He’s head chef at The Devonshire Arms, on the Bolton Abbey Estate, Skipton. We get inside the mind of Paul Leonard.
Things that inspire me to create the winter menu are … We are constantly changing the menu here at The Dev but I am inspired by the whole winter season, the wonderful root vegetables that have been growing all year are ready to be picked, the abundance of game. It is the produce coming through the kitchen door that inspires me. We are constantly tweaking the dishes making sure that they are balanced, hearty yet not overbearing in winter.
It’s important to make food look good on a plate because …. You eat with your eyes. We want to reflect the work that has gone in to rearing, growing and the preparation of the amazing produce by presenting it in a nice way.
Game features on our menu because … I work in the Yorkshire Dales, we have it in abundance. Also I love it. You’ve got such a wide variety and each animal has a specific season throughout the back end of the year, so we are constantly awaiting the next products coming into the kitchen for us to work on.
To me, a good piece of venison is … Wild, hung well and served nice and pink.
There’s nothing better about the winter months than … Food that makes you feel comfortable. A favourite at home is a really slow- cooked ox cheek, with smoked bacon, onions, some bone marrow and buttery mashed potato – with a large glass of red by the fire. It feels like we are drawing to a close on the year, the garden’s becoming empty and the plans are been drawn up for next year … it’s exciting.
One of my favourite dishes on the winter menu is … We cook a John Dory dish with Cavolo Nero and a white bean and smoked pancetta ragout, which also has some cured pork fat and a tarragon sauce. I think it hits the brief in being hearty yet not too heavy.
The perfect Christmas to me is … An early start in the morning taking the dog for a walk with my Mrs, then into work to do breakfast and straight into lunch. I arrive home early evening to a house full of family and my mother’s Christmas dinner.
One thing you definitely don’t know about me is … I use to play bass guitar in a band years ago. We did a few national gigs and supported some big bands. However, it took me a while to realise I wasn’t very good at it.