Great British Menu 2022 chefs: Luke French, North East and Yorkshire heat

The  Staff Canteen

Chef and co-owner Jöro Luke French is one of four chefs representing the North East and Yorkshire on Great British Menu 2022

Series 17 of the competition starts on February 1st 2022 on BBC Two at 8pm and will air every Tuesday at 8pm, every Wednesday at 9pm (as of the week commencing March 7th) and Thursday at 8pm for eight weeks.

Luke is part of a whole new consortium of chefs to compete for the North East and Yorkshire, facing chefs Bobby Geetha, Liz Cottam and Mark Aisthorpe in a bid to cook at the final banquet.

Bobby was the first to leave the Great British Menu kitchen after serving his fish course, with veteran judge Michael O'Hare and host Andi Oliver citing the fact that he was called in to take part in the programme at a short notice, so lacked preparation. Liz was then eliminated from the competition at the end of day 2 of the North East heat, leaving Mark and Luke to cook for the judges on Thursday 10th March at 8pm.

Despite a tight race, with both chefs earning some high scores for their dishes, Luke took the title to represent the North East and Yorkshire in the regional finals.

Biography

After obtaining an NVQ in professional cookery, the Cambridgeshire-raised chef's first job was at the city's university, cooking for thousands of students a day.

His next role at Alimentum gave him a much better idea of what cooking for culinary excellence could be, so, enthused at the thought, he joined the team at Daniel Clifford's two Michelin-starred Midsummer House to see if it was really for him. Too much too soon perhaps, the experience wasn't for him. But the chef took it in his stride and applied for a stage at The Fat Duck, where, enthralled by the experimental nature of the role, he stayed for several months.

The chef then travelled across Asia, where rather than eat in fine dining restaurants, he spent days working on street food stalls, absorbing as much as he could of the local food culture, learning about ingredients and flavour combinations particular to each one. 

On his return, the chef worked in hotels in and around Cambridge, before moving up to Sheffield to work at The Milestone gastropub, where he rose through the ranks to the position of head chef, staying for five years. This is also where he met his now wife and co-owner at Jöro, Stacey Sherwood-French. The chef was then named executive across the group and oversaw the launch of several new sites across the country.

In 2016, he and Stacey left the company to run a series of pop-ups, and eventually opened Jöro in Sheffield's new Kelham Island district development, Krynkl. Comprised of four levels of shipping containers, the concept got off to a rocky start, but the eventually grew in popularity, drawing in guests, critics and the guides. Michelin Guide awarded the restaurant a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide for Great Britain and Ireland 2018 and the restaurant won 3 AA Rosettes that same year. Last year, it ranked 32nd in the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards top 100. 

Though eager not to be pigeon-holed as 'New Nordic,' the chef concedes that the way his food is presented and his approach to clean, pure flavours is reminiscent of that style.

The Asian influences on the menu are more prominent, however, with dishes such as barbecued hand-dived Orkney scallop in beef fat & scallop dashi; fermented Mayan Gold potato with smoked herring roe; Highland Wagyu knuckle with wasabi mustard & watercress; fatty tuna belly with tare and aromatic green paste and line-caught Cornish turbot with yuzu & dashi creamed sea leeks.

Since opening Jöro, the couple have seized on multiple other opportunities, opening boutique hotel and chef's table site House of Jöro; two Asian-inspired fast-food outlets (one in Sheffield and another in Liverpool), Konjo and Liverpool sushi restaurant, Nama.

Luke's interpretation of the brief on Great British Menu will see him cooking dishes inspired by early eighties classics, Brideshead Revisited and Butterflies. 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th March 2022

Great British Menu 2022 chefs: Luke French, North East and Yorkshire heat