Chef profile - Josh Whitehead of Harewood Estate

The 4,500-acre Harewood Estate between Leeds and Harrogate is an iconic Yorkshire estate and stately home.

Josh Whitehead based at Harewood Estate. (Picture: Simon Hulme).
Josh Whitehead based at Harewood Estate. (Picture: Simon Hulme).

Its history of food production goes back for hundreds of years. It continues to this day, and now with the Harewood Food and Drink Project founded in 2016, it champions the fruits, vegetables, meat, game and wild foraged foods at Harewood and those across Yorkshire.

The driving force behind the project is managing director Eddy Lascelles and working alongside him is the talented executive chef Josh Whitehead who shares the same passion.

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Together they are growing the offer on the estate in a vast range of exciting and dynamic events on and around the estate in the beautifully refurbished Hovels, a Grade II listed converted stable block, the Muddy Boots Cafe in Harewood Village and now, the Courtyard Cafe & Terrace Tearoom on behalf of Harewood House Trust. Watch this space.

What was the first dish you cooked? I seem to remember a cake of some sort many moons ago with my mum. Although I vividly remember a horrifically bad “risotto” in food technology at school when I was about 12, thinking I was the next Escoffier.

Where or who do you get your culinary inspiration from? It tends to change week on week, but the Harewood estate remains a constant. There is not one thing here that I could get bored of, and the food philosophy and ethos here is constantly growing and developing, and I feel myself growing and developing along with it.

What was your first cookery book? Three-Star Chef, by Gordon Ramsey. I think that was the turning point in making me decide I wanted to be a chef.

Who would be your three dream dinner guests? Loyle Carner is a musician and teacher who I think could be one of the most fantastic people ever to exist. An amazing musician, but he is also a foodie, to the point where he has set up a cookery school for kids with ADHD. Chef and author Anthony Bourdain without a doubt is one of my heroes. To have him around for dinner would have been a dream. Ru Paul as everyone needs at least a little bit of Ru’s energy in their life.

What is your guilty food pleasure? Anything flavoured with artificial banana, Irn-Bru and Kentucky fried chicken, although I can’t say that I feel particularly guilty about any of them.

What is your favourite tool or gadget in the kitchen? It has to be my oven. We have a wicked Rational oven, which is more like a spaceship than an oven. Knives are very important, but we went so long without great equipment yet still delivered top events so the oven feels well earned.

What did you do during the lockdown, and what are your plans for Harewood going forward? I began writing when I saw an article on “why can’t you write a book?” and I thought, why not? I began writing about the philosophy of Harewood, which is an ongoing project that I enjoy. I also caught up with a lot of foraging and preserving, which I think is very meditative and a great way to cope with the lockdown.

The Harewood project was carried on, with my boss Eddy working hard to deliver bistro takeaways, groceries, and meals to the local community.

Now, the plan is to continue to grow the project and enrich the food culture of Harewood, albeit a little trickier in current times. We recently opened two new venues and an event space that sadly has been on and off this year, but we hope they will be big next year.