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Meet Head Chef Josh Whitehead

In the first of a new series of blogs, we meet Josh Whitehead, Kino’s Head Chef since May 2023.

A former semi-finalist in MasterChef: The Professionals, Josh was previously Executive Chef at The Harewood Food and Drink Project. Keen to find out what makes him tick, we asked him a few questions starting with the obvious one:

Why cooking?

I’m not really sure, I find it a way to focus. Cooking is a great way to be creative and to make people happy, so it’s a nice way to kill two birds!

One of your passions is foraging. How did you get into that?

It was a big movement which started in the Nordic region about the time I first started cooking. It immediately piqued my interest, mainly because of the variety of ingredients that aren’t usually available. I was then introduced to Craig Worrall from Edible Leeds, a very experienced and professional forager who I’m now fortunate to call a friend. He taught me almost everything I know about wild food, and was even kind enough to share some of his spots with me. We ended up doing pop-ups together using almost exclusively wild ingredients. Since then, it’s something I have always done as a part of my cooking.

What is it about pastry?

For me, pastry is an art form, both sweet and savoury. It requires patience, concentration and discipline, three things which I don’t naturally possess! I struggle with ADHD, but pastry makes me focus because you can’t rush certain steps as that usually means the next one won’t go very well. Also, pies, who doesn’t love pies?! That’s why I started Kino’s monthly Pastry Club – to share my obsession with all the other pastry-philes out there. There are so many different pastry styles and recipes to try.

What inspires you?

Inspiration can come from anywhere really. I tend to research in old cook books and look at traditional techniques and dishes. It can also be a more visual cue – for example, trying to create a stencil for a pie cutter after looking at the amazing barrel-vaulted ceiling in the Howard Assembly Room. Or it might be that I want to use a specific ingredients or technique.

What’s your favourite dish on the current Kino menu

I mean, it goes without saying that it’s Pâté En Croûte! We change the type frequently depending on what’s in season. I also love the Venison Pithiver. Shock, horror, more pastry! We buy our deer whole from a local supplier and this allows us to utilise everything. The shoulder is slowly cooked for around six hours with roasted oxtail and a spice blend we make that’s heady with juniper. It’s then encased in a milk-based pastry and cooked until crisp, and served alongside a nice piece of roasted venison with a green peppercorn and red wine sauce. It’s exactly the type of thing I love to eat.

Whilst we’re on the subject, I’d likely finish my meal with the Pumpkin Pie. It’s lighter and easier to digest than a regular frangipane tart, as we swap the nuts for ground pumpkin seeds, the jam is made from butternut squash and we finish the dish with a delicious pumpkin seed oil ice cream that tastes like pistachio – all while being gluten and nut free!

See the menu