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Jay Rayner reflects on his Yorkshire past

PUBLISHED: 14:06 07 January 2011 | UPDATED: 16:11 20 February 2013

Jay Rayner at Betty's in Harrogate

Jay Rayner at Betty's in Harrogate

Restaurant critic Jay Rayner - the special guest at next month's Yorkshire Life Food and Wine awards - recalls how his career began in Leeds and makes plans to re-visit a chef in Otley

Restaurant critic, novelist, television presenter and son of a celebrated agony aunt, Jay Rayner got his first taste of Yorkshire as a student in Leeds. 'For a time I considered staying there but that didn't work out. I think there's always an attachment with the place of your coming of age.'


It was in Leeds that he cut his teeth as a reviewer. During his degree in political studies he became editor of the student newspaper, The Leeds Student.

'That's where I had my first review published. My predecessor in the editor's chair had produced some single issue magazines and I did two - one on drugs, one on food.

'The food one came out in spring 1988 and I called it The Great Foody, although I spelled foodie wrongly, with a y, not an ie. I reviewed Manfred's at 54 Wellington Street and said it gave "marvellous value for money".'

As he talks he brings down a volume of bound magazines from the shelf and leafs through to find that first review. Reading it for the first time in years has him chuckling gleefully. 'Oh this is such pompous stuff, it's great.

'I had the escargot starter and devilled spring chicken, my companion - that's probably some girl I was trying to snog and didn't - had chicken as well. The salad dressing was a little greasy and the dessert was an orgy of thick cream apparently. I wonder if it's still there.'

He then breaks off again to search the internet for Manfred and finds his man in charge of the kitchens at a restaurant in Otley. 'I think I've just found my next review. I wonder if he remembers me?'

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