We chat to Luke Sanderson, head chef of Allium at The Vices York, about their ever-changing menu
Luke Sanderson is head chef of Allium, which is the in-house dining experience at The Vices York. Allium hosts only 14 guests and is open Wednesday-Saturday, serving a set tasting menu (£80 per head) at 7pm. Every second month, the restaurant hosts a plant-based takeover, and the next is 6-9 July.
Have you always been interested in cooking?
Absolutely. Ever since I was young and I would spend time in the kitchen with my Grandma. I loved seeing how she created something from nothing, and how she knew exactly what flavours a dish needed. And I think seeing how it brought the family together really stuck with me. I started to cook for myself as I got older, and found myself obsessing over a dish and how to really perfect it.
When did you decide you could make a career out of it?
I was a teenager when I decided to pursue a career as a chef. I started working kitchen jobs, and then went on to complete an apprenticeship at college. It’s hard to describe but I just knew it was for me.
Would you say you have a particular style of cooking?
I’m quite nostalgic with my cooking. I tend to be drawn to cooking techniques and ingredients that evoke memories. Sometimes it’s been flavours that I remember from being a child, or even certain fragrances that I associate with happy moments in my life. But other than that, I think my style is quite varied. I really love trying new things and allowing my skills to develop.
What experiences do you think have shaped the chef you are today?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with chefs in Italy and Spain, which was really invaluable and I think it really helped me grow my confidence with new flavours and cooking styles. And, in 2017 I was fortunate to also make it to the final of the Chaine Des Rotisseurs Young Chefs Competition, which really inspired me to push harder with my career, try new things and really push boundaries.
What attracted you to the role of head chef at Allium?
I’ve known [founders of The Vices York] Daniel Curro and Moreno Carbone for a few years, due to Daniel’s background in hospitality. They shared their plans with me about The Vices York, and their ideas around an in-house dining experience. It sounded fantastic and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. We started sharing ideas and concepts, which ultimately turned into Allium.
How have you approached creating the Allium menu?
I wanted to bring some of my signature flavours to Allium, but at the same time, the menu needed to fit into The Vices’ York story. I worked with the team to understand what we want the guests to feel, and created the menu around this.
What type of dishes will we find on there?
Allium offers a set six-course tasting menu, which we serve at 7pm. The dishes are impactful with individual flavour, but make sense as a complete journey with every dish complementing the last. It’s an ever-changing menu, but dishes have included Pickled Razor Clam in Spruce Vinegar with Burnt Butter Hollandaise, Rose Petal Parfait with Candied Rose Petal Leaves and Dandelion Coffee, and my signature dish which is Burnt Onion in Lemon Thyme and Wild Garlic with Whey Broth.
Do you have a particular favourite dish right now?
My handmade chocolates are a particular favourite right now, but this changes all of the time. I’m really passionate about perfecting them so that they have the perfect shine and snap. And something as decadent as chocolate means I can try some really intense flavour combinations. Coffee, malt, lemon thyme, stout ganache; I’ve tried them all and it makes a really special end to the dining experience, especially when Daniel pairs it with the right wine!
Where do you source your ingredients from?
I shop locally wherever I can. I often spend my down time exploring food markets, and independent stockists and so often this can alter my menus. Allium offers a set tasting menu to guests, and these dishes can change on a day to day basis, which is amazing for my creativity! I can find new ingredients in a deli, or even forage some wild ingredients, and quickly the offering can change. For example, I really came across some wild garlic whilst walking, and within a couple of days it featured on my menu.
What makes The Vices a special venue?
The Vices is a really incredible space. It’s a three-suite hotel, with a cocktail bar, wine library stocked with all Italian wines and of course, Allium. It’s special because everything from beginning to end has been considered. Guests arrive and the open plan layout means that they can see me working in the kitchen, and they’re very welcome to pop their head in and say hi. The co-founder of the hotel, Daniel Curro, is a sommelier so the night could be enhanced even further with a perfectly chosen wine pairing. And ultimately, the entire design is beautiful. The aesthetic is chic and sophisticated and is the perfect setting for Allium.
What’s great about being based in York?
The city has an incredible energy. I love the number of small indie brands that are popping up, and the York food scene has really exploded. We have some amazing talent in the city, which makes a meal out very exciting. There’s always something to explore and try, and I’m honoured to now be a part of it.
What do you hope to offer with the food offering at Allium going forward?
I want to maintain the impact we had upon launch, and of course always maintain standards. But also I want to keep innovating the menu and trying new things. A few months back, we launched a Plant-Based Takeover Week and due to the success, this is now a permanent fixture on our calendar. I’d love to explore other takeovers, new ingredients and really keep impressing our guests so they come back time after time.