A town-centre pub has pulled off a culinary coup by securing a Michelin star-winning head chef.
Gary Pickles, who has worked under world-famous chefs Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay and starred on TV with Michelle Roux Jnr, is promising to take humble pub grub to a new level by becoming the chef at the Tap & Barrel on Front Street.
The 35-year-old, who has became friends with landlord Dean Smith, is originally from Leeds but now lives in Pontefract.
Gary explained: “It’s a long-term ambition to own my own place so myself and Dean have gone into partnership.
“It’s going to be brilliant, I know it’s going to be good food because it’s what I want to eat, and we’re making everything in-house.
“It’s not going to be posh by any means.”
As an apprentice at Leeds Rhinos, Gary began cooking for himself thanks to the special diet he was expected to eat as a fledgling young rugby player.
After a serious injury, he turned to the food industry and trained at The Box Tree - Ilkley’s Michelin star restaurant - working under head chef Simon Gueller and part-owner Marco Pierre White.
He spent six years working for the Gordon Ramsay Group, plying his trade at the Royal Hospital Road restaurant and Claridge’s among others.
As head chef at Bella Luce in Guernsey he guided the restaurant to its first Michelin star.
For Tap & Barrel landlord, Dean Smith, he sees Gary’s partnership as a major coup, given that the pub was closed until he took over three years ago.
It has been named Martha’s Kitchen - a ‘wholesome name’ according to Dean - and named after a 17-year-old member of staff, Martha Smith, who will be working closely with Gary.
Dean said: “It’s not fine dining, it’s just going to be good food served well.
“Having Gary is like having a superstar playing for a small-town team, it’s a great step forward. He became one of the best young chefs in Europe and it’s nice that he wants to work here when he could be anywhere in the world.”
Michelin stars have become the hallmark for food excellence.
Just five restaurants in Britain have the three stars, including Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant on Royal Hospital Road - where Gary Pickles has worked.
The Michelin guides started off in the early 20th century as a road guide for drivers in France.
By 1926 the guide was used to highlight excellent restaurants, awarding one, two or three stars for quality. Now all fine-dining restaurants across the globe strive for Michelin stars.