Meet the chef: Ashley Binder at Middlethorpe Hall in York
Middlethorpe Hall is a 10-minute drive from the medieval city of York with its 13th-century defensive walls (the longest and best preserved in England), narrow streets, gothic minster and bookshops specialising in antiquarian books. Visitors can explore York’s Roman, Viking, and medieval heritage plus a wealth of attractions like the iconic York Minster.
The hotel’s elegant 60 cover restaurant is overseen by Head Chef Ashley Binder. The classically panelled dining room overlooking the magnificent gardens are a special feature of Middlethorpe and provide the perfect setting for the excellent British food with both traditional and contemporary touches for which the hotel has been awarded two AA Rosettes.
We talk to Ashley about his culinary background, his favourite restaurant and why he is so passionate about locally sourced produce.
1 – Tell us how your culinary career started?
My career started at Rudding Park hotel in Harrogate when I was 16 years old and knew nothing about the industry. I learnt a lot there about what the job entailed and knew fairly quickly that cooking would be not just a job to me but my passion.
2 – You were appointed Head Chef at Middlethorpe Hall last year having worked at the hotel before. What menu changes have you made in that time?
When I took over at Middlethorpe in October last year I wanted to create menus that tasted as good as they looked, using great local and seasonal produce, and good techniques to maximise the flavour of my dishes. The hard work from my team and I, means that we are keeping it consistent whilst trying new things and moving forward.
3 – You use local and seasonal produce in all your menus. Tell us about some of the local produce and suppliers you like to work with.
We have some amazing produce on our doorstep in Yorkshire, from local game which is supplied to us by Ryan at R&J Butchers in Ripon (his aged Waterford farm beef is also something special), to the best fish that the East-coast has to offer, which we get from Richard Fowler, a family Fishmonger based in York. They sell us beautiful halibut and turbot.
4 – You have access to your own kitchen garden. Tell us about how you use all of this produce in your menus.
In our award-winning garden at Middlethorpe we grow all sorts of fruit and vegetables; we have a wonderful herb garden, an apple and pear orchard, a good sized vegetable plot for beetroots and carrots. In the spring/summer we have peas and broad beans too. You can’t get fresher than your own back yard so we utilise the Middlethorpe Gardens as much as we can. There are also beehives in the parkland, and the honey produced is used in our puddings and pastries.
5 – What is your favourite restaurant and why?
If you can have a favourite restaurant that you haven’t eaten at it would be Eleven Madison Park in NYC, I love the style of Daniel Humm’s food keeping things classical with modern techniques, clean flavours and presentation. If not it would be a place called The Orchid in Harrogate they serve great Asian food and I have some fond memories from nights with family and friends.
6 – Where do you like to travel to for culinary inspiration?
Some of my best inspiration has come from family holidays to Cornwall, sitting by the sea eating fresh fish. They have some wonderful restaurants down there.
7 – Middlethorpe Hall offers an A La Carte and Gourmet Tasting Menu. Tell us about the Tasting Menu.
The tasting menu at Middlethorpe Hall is a great way to experience more dishes from our ‘A la Carte’ menu than you would normally do. We serve our guests seven courses of our favourite dishes keeping the menu balanced, it is filling and indulgent using the best produce around. It is something special!
8 – Why do you think York is so popular as a tourist destination? (Middlethorpe Hall has won ‘Restaurant of the Year’ at the York Tourism Awards several times)
York is steeped in history, it has something for everyone – the cobbled streets of the shambles, the minster is very impressive too, it has some great live music venues, bars and restaurants, and the racecourse brings lots of tourists as well.
9 – How do you inspire your team at Middlethorpe Hall?
I try to inspire my team by being positive, it is hard work in a kitchen! You have to encourage people so you can get the best out of them, it is important that everybody works together
10 – What sustainable methods inspire you and why?
For me the best sustainable methods are to grow your own and eat with the seasons. They have benefits for all, the customer gets food when it is at its best, the business saves money and it is also good for the environment.
Address: Bishopthorpe Rd, York YO23 2GB
Phone: 01904 641241