Three Yorkshire Chefs Reveal Their Christmas Cooking Tips


Bethan Andrews delves into a festive food frenzy and explore what’s on the table at Christmas for these well-known Yorkshire cooks


If 2022 is anything to go by for Joro owner and chef Luke French, then he’s one to watch in 2023. This year has seen Joro hit critical acclaim and be nominated for multiple awards, Luke and his wife Stacey Sherwood-French have moved into a commerce venture, too, are working on a second Sheffield site, and as if that wouldn’t be enough, are releasing their first cookbook in December. “It’s been such a highlight and a huge project both personally and professionally,” he says. “It’s about the industry and the key players in our generation who are at the top of their game and making changes for the good of the industry – it’s exciting!” 

Luke And Stacey Joro Exterior Zachary Turner
Luke and Stacey outside Joro, photo by Zachary Turner

So, with such an amazing year under their belt, what are they most looking forward to when it comes to Joro and being a chef in the festive period? “I personally love this time of year,” he smiles. “There’s nowhere I’d rather be, other than in the kitchen, than outside in the wild cold weather foraging and fishing. My weekends as a kid at this time of year were spent out on the game shoots, so I think that’s got something to do with it. So, as a chef, creatively winter pushes me the most as there are less ingredients that are easy to use. You’ve got to challenge yourself and your abilities and, because of that, I believe our cooking at this time of year is the most delicious.” 

For Luke, he loves thinking outside the box and championing the lesser thought about ingredients available at this time of year. “The seafood that we’re getting from the deep waters of Scotland and the North Sea is absolutely incredible and it’s my favourite thing to cook with,” he says. “The game season, too, the produce is just insane so I really love working with those things at this time of year as a chef.” 

At Joro, the best of the season is already on the menu, so the food isn’t strictly focused around a festive or Christmas menu. “It’s quite a nice haven if anyone is wanting to avoid the big Christmas parties!” smiles Stacey. Instead, the restaurant really comes into its own with their festive drink offering. “We focus quite heavily on the drink side of things and make a lot of festive creations, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic Christmas drink recipes that can be paired with the menu. Our retail side of things has a lot of festive wine and drink gift sets available.” For Luke, it’s about doing Christmas a bit differently and looking at the festive flavours in a more subtle way. “We’ll use fermented plum instead of cranberry with duck, for example,” he says. “Spiced red cabbage is always a good one, though!

Joro Interior Tom Kahler
Photo by Tom Kahler

“The restaurant will be shut so we’’ll get everyone over to the restaurant and cook a lot,” Luke adds about their Christmas plans. “Last year, I did a sirloin of local Wagyu beef from Wortley Wagu, a roast ham joint with a black truffle glaze and then I deboned a turkey, stuffed it, rolled it and roasted that. I did a sauce for each of them, apart from the ham, and all the trimmings such as honey roast parsnips with smoked hazelnuts and almonds. I’m a sucker for mince pies and I’ve had about three packets already this year. Waitrose Brown Butter Pastry Mince Pies are absolutely incredible!” 

What tips would Luke offer for prepping best for the main event this year. “Just do as much preparation as possible before the big day,” he says. “I spend two days before getting ready. I brine the turkey, too, in a simple salt water and submerge the bird in it for a good day or two so it permeates into the centre of the bird. It’s really important with white meat, as it can dry out so easily. Get your potatoes parboiled off in a bit of salt water, get them nice and crumbly, drain them off and let them dry in the fridge for 12 hours or so – you’ll get a much better roast potato!” 



It’s been a big year for Michelin star chef and household name Frances Atkins, as she moved away from well-known The Yorke Arms and set up Paradise Food with Roger Olive and John Tullett. Now, after a solid few months of running the new restaurant, Frances is looking forward to sharing her love for seasonality and traditional festive food throughout the winter and Christmas period.

“Every season brings its joy, and it would be very boring if you cooked the same old stuff all the time,” she smiles. “But this time of year is really great! We’ve got all the great colours and different root vegetables, as well as all the amazing autumnal fruits and lots of game. It’s all about the more robust flavours in our winter menu, which adds lots of stimulation both mentally and to the palette. At the restaurant, we use as much wild and natural foods as we can, which is perfect for Christmas.” 

Frances with Roger and John

When it comes to the restaurant, what can people expect over the joyful and indulgent period? “It’s very exciting because we are in the middle of making huge indoor live hanging baskets, which will be all around the restaurant, and we’ve got a 14 foot Christmas tree coming in, too,” beams Frances. “It will be a very atmospheric feel to Paradise and, as far as the food is concerned, we make everything ourselves. So, we are making all our own mincemeat and all the traditional festive elements.”  

On a personal level, what are Frances’ favourite festive flavours and how will they be used at Paradise? “Personally, I love wild venison, I just think it’s the best thing,” she says. “We’re going to be incorporating a lot of nuts and grains with our vegetables this year and I think there’s nothing nicer than a beautifully prepared duck or mallard as a Christmas treat.” 

What tips would Frances offer people prepping for Christmas dinner? “Don’t overdo it and keep things super fresh and super simple,” she says. “If you want to do something special with your sprouts such as sticking some chestnuts or black garlic in them, just do the one special dish and then have something simple as an accompaniment. I would say make your vegetables the centre-piece and work everything else around it. Simplicity is key! A chef will refer to a dish as being clean, and that means it’s unfussy.” 

Paradise At Daleside Interior
Inside Paradise

When it comes to Yorkshire festive traditions, Frances loves a good, generous Yorkshire kitchen. “You can’t beat the good old Yorkshire puddings for filling you up with some caramelized onions,” she smiles. “Boiled fruitcake is very Yorkshire and are just to die for, they are lovely.” And on her personal table this year? “A well-cooked turkey is super with cold bread sauce. Boxing Day is the best day with cold turkey, cold bread sauce and Christmas pudding that has been fried in marmalade with a big dollop of custard.” 

As Frances and the team look forward to the new year in the restaurant, she tells me how excited she is for a dinner they are hosting at the restaurant on New Year’s Eve. “For the new year, we will be using whatever ingredients are available to us that are fresh and exciting in the area, and we’ll be making a lot of different dishes with those,” she says. “I love my work full stop, so I’m just looking forward to having a very busy restaurant!”



Another household Yorkshire name who thrives in a busy restaurant is Tommy Banks of The Black Swan in Oldstead. But unlike Frances Atkins’ love for seasonal vegetables, Tommy likes to turn to a very traditional pastime of preserving when it comes to the festive period. “Wintertime is always a challenge if you’re a chef that uses seasonal produce, as not much particularly grows around this time of the year,” he says. “You’ll have the odd root veggie making an appearance here and there, but otherwise we turn to our glut of preserved produce we’ve been building up over the year. This is most exciting for me and the team as we get to work with some really cool, preserved ingredients and it really pushes our creativity.” 

Tommy Banks

With such a creative but traditional touch to the menu, I wonder what Christmas looks like at The Black Swan. “I may be biased, but Oldstead is a magical time at Christmas – frosty fields and snowy lanes that look like something out of a fairytale,” smiles Tommy. “Then you step inside The Black Swan and our fire is roaring, and one of the team is ready to get you a drink, and it does feel like the perfect place to be.” 

But for Tommy, it’s all about the dessert this year. “Christmas is the time of the year where I go all out for anything sweet, honestly, my sweet tooth really comes alive the moment 1 December hits!” he says. “At Made In Oldstead [Tommy’s successful menu home delivery service], we’ve got so many cool sweet treat gifts – including a sweet treats hamper that includes my Great British Menu winning root vegetable mince pies. Honestly, I have to stop myself eating it whenever I’m developing the products!” 

Tommy Banksjpg
Food at The Black Swan

When it comes to tips for prepping best for Christmas dinner, Tommy focuses on taking a deep breath. “Keep calm and get ahead is my motto,” he says. “Do all your veggies the day before so that on Christmas Day you only have the meat to think about. Don’t make things too hard for yourself!” But what will be on his table this year? “I think we’re going to go duck this year – I’ve noticed a move away from the traditional turkey, and duck is such a great option,” he says. “That, and Banks Brothers canned wine. As a family we can never decide what wine we want to drink at the table, so this year we’re going to go fully canned, so everyone is drinking something they like! For me, Boxing Day is sometimes even better than Christmas Day when it comes to food, though. I get together with all my family and make a massive turkey turnover pie with all the leftovers.”

For Yorkshire traditions, Tommy falls back onto a dessert favourite – although a little less sweet this time. “I absolutely love eating cheese with Christmas cake,” he smiles. “That, and obviously going to York Christmas Market, or Christmas at Castle Howard to see all the lights!”


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