Chef Tom Heywood on his new restaurant, Pignut

The Staff Canteen

Tom Heywood recently opened his first solo restaurant in Helmsley, North Yorkshire. He spoke to The Staff canteen about how much you have to learn to start your own business and why he called it Pignut!

We first met Tom when he was head chef at The Rattle Owl in York – his ambition was clear then, so it was no surprise that he recently opened the doors to his first restaurant with his partner Laurissa Cook.

Chef Tom Heywood and his partner Laurissa Cook from Pignut“I’m excited,” he said, sat at one of the 14 tables in freshly painted Pignut, in picturesque Yorkshire town, Helmsley. The location is becoming a ‘foodie hub’, just down the road are already recognised Michelin-starred restaurants, The Star Inn at Harome and The Black Swan at Oldstead.

“Pignut is a foraged nut and we actually found some local to the area, they actually grow and bulb up at the same time as we opened the restaurant, so it seemed the perfect fit,” explained Tom, who has been foraging for many years since his time at The Pheasant Hotel in Harome. Pignuts are edible so expect to see them on the menu at some point!

Tom, who has always been inspired by a 'zero waste ethos', felt the time was right to open his own place, he hopes it will allow them to have a better work/life balance and because it is small they can really focus and hone in on local suppliers.

He said: “The unknown is always worrying but we are confident in what we can do. We’ve been doing it in York for years now, we know we have a good product and we just want people t come here, try it and keep coming back to support us.”

The restaurant is based around locality and seasonality with all of the ingredients being sourced within the area and a sustainable wine list. There will be an eight course tasting menu available for dinner plus a four course menu at lunch and if you just fancy a few glasses of wine and snacks, you can head to their lounge.

Pignut restaurant Tom says he ‘likes to keep dishes simple and it’s all about flavour’ and they will adapt the menu as the local produce changes with the seasons. He explained that the first course on the menu is called ‘wastage’.

“Anything which is left over from the dishes on the menu, will be turned into a juice and served to start.”

As well as aiming to be local and sustainable their main ambition is to get a Michelin Green Star.

Tom said: “It would be great recognition for what we do. It would prove to everyone that we are doing what we say we are doing which is really important to us.”

No doubt accolades will come and the pair have achieved the hardest part which is getting the doors open – Tom explained that with everything they had to do to get up and running the one thing he hasn’t done is cook. But he knows he can do that! Some may say it’s brave to open in the current climate but Tom is confident they have everything in place to be a success.

“We are a small cover restaurant, we open four days a week but we can up that, we only have one other chef and a part time front of house plus we forage a lot of our produce which is free! We’re optimistic, we have a lovely space and once people come in they will want to come back.”

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 6th July 2023

Chef Tom Heywood on his new restaurant, Pignut