Tommy banks, youngest chef to win a michelin star, shares his recipe for success dorset echo

Fast forward five years and Banks has gained a name for himself for his own inventive combinations – he prefers the term "making it all up as I go along" to ‘self-taught’ – using local produce and displaying them as though exquisite pieces of art on the plate. The Black Swan was voted the world’s best restaurant on TripAdvisor in October 2017 and, now, it’s always packed.

Perhaps his feet are firmly on the ground because it hasn’t always been easy. "Running a business in a rural place is really tough, it struggled," he admits, and aged 18 Banks became very ill with ulcerative colitis, had surgery and spent a year recovering.


"Winning Great British Menu was massive for my self-confidence. Before that, I thought what I was doing was good, but no one else had really [experienced] it, because we were this tiny restaurant and we were quite quiet," says the 28-year-old, admitting he was "petrified and extremely anxious" going into the show, and how odd it was to be recogised afterwards. Now he’s on the other side of things – this year‘s MasterChef finalists spent a day cooking with him.

Anyone who’s seen his TV appearances will know he’s steadfast in his ethos of home-grown produce and really using the ingredients on his doorstep – after all, farming is in his blood. Banks grew up on the farm his family still run in the "idyllic" rural, North York Moors.

As a result, his food is completely dictated by what’s grown on the farm, so humble British (or more specifically, Yorkshire) veg always takes centre stage, whether it’s a beetroot steak cooked in beef fat, a mainstay at the Black Swan, or in desserts like celery leaf parfait. And any meat he uses won’t be farmed far away either.

"It means you have to be creative," Banks says. "My menus are designed around what we’ve got coming in. So if we’ve got jerusalem artichokes, beetroot and wild garlic, we won’t just do vegetarian food, but whatever the fish or meat is going to be will have to go around what that is first. I’d never approach it like, ‘I want to do a duck dish’. It’s more like, ‘I’ve got celeriac, what are we going to do with it this year?’"

The book is a real celebration of nature and his homeland. "Everything I’ve done over the last 10 years is documented in there, everything I’ve learned and come up with." And it’s true – Roots is so comprehensive it covers everything from simple family recipes, like his grandma’s apple cake, to advanced cooking techniques where you’ll need a water bath and a vacuum seal to recreate some of the dishes on his Michelin star restaurant menu.

He also wants to dispel some of the misconceptions around ‘seasonal’ eating. "When I started growing produce, I realised there aren’t really four seasons in the UK from a culinary perspective, because we literally have nothing ready in January to April, and most of May, depending on the weather." For instance, peas in supermarkets in spring are likely to be imported. "Spring is a time when everything is growing," he says, "We haven’t even sown our peas yet! We’d lose them to frost."

1. Make the green herb oil: Blitz the herbs in a food processor to a rough green slush. Tip this into a muslin cloth and work hard to squeeze out any water. Return the dry herb pulp to the blender. Heat the oil to 70°C and blitz with the herbs until thoroughly combined. If your blender has a heating element you don’t need to preheat the oil. Just blend the oil and herbs at 70°C for five minutes. Leave to marinate overnight before hanging oil in a muslin cloth over a bowl.

2. Make the elderflower vinegar: Check the elderflower for any bugs, then stuff them into a large jar and pour over the vinegar. Place the jar in a pan of water so the water covers the jar and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and allow the jar to cool in the water before storing in the fridge.

3. To make the sauce, sweat the shallots in the butter until they are soft but do not allow them to colour. Add the white wine and reduce over a medium heat until the wine is a syrup coating the shallots, then add the vermouth and reduce again.

5. Put the chives in a food processor and blitz until they are a mush. Scrape the chives out of the bowl and onto a clean cloth. Squeeze the chive mush in the cloth to remove all the water – you should end up with a dry ball. Place the dry chives and the grapeseed oil in a Thermomix jug. Blitz for seven minutes at 70°C then strain through a muslin cloth.