Meet the head chef at Leeds Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor Brasserie serving classic dining with a twist
Lee Heptinstall loves taking seasonal British produce and turning it into something new.
The Ossett-born chef has been at the helm of Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor Brasserie in Leeds for more than seven years, surprising diners with unconventional takes on classic dining.
From strawberry sherbet granola to lamb and goats cheese tortellini with smoked aubergine, Lee is always thinking about how he can reinvent seasonal produce.
His culinary journey began watching his uncle cook spreads for family celebrations, but it was football, not cooking, that was his first love.
"My uncle was a bit of an amateur cook," the 42-year-old told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
"When we used to go to his house on a Sunday or Christmas, I used to watch the time he took with the food.
“Cooking was always something that inspired me and I went onto catering college when I finished school. But I wanted to be a footballer!”
After finishing catering college, Lee went on to work at fine-dining restaurant Holbeck Ghyll in the Lake District where he fell in love with seasonal produce - growing food in the restaurant's open garden.
He's since worked under top British chefs Simon Gueller and Jonathan Wright, before working his way up to head chef at Middlethorpe Hall in York.
Lee's proudest achievement was being awarded a triple AA Rosette while heading up the luxury hotel's restaurant.
He made the move to Harvey Nichols seven years ago, where he's brought classic British dishes with a twist to the Brasserie's menu.
“We look at what’s in season and try to make the food interesting," Lee added.
"Strawberries are coming into season at the moment, but we don’t want to just throw them on a dish. We look at how we can make the best of them, to offer people something they can’t get at home.
"For example, we've got a lemon posset granola with strawberries and strawberry sherbet and a dessert with balsamic strawberries, lemon curd and hazelnut ice cream.”
When the pandemic hit, Harvey Nichols created its HN @ Home menu, delivering ingredients and instructions to prep and plate up a three-course meal at home.
Lee said: “It had to be boxed up and sent to someone’s front door, so you had to think a bit differently about it. It was challenging."
Despite the pressure of lockdowns on the hospitality sector, Lee enjoyed the extra time with his two children and the chance to reflect.
"We’ve never had this opportunity in life to take a step back, to look at what we’re doing right or wrong and what we can change," he added.
Harvey Nichols reopened its terrace in April before the Brasserie welcomed back customers on May 17.
Lee thrives off the "thrill and adrenaline" of service and watching customers tuck into his food again.
“It is challenging to keep evolving," Lee added.
"You have to keep coming up with new ideas, or taking old ideas and making them better. There’s so much on TV programmes now, that people’s expectations are getting higher.
"But as tough as it gets, you get through it with a smile on your face. It’s a great atmosphere, working together as a team."
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