Five minutes with Luke French
Luke French, Chef Director and the mastermind behind Sheffield’s Michelin bibbed JÖRO, has an ever-growing hospitality portfolio in the north of England. Luke’s food has a focus on sustainability and he pairs local ingredients with cooking techniques from around the world.
In 2019, Luke and his wife and business director, Stacey Sherwood opened Konjö, a street food concept, in both Sheffield and Liverpool. Expanding their empire even further, the couple launched a hotel in 2021, House of JÖRO.
Luke appeared on the 17th series of Great British Menu where he created dishes centred around the theme of classic British TV shows, in celebration of 100 years of British Broadcasting.
What’s your very first memory of food?
Hiding underneath a table at my uncle’s wedding, stealing cans of John Smith’s bitter from the grown-ups and smashing in a croquembouche under the table until I was sick.
What’s the first recipe you properly learned to make?
Sticky toffee pudding.
What do you like to do to relax?
I go fishing in the Peak District, I love a bit of peace and quiet away from the craziness of my kitchens.
What’s the one dish you can’t live without?
A Sunday roast.
What ingredient would you take to a desert island with you?
You can have a one-off dinner party on your island… who would you invite?
It depends on if they are helping me cook or not! I’d say my wife Stacey, Adele, Fred Sirieix, Tom Brown, Stephen Manderson (Professor Green), Gareth Ward, Nathan Davies, Andi Oliver, Ricky Gervais & Kevin Hart – it definitely wouldn’t be boring that’s for sure!
What was it like cooking for a university kitchen for thousands of students?
I won’t lie, it was boring. But I did learn how to deal with cooking for big numbers at a relatively decent standard.
What has been your most formative cooking experience?
Cooking alongside my team at my restaurant on a daily basis.
What cookbook means the most to you?
All of the Noma cookbooks – they inspired me so much to think outside the box with ingredients and technique, food waste and turning by-products into another product.
It’s 8pm, you’ve just got home. What are you rustling up?
A big board of cheese & charcuterie with antipasti, breads, crisps and dips. Failing that, if I am really peckish, I’ll make a broth – ramen, pho, something like that.
Is there anything about the food industry that bugs you? We’d like to hear your thoughts…
I’d have to say deal culture. Don’t get me wrong, I want our food to be as assessable as possible, and we try so hard to keep prices down where we can, but I think there is a lack of understanding of what it costs to retain and support happy team, serve the best possible food in terms of ethics and quality, and that’s before you consider the constant rising costs. Essentially, it costs a lot to run a restaurant to a certain standard, and that’s often reflected in the price.
Can you tell us a bit more about your current projects?
We are currently writing a book – I can’t tell you much right now, but it isn’t a Luke French or JÖRO cookbook! We are also building two new food operation sites as well as opening our first store and e-commerce platform SHÖP – a lifestyle, food and drink offering brought to you by us, masterminded by my wife and business partner Stacey.
As if that wasn’t enough, we’re also in the process of building a development kitchen for the restaurant and are in the very early stages of supporting and helping one of our current team members who has been with us for years, in building their own brand and restaurant.
Do you have any aspirations and dreams you’ve yet to fulfil?
We’d love to own a farm. We also have ideas to develop plans for a pub, one or two more restaurant concepts and even a festival in the coming years. I’d like a site in London, I love London. We’ve really enjoyed the publishing side of the business this year and would like to pursue it a bit further.
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