James Mackenzie, Chef Owner, The Pipe and Glass

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th September 2017

Michelin-starred chef James Mackenzie, took over The Pipe and Glass in Beverely with his wife Kate 11 years ago.

It is currently the only restaurant with a Michelin star in East Yorkshire and he credits 'cooking for the customers' as the key to success. The Staff Canteen spoke to James about working with Andrew Pern at The Star Inn at Harome as his first head chef, how his food style has evolved and how chain restaurants are diluting the skill set of young chefs.

Tell us about The Pipe and Glass.

The Pipe and Glass ROAST PHEASANT BREAST%2C PARSNIP PURÉE PARKIN AND PICKLED BRAMBLES

The Pipe & Glass - roast

pheasant, parsnip puree

& pickled brambles 

My wife Kate and I took over in March 2006 so that’s eleven years which have flown by. When we took it on it had a gone through a succession of hands with nobody spending any time love or money on it. We had two weeks to do a refurb with just over twenty grand – there was a lot of hard work and sleepless nights!

When we first opened up we got quite a lot of attention to begin with because there was nothing really like this round here. I always say that eleven years on all the other places have moved on so much, there’s no way we would get away with the same things we did then and get the chance to evolve.

It was our first business by ourselves, there was a lot of pressure on us so all we were trying to do was cook nice food and give the best possible service we could give. I would say great Yorkshire hospitality and great food. That’s still the same philosophy today really.

Five days after we first opened Michelin came in and I was like you are joking me and they left their card and they said you know you’re on our radar.

Info bar 

Top 5 restaurant meals

The Fat Duck (2016)

L'Auberge du Pont de Collonge, Lyon (Paul Bocuse)

Le Manoir aux’Quat Saisons

Rust en Vrede (Stellenbosch, South Africa)

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

Influential chefs in career

Andrew Pern

Marco Pierre White

Nigel Howarth

Tony Jowett (chef / owner of the restaurant at my first job at the age of 13)

Ken Allanson (my chef lecturer at Scarborough Technical college)

Comfort foods

Toad in the hole

Fish and chips (eaten by the seaside)

Roast chicken dinner

Ham and cheese toastie

Hot shellfish platter (if that’s classed as comfort food?)

You got the Michelin star in 2010, are accolades important?

We didn’t expect it, we got awarded a star and it does put 20-25% on your business straight away which was good, but it brings you that added pressure and it was probably the hardest year actually getting the star. It brings in a different kind of attention and clientele. It settled down after eighteen months and we’ve been able to grow from it, it’s brilliant but that’s not the main focus we’re still very much hands on all the time. We employ over 50 people now.

It’s turned into a monster really but we’re a very busy place and try to keep our feet on the ground whilst recognising what we are and try to offer something across the board. So that if you can come in for a pint we’re as interested in serving that as we are in serving fine wine. It’s as important for us to get it right if someone who comes in cycling or walking and wants to have a nip in the bar for a steak sandwich as it is that we get it right when serving wild halibut or roast grouse.

The Pipe & Glass
The Pipe & Glass - credit Tim Green

Is it right that you hold the only Michelin star in the East Yorkshire?

Yeah but we are a Michelin pub, that’s what we like to be defined as. We do about a thousand covers a week when we’re busy and we have fourteen full time chefs which does fluctuate. We have done really well with staff retention over the years and we try to look after everybody that works hard and try to reward them whilst being fair to them.

How has your food style evolved since you first opened?

The style has changed to be fair, when you first start it’s difficult when you’ve worked for other people to get your own style. It’s fine chefs having their own style but that doesn’t necessarily work until you find out what your customers want. You have to cook for your customers to have a business and that can kind of dictate what your style of food is, how you cook it and how everything goes on the plate.

The Pipe & Glass Halibut Tim Green
Halibut - credit Tim Green

When we first came I was fighting to get decent supplies of everything it was like being in the back of beyond. Veg suppliers wouldn’t come over here and with more specialist stuff in the early days I was driving to get produce from so many places I used to meet somebody in a car park in asparagus season! I did persuade some ex suppliers to start coming over here which has been great.

Talk us through the menu.

There’s still certain dishes that are on the menu from when we started and some of them I’ve obviously had to evolve. I’m constantly going can we make it better? Is there a new technique of cooking it? Sometimes you mess about and it doesn’t work and you end up saying actually forget that just carry on cooking it how we were. I think it’s gone kind of full circle really from my food and probably finding a style of our own after about two years, then really feeling like we’re defined as our own.

I’ve become more confident in my food and what we’re serving and made it a little bit simpler again. I’d say right from the word go a potted pork dish with sticky apple has changed a little bit over the years but the premise is still the same you might change the recipe and the garnish a little but there the foods people expect when they come to the Pipe and Glass. I can’t take them off the menu because there would be uproar.

How did you get into the industry?

I grew up in Filey and got a job washing up, my first day, I will never forget it, washing up on a bank holiday Easter Sunday. I came back home to my mum and I said I never want to go back again. I was made to go back again and absolutely loved it and after a while I enjoyed going to work more than I did going to school. I started to see the value of making money and earning money and I enjoyed cooking. I don’t consider myself that old really but when you look around you realise you have been in the industry and around for a while. When you do win stuff and you get somebody following you on Instagram or making a comment I’m always humbled by it. There’s not that many top places that manage to keep at the top and manage to keep going for over a decade in one place.

Having watched the industry evolve what are your thoughts on social media?

We all know what’s going on with everything don’t we? I mean our worlds always been a small world anyway but I think when you look at it it’s become even smaller. That’s the way I think we all keep up on what’s going on in the industry cause it is hard to get out and eat at all the different places and I get inspiration from looking at your tweets and Instagram feed and takeover stuff - you can see what people are doing and how they operate during the day. I do think one thing that is probably a slight negative is sometimes I feel that everybody’s food does become a bit the same.

The Pipe & Glass   BAKED DARK CHOCOLATE ‘MILLIONAIRE’ PUDDING  Tim Green Photography low res

The Pipe & Glass -baked dark

chocolate 'millionaire' pudding 

What is Andrew Pern like to work with and what did you take from that experience?

A great deal really, Andrews a great character a great chef and non-stop. He’s an ideas man I think right from the get go of going to work there we had the affiliation that we’d been to the same college had the same teachers and the same sense of humour. It had just got a Michelin star the year before there was a lot going on for a small team of, evolving all the time and it was hard but that teaches you to get on with it and you come out the other side. Andrew made me into his first head chef that he had ever had and he was putting a lot of trust in me and there was a lot of pressure but it taught me a lot of things and gave me the confidence to go on and do more.

When I left we had full support of Andrew and he’s been a great friend ever since. We’re involved in a lot of the same things together and we have the Two Chefs beer. We wanted to come up with something different and that’s hard to do when it’s a beer so we started the conversation with the brewers and asked have you ever put herbs in a beer, they looked at us as if we were mad.

We did ours with fresh honey and fresh lemon and thyme in and everybody loved it so we said why don’t we carry on with this? Now it’s been going about six years. It compliments both our place and Andrews in bottles it went worldwide and it’s has gone to Dubai, Hong Kong and China. We don’t make any money out of it but its good fun.

How important is it for the industry to keep attracting young people?

It’s a great passion of mine to try and get young chefs in to the industry, I run the Golden Apron competition and that’s been quite a big thing over the last few of years trying to inspire. It’s so easy for many people who sit on the fence in our industry and moan about what’s coming out of colleges.

James Mackenzie quotePaul Heathcote tweeted the other day and said this is our industry where you’re never out of a job, you get to travel the world, you have great friends and you can earn good money. That is totally true and if just one person decides to come into this industry from this competition that’s rewarding for us.

What advice would you give young chefs?

You’ve got to stick with it and don’t forget you need to know the basics - these chain places dilute the skill set we have coming through, it’s fine calling yourself a chef but can you actually cook?

What are your plans for the future?

Hopefully still be getting people through the door here! We’re always trying to evolve The Pipe and Glass and I can’t say to you in five years’ time I see us having a load of different places or anything like that. At the minute we’re concentrating on what we’ve got, keep the quality and like I say people coming back and steadily evolving.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th September 2017

James Mackenzie, Chef Owner, The Pipe and Glass