Meeting the Team Behind Restaurant Pignut in Helmsley

tom heywood and laurissa cook

Tom Heywood and Laurissa Cook reflect on the journey since opening Restaurant Pignut in Helmsley.

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A Buzzing Culinary Gem in Helmsley

They haven’t even been open a year yet, but the buzz around Pignut in Helmsley is growing at some pace. It’s unsurprising, too, considering not only the great food on offer but also their sustainable approach.

The Visionaries of Pignut

Tom Heywood, the head chef, and Laurissa Cook, front of house, are the brains behind the venture. At Restaurant Pignut, they believe in the transformative power of local ingredients. Their food philosophy is rooted in the idea that food is a narrative, and each dish they craft tells a story of the land, sea, and the ever-changing tapestry of seasons. Guided by the hands of local farmers and foragers, their menus are a celebration of the natural rhythms of our region.

At Pignut, they are more than just a restaurant; they are creators of experiences and champions of community. Through their culinary artistry, they aim to craft moments that go beyond the plate. Whether you’re sharing a meal with loved ones or making new connections at our tables, their restaurant is a space where relationships are nurtured, and memories are forged.

tom heywood and laurissa cook

Absolutely Magazine caught up with Tom and Laurissa to find out more.

Pignut’s Roots in the Food Industry

Tom: My overall experience in the industry has always been positive. There have been negatives, but they have helped me shape the ethos of Pignut. I’ve worked in various places from Cumbria to Cambridge, and I’ve noticed a lot of egos in the industry. We wanted to create an experience at Pignut where the spotlight isn’t on the chef but on our suppliers, which I think is something that some restaurants miss.

The Inspiration Behind Pignut

Laurissa: The desire to be our own bosses and have our own freedom was a driving force. When we saw the space for Pignut, it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Choosing Helmsley as Home

Laurissa: Helmsley’s abundance of small suppliers and wild foraging opportunities made it the perfect place. We stumbled upon the building that was up for lease and knew it was right for us.

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The Journey from Inception to Opening

Laurissa: We got the keys in March 2023 and balanced our full-time jobs in York with refurbishing the restaurant on our days off. It was tough but worthwhile when we opened in June 2023. Getting started was challenging, but once we opened, we quickly found our rhythm.

Pignut’s Approach to Dining

Tom: We’re not intentionally trying to be different; our focus is on producing a sustainable tasting menu. This requires frequent changes, sometimes weekly, which distinguishes us from other tasting menu restaurants.

The Intimacy of Six Tables

Laurissa: Our six tables create a personable and intimate environment, allowing us to enhance our diners’ experiences with personal interaction.

Nature’s Influence on the Menu

Tom: Nature is at the core of our menu. We base our offerings on what grows wild or is farmed locally.

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Championing Local Sourcing

Tom: Everything is locally sourced. We use Newfields Organic in Fadmoor for vegetables, Castle Howard for beef and pork, and Helmsley Walled Garden for herbs and seasonal fruits.

Showcasing Pignut’s Philosophy Through Dishes

Tom: Our “wastage” course exemplifies our commitment to reducing waste and highlighting industry issues. The locally-grown mushroom mousse, offered as a sweet dish, incorporates seasonal flavors when fruit is scarce.

The Reason for a Tasting Menu

Tom: A tasting menu is our way of being sustainable, minimizing waste, and showcasing an array of suppliers.

The Art of Food and Wine Pairings

Laurissa: Pairing wine with food is crucial; it should enhance, not overpower, the flavors. Finding the right balance is essential.

Future Aspirations for Pignut

Tom: We hope to keep refining our food and experience, discover more suppliers, and create a restaurant people are eager to revisit.

The Lasting Impression of Pignut

Laurissa: We want guests to leave having had a unique experience, learn about our sourcing, and support the same local producers. We hope they take away memories that resonate with the distinctiveness of the area.

Explore more about their culinary journey and offerings at Restaurant Pignut.

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