Michael Carr, Head Chef, Restaurant 92

The  Staff Canteen

Michael Carr is the head chef at Restaurant 92 in Harrogate.

He started his career in the same town before heading to Cornwall to work with Neil Martin and Chris Eden, then he moved to London to work with Gordon Ramsay and Alyn Williams.
Coming full circle the 25-year-old has ambitious plans for the restaurant, which featured in the Michelin Guide UK 2018, could a star be next?

The Staff Canteen spoke to Michael about opening his own restaurant, why age shouldn’t be a barrier for success and being inspired by some of the top London kitchens.

Duck Liver Parfait Homemade Brioche & Pickles low res

Duck Liver Parfait, Homemade

Brioche & Pickles

You opened Restaurant 92 two years ago – did you have a vision of how you wanted it to be?

I’d had ideas of how I wanted my own place if I got the opportunity to start from scratch but when I walked in to this old Victorian building with all its character I knew I wanted to keep it classy. But I wanted to break it down so people felt comfortable, I got rid of the table clothes and we have beautiful marble tables. That’s when my ideas for the food came in, classical cooking but with cheeky modern twists here and there.

You are still young, do you think age is a barrier when it comes to having your own restaurant and accolades?

If you look at the famous chefs of the moment like Tommy Banks and then those who work under the big guys like Danny Parker at House of Tides, people who are bubbling below the surface – how old are they? I think it’s about what you have seen, what you have done, who you have worked with and the person you are. If you are evolving constantly and enjoy what you do then surely an age limit shouldn’t be put on what you can achieve. It should just come from the passion and the food you produce.

You’ve worked in kitchens with Michelin stars and been a part of the teams who have achieved them, do you want a star yourself?

I’ve been in that moment where I’ve thought one day I will have a Michelin star but after opening this and being my own boss, I don’t think it’s something you should strive for. I think you just need to keep pushing, keep progressing and be innovative – plus consistency is key. If I can keep achieving that and people start to notice that I’ll be more than happy. I have a great team and we all get on which I think is important, you can have good chefs and front of house but if they don’t click then nothing else is going to click.

Info bar

Favourite cookbooks:
Marco Pierre white white heat 25
French laundry
Pitt cue - for all those guilty days (sticky goodness)
And all of Peter Gilmores books are awesome !!

Chefs to look out for:
Ben Harrington - This guy is wicked and his food is always on point, I worked with him in London with the Ramsay Group.

Luke Rayment-Blakey - Was head chef at Claridges now he is currently head chef at the Ned in London.

Owen Sullivan - Company sous chef for Gordan Ramsay top chef and always great fun to work with.

Neil Bentinck - Owner/chef of Skosh in York.. very talented and top guy. Bib gourmand this year who knows next year.

Guilty pleasure:
Love a good chuck out (take-out) sat in front of the fire and a film that just completely mellows you out. That's living the dream.

Top 5 restaurants:
Paul Ainsworth at no.6
The Hand and Flowers 
Orchid in Harrogate
Social Eating House
Black Swan Oldstead

Let’s talk about the menu and the dishes at Restaurant 92.

We are in a beautiful part of the world, Yorkshire produce is insane! I get lamb, beef and fish up here which is way better than I used to get in London. The ingredients we have are really fresh and vibrant and I think my cooking style follows that, it’s very seasonal but every chef says that. The grouse dish I’ve just put on is beautiful and quite playful, I break the leg down into a lolly pop so you can pick it up – I like some of my dishes to be hands on.

Yorkshire Beef Wellington
Yorkshire Beef Wellington

On the lunch menu I do a French onion soup but with an onion cloche which you remove and then pour your own soup in. It has a really intense flavour as we make it over two days. I’ve got a statement dish I’ve had on for few months now which is beef tartare, folded through with smoke beef fat and pickled mustard seeds. I serve that as the base then on top is crispy seaweed and a deep fried oyster.

So if we go back to the beginning, what appealed to you about being a chef?

My friend’s parents owned The Square and Compass in North Rigton, I started pot washing when I was 14 and migrated from that into the kitchen. Everything was fresh there so there was really good produce, it was only pub stuff, but it was really good. I got hooked and I enjoyed being in that heated, stressful environment.

You moved on to Rudding Park, and the headed to Cornwall – what was that like?

When I was at Rudding with Stephanie Moon in the Clocktower it was really good. We had two rosettes and she would send me to Northcote and Pipe and Glass to do some really good stages. Then I worked at The Driftwood with Chris Eden, I was chef de partie when we won the star and I did the summer months but it’s a different life down there when it’s not in season. Chris said I should go to London, I never wanted to go to London, I didn’t want to follow that path I was happy hopping between chefs I was fascinated by and enjoyed the look of their food, their skill and passion.

Head Chef Michael Carr
Yorkshire Beef Wellington

Your first kitchen in London was Gordon Ramsay at Claridges.

I was ready to prove myself and as soon as I got to London, I felt like I loved it – I thought it was awesome! I did a day in a few different kitchens so Pied a Terre, Texture and then I decided to take the offer from the Ramsay Group at Claridges. The head chef was Luke Rayment and it was a great kitchen. We were still pushing to get the star back at the time, before Gordon decided to close it, we got so close and it broke everyone’s heart when he said he was going to close.

Claridges was a whirlwind, it was fast paced every day, 18 hour days and super intense. It was really hard core for six or seven months until I got to where I needed to be and I met some great people along the way. 

You became a company sous for the Ramsay Group, did you learn a lot in that role?

I was working at Petrus, Maze and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay with Clare (Smyth) – I was 21 at the time. I just took my notebook around with me, I was taking down notes and recipes and I just loved it. I was coming in to help when they were short staffed but at a senior level, it meant I could help the commis chefs with prep but then be on the pass for service or cooking meat with the guy on sauce. I was doing something new every day and I was constantly learning. I moved back to Harrogate for family reasons but if that hadn’t happened I’d still be down in London, for sure.

And then you worked with Alyn Williams at the Westbury?

Working for Alyn was brilliant, that kitchen was wicked. For me that was 12 months of pure love! It never felt like hard work and the food we were producing was just on another level. I’m still surprised to this day that he hasn’t got two stars. I haven’t come across food like his apart from Petrus and I believe they should have two stars as well!

You’ve obviously been inspired by the chefs you’ve worked with, so where do you see yourself in five years?

When you own a business and everything is in it I think it’s difficult to think about expanding. I think that’s what I’d like to do, I’d like to do a version of a tapas bar in say Leeds - I have a lot of ideas about that. I would love to put Harrogate on the foodie map and be known as one of the chefs to do it.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 5th October 2017

Michael Carr, Head Chef, Restaurant 92