Yorkshire's Independent Restaurant Guide

Hot Chefs Head to Head

We were well and truly cosseted last week at the Devonshire Food Festival, a week long extravaganza showcasing the work of the best chefs in the region and beyond.

Chocolate hedgehogDevonshire here means the Devonshire Arms Hotel at Bolton Abbey where the new, young executive chef of the Burlington Restaurant, Adam Smith – just four months in post – was well and truly in at the deep end, cooking and overseeing lunch and dinner by a series of visiting guest chefs over the seven days of the Festival.

If he was on his knees he wasn’t showing it on our visit which was a light-hearted competition between Smith and his potential arch rival six miles down the road at Ilkley’s Box Tree, Lawrence Yates another young ‘un who by coincidence was also just four months into the job.

Over champagne in the lounge, we were asked to choose from two menus, A & B without knowing who was cooking what.

It was a tough call so Mandy and I did the obvious and chose a menu each. Do we need to tell you they were both brilliant? Refined, labour intensive but beautifully matched so that each flavour was allowed to sing.

My highlight was a starter of langoustine and suckling pig served with a rich shellfish bisque; Mandy’s was her peach soufflé, sweet and light as air with a little jug of peach sauce that you add more or less to take down the sweetness so it’s just to your liking. Clever.


Menu A

Sauté Langoustine
suckling pig and spiced garden apple
Ruinart Blanc de Blanc

Peppered Venison
chestnut, pear and celeriac
Springfontein Ulumbaza Shiraz, Walker Bay, South Africa

Milk Chocolate Hedgehog
tonka bean and hazelnut
Nicholis Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico, Italy


Both menus were text-book in execution. Menu A was the prettier, more delicate and had more elements on the plate. Menu B was more substantial, seemingly simpler but with flavours and textures that married perfectly.


Menu B

Seared Scottish Scallops
roasted pumpkin seeds and paste
Il Feudiccio, Pecorina, Colline Teatine, Italy

Fillet of Grass Fed Beef
Braised cheek and bone marrow, shallot marmalade, red wine sauce
Rockford Basket Press, Shiraz, Barossa Valley

Ruby Peach Souffle
almond ice cream
Veuve Cliquot Demi Sec


Box Tree BeefAnd the winner? Menu B, by Lawrence Yates from the Box Tree but only by a whisker (and not we trust by any vote rigging from the Box Tree table!) And it turns out the chefs are not rivals after all, but two enthusiastic young chefs loving their new jobs and crazy for all the fine Yorkshire produce on their doorstep.

If you missed the Festival this year, put a note in your diary for mid November 2014 or splash out and catch these keen young chefs on the rise.