places to eat in Leeds. All my favourite places are very different. The Ox Club, before I even started, was one of my favourites and still is. I like The Reliance and The Brunswick.”
It was the now closed Anthony’s which first got him into serious cooking and he says while the Leeds scene is as strong now as it has ever been he hopes more independent places can open up.
Josh added: “I made my mum go there and I ended up working there. There is space for both but, I hope that in the next few years there is more scope for independent run places rather than the chains.”