Luke French

Luke French

Eventually, as is often the case with chefs, Luke felt the urge to open his own place. After he and Stacey cooked private dinners for a local architect, he approached them with an opportunity to open in Krynkl, a four-floor building made out of shipping containers to showcase small startups and businesses in the city’s Kelham Island district. With the blessing and financial backing of Matt Bigland and Nina Patel-Bigland (the owners of The Milestone Group), Luke and Stacey started work on getting what would become Jöro ready for the public.

‘We did pop-ups around the city for about a year before we opened, testing the waters and finding our feet,’ says Luke. ‘We’d talk to suppliers, go out foraging and just try things out. We were really lucky to be involved with the site at Krynkl from the beginning, right down to the design and even building the furniture. When we first opened, however, it was tough – especially the first six months. Sometimes we wouldn’t have a single booking for a service and a lot of people just didn’t understand what we were trying to do. It is admittedly a quirky little place – after all, we’re inside a shipping container in Sheffield’s old red light district – but it wasn’t until we started getting a bit of national press that things began to pick up.’

That national press started to see people travel to Jöro and Luke and Stacey started to gain a name for themselves. They were offering something Sheffield hadn’t really been home to before – innovative, inventive cooking that took influence from both Nordic and Asian food movements. ‘Looking back, when we first opened I was still trying to find my style,’ says Luke. ‘Michelin came in and sort of branded us with that ‘New Nordic’ tag, which wasn’t quite what we were going for, but my presentation and approach to clean, pure flavours is definitely reminiscent of that. There have always been Asian influences in my cooking, but I think they’re really come to the fore more recently.’

That Asian influence was helped massively by one of Luke’s suppliers – Stuart Turner of Sushi Sushi. ‘When Stu came to Jöro to do a tasting of the products he offered, I suddenly had access to all these incredible ingredients that I’d first tasted during my travels around Asia. Initially I just loved the flavours and tried to use them as much as possible, but since then I’ve been educating myself on their origins and how they’re used, which led to us creating our own in-house ferments such as soy sauces, garums and koji. All our fresh produce – except for one or two things – is British, however. We get our shellfish from Scotland, trout from Hampshire and we’re working with beef local to Sheffield.’

Jöro is now firmly fixed as one of Yorkshire’s must-visit restaurants, continuing to offer adventurous small plates which are a pure distillation of Luke’s distinctive style. While it remains the HQ of everything Luke and Stacey do, other projects have surfaced more recently, including the House of Jöro (a boutique Sheffield hotel containing four bedrooms and a ten-seater chef table), Konjo (an east Asian-inspired fast food offering with sites in both Sheffield and Liverpool) and Nama, a sushi counter in Liverpool serving responsibly sourced sashimi. Spread across two cities, both home to exciting emerging food scenes, Luke and Stacey are in the midst of something very exciting indeed – and they certainly show no signs of slowing down.