A slice of the good life

PANS PEO­PLE: They’ve no for­mal train­ing, so how did the Banks broth­ers help turn a run­down vil­lage pub into one of York­shire’s six Miche­lin star restau­rants? Sarah Free­man finds out.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

UT the back of the Black Swan at Old­stead, just be­hind the poly­tun­nel and next to what will be a ter­raced gar­den, is an old bi­cy­cle, which with a bit of weld­ing and the ad­di­tion of half a dozen noz­zles, has been trans­formed into a mo­bile fer­tiliser spreader.

“Yep, that’s Dad’s lat­est in­ven­tion,” says head chef Tommy Banks, who runs the Miche­lin-starred restau­rant along with brother James. “He turned up on it the other day, strapped on his back­pack con­tain­ing the fer­tiliser and off he went. He hasn’t patented it yet, but I reckon he’s onto some­thing.”

Dad Tom and wife Anne own the 160acre arable farm next door and when the old vil­lage pub came on the mar­ket in 2006 they de­cided to buy it. Partly it was about rein­vig­o­rat­ing what had be­come a bit of a run down boozer in the North York Moors Na­tional Park, but it was also about giv­ing their two sons a ca­reer in a part of the county where many strug­gle to find work.

It was a bit of a punt, but the Banks broth­ers have more than re­paid their par­ents’ in­vest­ment. It was back in 2012 that the Black Swan, close to the White Horse at Kil­burn and By­land Abbey, first won its Miche­lin star un­der for­mer head chef Adam Jack­son. When he left, Tommy, who had been learn­ing on the job, de­cided to take over in the kitchen, with James con­tin­u­ing to run the front of house.

“If I’m hon­est I’d never thought about be­com­ing a chef be­fore Mum and Dad bought the pub,” says Tommy. “Back then I was more into girls and sport. I cer­tainly didn’t know what a Miche­lin star was, but we did know that we wanted to cre­ate some­thing spe­cial here. Dad has al­ways been the kind of per­son who thinks he can do any­thing and I guess James and I have both in­her­ited a bit of that spirit.”

Hav­ing suc­cess­fully held onto the prized Miche­lin star, which brings not just ku­dos, but bookings, the Banks broth­ers have proved they can de­liver fine dining. Now they want to take the Black Swan to the next level, by mak­ing the restau­rant – as far as is pos­si­ble – self-suf­fi­cient.

“Ob­vi­ously there’s a limit to what we can do – clearly we can’t get our fish from the back gar­den, but it’s some­thing we’ve al­ways been keen on, ever since we took over the pub,” says James. “When some es­tab­lish­ments talk about lo­cal pro­duce they mean it comes from the same county. When we talk about lo­cal pro­duce, we tend to mean within a cou­ple of miles. Over the last few years, we have built up re­ally good re­la­tion­ships with farm­ers and grow­ers in this part of the world, but now we are es­tab­lished it feels like the right time to step it up a notch.”

That means grow­ing their own veg­eta­bles in a spe­cial poly­tun­nel – built of course by Dad – and

I was more into girls and sport. I cer­tainly didn’t know what a Miche­lin star was.

PIC­TURES: GARY LONGBOTTOM.

THYME WILL TELL: Tommy Banks, head chef at the Black Swan at Old­stead, check­ing on a se­lec­tion of herbs in the kitchen.

GROW­ING CON­CERN: Tommy and his brother James, who runs front of house, busy in the poly­tun­nel be­hind the restau­rant.

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