10 minutes with: Kirk Haworth, Co-founder, Plates

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th September 2017

North West Young Chef of the Year 2005 and development chef and consultant, Kirk Haworth, tells us about how his life and career was turned upside down after contracting Lyme Disease from a tick bite while working in Australia.

Kirk has worked in some of the world’s most high-end establishments including Restaurant Sat Bains, The French Laundry, The Square, and Quay in Sydney and is classically trained by his father, Michelin-starred chef Nigel Haworth.

Kirk Haworth
Kirk Haworth

Biography and diagnosis

“I started at 13 washing pots on a Saturday morning whilst at school, a few years later I started helping on the canapé section one busy weekend and loved it, the rest is history," said Kirk.

The 30-year-old chef, who’s been training since the young age of 16, went undiagnosed for four years.

“I had so many doctor’s appointments in both the UK and Australia (where I lived in the early stages of this journey) and nobody could diagnose me as Lyme, it’s not very well understood - even in the medical profession. I was given drugs to try to relieve some of my pain symptoms but I naturally needed to find the root cause.”

Kirk’s career as a chef was brought to a halt as his symptoms worsened, which had a huge impact on his mental health.

“It was affecting me day to day, making my job much more difficult both mentally and physically. Every day was a battle to get through. I was dealing with many symptoms, (mainly chronic pain) that progressively worsened - but I ignored it for a long while and carried on.”

After flying around Europe with his father in search of an answer, Kirk was finally given a diagnosis. Within the four-year search, Kirk had been going about his daily life as normal as possible without realising what impact his diet was having on his body.

Kirk & Keeley Haworth
Kirk & Keeley Haworth

Kirk then read into how food feeds the body, how it can aggravate the body and how food can impact mental health: “I have become extremely interested in nutrition, and learned a lot about the power of food first hand. To try and help my body heal I have adopted a fully plant based diet and have felt and noticed great improvements since this change.”

Restaurant residency Plates

To carry on his love of cooking, Kirk created a restaurant residency with his sister Keeley that they do once a week called Plates.

“The menus are now fully plant based, cooking with only natural and mainly organic ingredients," explains Kirk.

“Falling ill changed the way I cook and eat forever, and in a way that has given me a new focus in the kitchen.”

Although he finds it more difficult to create dishes with such restrictions, Kirk is finding the creative challenges exciting as well as rewarding when he gets to share them with his guests at the weekend.

Tickets to attend the residency events can be purchased from the Plates website and for every ticket sold, £1 will be donated to Lyme Aid UK, which Kirk is an ambassador of. Last year he raised over £40,000 for UK Lyme charities through hosting several fund-raising dinners. The first was at his father’s Michelin starred restaurant, Northcote in Lancashire. A second followed at The Nel in Sydney, Australia with Kirk’s best friend.

Organic tomato & strawberry salad, wild herbs, elderflower

Organic tomato & strawberry salad,

wild herbs, elderflower

Future Plans

Looking ahead Kirk has a lot of things in the pipeline including slowly building up his restaurant Plates and writing a book on plant based cooking documenting his journey back to health, but first, Kirk knows making as much of a full recovery as possible is top of his agenda.

He said: “I want to show people that positive things can come out of the worst situations, and share my new style of food/cooking with a larger audience.”

Although his health may have deteriorated over the years, Kirk’s attitude certainly hasn’t faltered and the chef is hoping to inspire more people with his journey so far.

“Don’t give up hope, find a way to keep cooking and follow your dreams!"

He continued: “I miss the buzz of the kitchen so much sometimes, but I have found ways around this by running a restaurant essentially one night a week. There are so many ways now you can be involved in food, just explore options and think outside the box. To keep a positive mind and still stay involved in what I love has been so important for me to carry on fighting.”

The next residency will be held at Autumn Yard in Hackney Downs from September 16 through to December.

Tickets are available through the website: plates-london.com

By Grace Handley

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th September 2017

10 minutes with: Kirk Haworth, Co-founder, Plates