Meet the new head chef at The Beehive Thorner with a passion for foraging fresh ingredients in Leeds
Leeds chef Alex Farolfi starts his day foraging near his home in Meanwood, harvesting wild garlic, elderflower and other seasonal produce growing on his doorstep.
As the recently appointed head chef at The Beehive in Thorner, Alex's expertise of British ingredients made him the perfect fit for the gastropub.
He's five weeks into the role and has already made his mark, lining up local suppliers and creating a menu around in-house ingredients like chutney, butter and cheese.
Alex was born into a foodie family in Knaresborough, where he would help out at his late father's Italian restaurant under the famous railway arches.
"I was surrounded by a load of Italians cooking pizza," Alex, 30, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“I was eating great flavours from when I was young and my mum always made home-cooked food too, I remember her spinach pie with filo pastry, parmesan and ricotta."
Alex grew up around Mediterranean flavours but developed his flair for British cooking while training at top restaurants in Harrogate and Leeds before spending two years travelling in South America.
“I was working in fields with basic tools," Alex said.
"It was incredibly difficult and it gave me a newfound respect for people working on the other side of the world. It put me in touch with nature and it was really fulfilling."
Alex carried that connection with nature back to the UK, where he joined Simon Rogen at two-Michelin star restaurant L’enclume in The Lakes - spending his days off working at the restaurant's farm.
He then worked at Shaun Rankin's restaurant at luxury hotel Grantley Hall in Ripon until December last year, before taking up his first head chef role at The Beehive in May.
Alex said: “My focus here is on British flavours - it’s British pub food, but executed really well.
“I’m picking every morning to keep produce fresh and anything leftover is either composted or turned into a product like pesto, keeping the flavour to use in four months time.
“Wild garlic season is just finishing and I recently picked four bags worth of it, which I’ve ground down into oil that I can use in December.
“I could cut corners and save a couple of hours, but that goes against what I believe in as a chef."
Alex's menu at The Beehive includes the Denholme apiary honeycomb, made with Alex's house-cultured sweetened yogurt, preserved raspberry, wild bee pollen and toasted hazelnut.
The wild pea risoni, made with house-made soft ricotta cheese, is a dish close to Alex's heart.
“It brings in some of my Italian heritage, but using foraged British products," Alex said.
"It’s a dish of beauty and it’s vegetarian, it encompasses what I’m about.
“Seeing the reactions of the clients and the chefs when they eat my food makes it all worthwhile.
"That feeling gives me goosebumps, the gratification from what you’ve made from scratch.”
Alex's love for homegrown ingredients is infectious and he regularly shares his tips with passers-by while on foraging trips around Leeds.
"Covid has been so horrible with people stuck indoors," Alex added.
"There are so many things that you can do in nature and I'd love people to get out and enjoy England."
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