CHEF JOSH OVERINGTON
Chef Patron of Le Cochon Aveugle
& Cave Du Cochon, York, UK
“Why York is the New Young
Foodie Hotspot of the UK”
As part of a brand new blog series profiling the pioneers who wear Chef Works in the UK and Ireland, we welcome Josh Overington, Chef Patron of York’s Le Cochon Aveugle, as our debut guest chef.
The #ChefWorksWearers series is all about the people behind the plates; the boundary-pushing chefs who are making their mark on the UK restaurant scene and defining success on their own terms.
Josh Overington is one of five interviews we’ve landed with some of the UK’s best chefs, alongside some rising stars. Our ask of them is simple: just talk about something you’re into right now. Josh chose Yorkshire, specifically his home town of York, and why the city and wider region is the one to watch on the UK culinary landscape.
The story so far…
29-year old Josh is Chef Patron of Parisian-style bistro Le Cochon Aveugle in York. With his partner Vicky, the restaurant has become one of the most celebrated in Yorkshire and the North, renowned for fine dining without the fancy – think hip hop music turned up louder than it should, while you eat food of Michelin quality (sans the official stars).
Bringing a little bit of Paris back to Walmgate, York, has been no mean feat. Josh lived in the French capital while he trained at Le Cordon Bleu, and after eating at Le Comptoir, he realised that fine dining in a more relaxed bistro setting was what he truly wanted to do.
“We opened Le Cochon Aveugle four years ago, based on the scene of restaurants that are open in Paris. We wanted all the ponce of fine dining restaurants stripped away, but with the same quality food – just in a much more casual setting,” Josh explains.
After the success of the restaurant, the entrepreneurial couple decided to open a wine bar, Cave Du Cochon, in 2016. “We go to Paris three times a year to check out the scene. All the restaurants like ours started to open wine bars – serving really good wines, casual affair snacks…stuff you’d want to eat on your day off. So we got a space down the road from the restaurant and made it happen.”
Both of Josh’s places focus on vegetables and natural organic produce, working alongside tiny hand-picked producers. “My main job is to find really well-crafted producers of cheese, milk, vegetables and make the most of the produce, showing it off without doing too much to it.”
Josh grew up in York, before moving away to live in various places including Australia, Canada and France. While he loves travelling and getting inspiration from other countries, his passion for his home city pulled him back.
“I knew a place like ours would work well in York. We’re providing the same standard of food as that in London, but customers are paying quarter of the price. I knew that would appeal to Yorkshire people.
“It’s absolute rubbish that people in the North don’t know about the quality of food and that all the great places are based in London, Manchester or Edinburgh. I’ve always believed York could sustain this type of venue, and I’ve been proven right.
“York has previously had a bit of a bad rep for food. The problem was tourism – major brands leapt in and tourists didn’t know where to go, so the big ones won for a long time.
“Restaurants like J Baker’s and Le Langhe were a real turning point for the city. They were properly authentic and received great critical reviews, sewing the seed with younger people like me that it could one day happen. Before opening the restaurant, I was sous chef at Blind Swine which again was a culinary game-changer, not just in the city, but also the wider region. When it closed, York reverted back to a bit of barren landscape.”
Then things changed.
A new generation of younger chefs
“I opened in 2014 and made prices as low as possible to open the appeal, and then places around York were pushing Yorkshire’s restaurant credentials as a whole. The Raby Hunt in Summerhouse made a big impact, and The Black Swan at Oldstead stole the show when Tommy Banks took over the kitchen. Then there was Skosh in York, with Neil Bentinck there offering something really different – small plates with an Indian accent on everything; and over in Sheffield, Luke French was doing something different with Joro, while Murray Wilson made waves when he opened Horto at Rudding Park in Harrogate.
“There was this new generation of younger chefs all based in North who kind of rose up the scene all at the same time – putting a lot of eyes on the whole region. I think many chefs now look at Yorkshire and ask why they would pay rents of London when they could be here. And the community here is so supportive; we genuinely love having our venues here.”
The strengths of the region and what diners are demanding
“Yorkshire has certain produce which it does really, really well. The asparagus from Sand Hutton is the best in the world. You can get hold of some really good stuff here generally.
“At the restaurant, we’ve become very vegetable-driven. When we opened, it was a lot more French than it is now, all protein and cream and butter. Looking at the modern palette, for a fine dining restaurant to survive now you have to look beyond meat. It’s more affordable, and more appealing to the younger generation and they’re the ones directing the trends. They’re the ones making fine dining less formal, and asking for more choice. They want good quality food, but the days of the white tablecloth are dying out. There’s a time and a place.”
Josh is keen to see more mid-market restaurants open in York: “There’s not a lot of easy come, easy go restaurants where you can just walk in, have a really nice meal with wine, and walk out again. We need more places like The Reliance in Leeds.
“We’ve also got one of the best gastropubs in the UK in The Star Inn at Harome. I’d really like to see young chefs like myself explore what else we can do with a pub; an inventive one in a remote area – I’d love to see more of that.”
He’s also got his eyes firmly on Bristol as he sees similarities in the dining scene there:
“Like York, there’s young money, demanding really good food and healthier options.” But he also makes it a priority to get inspiration from other cities – Barcelona, Paris, New York. “I want to be the best in England, not just the region. To do that I need to look at what the whole world is doing, not just the UK.”
Thanks to Josh for taking part. Visit www.lecochonaveugle.uk for more info on Josh and his two venues.
Photography: Jo Crawford