James Mackenzie

James Mackenzie

James Mackenzie

James Mackenzie champions refined, modern British cuisine, shaped by the local traditions and ingredients that make the glorious Yorkshire counties so special.

James Mackenzie, who grew up in Filey on the North Yorkshire coast, started his career in the kitchen at just 13 years old, before going on to train at Scarborough Technical College (now Yorkshire Coast College) and various top kitchens around the country. He returned to Yorkshire in 2002, as head chef for Andrew Pern at The Star Inn in Harome, North Yorkshire – still one of his favourite places to take his children on a rare day off.

James Mackenzie’s hearty food – designed for customers with appetites – showcases traditional British ingredients, flavours and dishes, particularly those from the surrounding environs of Yorkshire. Scarborough Woof and Seaweed Fritters with Brown Crab Mayonnaise display the best the local Yorkshire coast has to offer, while Partridge, Cranberry and Juniper Sausage Rolls are an interesting twist on this British staple. Foraged ingredients are also a feature in such dishes as Wild Rabbit, Langoustine and Jerusalem Artichoke Crumble with Wild Garlic Crust. Dessert is equally as creative, with plates such as Pistachio and Raspberry Bakewell Tart, and White Chocolate and Cranberry Bread and Butter Pudding offering new takes on old classics.

With the sheer breadth of high-quality ingredients being made in the vast surrounding counties, it is no wonder that James Mackenzie places this bounty at the centre of his food. From fresh fish and seafood from the eastern coastal waters to game and beef, born of the land, not to mention the hand-made cheeses and charcuterie crafted by local artisans.

This focus on local suppliers is stressed in his first cookbook, On The Menu: Seasonal Recipes for a Culinary Life, which was released in 2012. Here he sings the praises of James White, a nearby butcher who supplies the Pipe and Glass with its pork. Writes James: “Not only is he a brilliant and passionate butcher, but all of the meat he sells he also slaughters in immaculate whitewashed buildings immediately behind the shop…This is truly amazing in this age of stringent health and safety laws…All of the meat has been cared for through every stage of life and death.” For James, fantastic food means the simple things done really, really well. "If you have great produce and treat it with respect, the quality shines through and the taste will be at its best".

His drive to source the perfect ingredient has even led him to make his own beer – Two Chefs Ale. Together with Andrew Pern, his old friend from The Star Inn (plus a little help from the Great Yorkshire Brewery), they make two session ales. A golden blonde summer beer lightly flavoured with local honey and lemon thyme from The Star Inn’s garden and a darker, winter ale with a touch of Christmassy cinnamon and nutmeg. As well as selling these beers in their respective restaurants, these traditional British flavours also make it into the food. Says James: “We cook with it, we make gravy with it, we braise beef in it, all sorts”, not to mention his Two Chefs Ale Bread, where the yeasty, malty flavours of the beer work particularly well.

As well as championing suppliers, James Mackenzie is enthusiastic about both his young kitchen brigade and future generations of workers. “Treating your staff well” is extremely important to him, “everybody not working 100 hours each a week and being fair to them…you get a lot more out of people like that” he says.

But it is those young people who haven’t quite made it into the kitchen that James Mackenzie has focused on more recently, “not just people who are at college or young commis chefs… I’m very keen on bringing on the next generation… encouraging people into our industry as well” he told us. To this end James and Kate run their own competition, The Golden Apron, for 14-19 year olds who may be considering a career in the kitchen but are put off by old stereotypes. “It’s kind of dismissing some of their fears about a real kitchen, they see that Gordon Ramsay’s berating people and shouting and not every kitchen’s like that, especially not modern kitchens… I had that done to me when I was younger and that, I’m not saying it’s not pressured, and I’m not saying that I don’t shout and things, but it’s about treating your staff well… encouraging young people into the industry…helping to inspire the next generation of chefs”.

The three finalists in this competition get to cook with James in his kitchen, with the top prize being a work placement with food suppliers Cranswick, working on their Sainsbury’s account with the new product development team. Says James: “This is a great opportunity for youngsters across Yorkshire to work with some great local produce and show what can be achieved”. And what a role model James Mackenzie is for this kind of cooking – the bar has been set pretty high.