Meet the Chef - Josh Overington, Le Cochon Aveugle, York
PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 November 2019
Josh Overington was named our Chef of the Year in the Yorkshire Life Food and Drink Awards 2019. He and wife Victoria have the set the food world spinning at York’s Le Cochon Aveugle
Josh Overington has created a stir with amazing food in his York restaurant. So much so that a unique standout dish, the quirky boudin noir macaron has a following all of its own
His food is a talking point and not content with having one of the best restaurants in Yorkshire, chef patron of York's Le Cochon Aveugle, Josh Overington, has now set his sights on establishing it as one of the best in Britain.
Josh describes his food as contemporary European, rooted in classical French techniques, using the very best produce available to the kitchen on each individual day from his carefully selected farmers and producers. It's exciting and inventive too.
Diners in the 20-seater restaurant on Walmgate experience a blind tasting menu, so arrive with excitement and anticipation on the tip of your tongue. It's difficult to give examples of the menu because it really does change from day to day, and in fact, a person on the table next to you could even be having a different dish to you depending on what's available. It's a daring approach - but one that delivers - and wowed the judges who named him Chef of the Year in the Yorkshire Life Food and Drink awards held in September.
His tastebuds ticklers include hand-dived Orkney scallop cooked 'à la ficelle' in sea urchin butter or fattened guinea fowl, 36 month-aged parmesan, wild garlic and Vin Jaune sauce? That crowd-pleasing boudin noir macaron (black pudding macaron) has to be one that stays. Despite most dishes served in the restaurant being transient, this dish is pretty much a permanent fixture on the menu.
It's very much a family affair at Le Cochon Aveugle, as Josh's wife Victoria is general manager and sommelier. She personally selects the wines for the cellars at both the restaurant and their sister wine bar and bistro, Cave du Cochon, a few doors down, where Josh can be found relaxing on his days off. In fact, that's why they opened it; to create somewhere they'd want to spend their time off. The list of over 200 wines primarily focuses on small grower-producers of fine wines from all over the world and Victoria carefully pairs the wines with the blind tasting menu.
When Josh and Victoria took over Le Cochon Aveugle in 2015, it was just the two of them running the entire business. Josh cooking and washing up, Victoria front of house and doing the paperwork. Five years on they have a team of 22 and a reputation that's soaring.
Josh had been working at the restaurant for its previous owners when they went bust and the landlord approached him about taking it on. With only £800 in savings this was inevitably going to be a big challenge, but one the couple were very much up to tackling.
If you'd asked him if, by the age of 31 in 2019 he'd have a top restaurant be something of a celebrity chef (he featured on Great British Menu in 2017), he would probably have laughed.
For him, the journey began when he left Pocklington and went to Australia after leaving college with 3 AS Levels. 'I decided to move to Sydney and pretty much the only job I could find was pot washing in a little café. The head chef there happened to be English and we got on really well so he started letting me help with prepping and cooking.'
Keen to learn more, Josh returned to England and worked at the Michelin starred Pipe and Glass near Beverley when it first opened. He also spent some time in London at The Waterside Inn at Bray. To hone his skills, Josh moved to France and studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. It was here that Josh discovered how he liked to cook.
After Paris, Josh worked in France cooking privately for families, spent time in The Alps, Corsica and the Klosters. It was here that he met Victoria, who was a nurse. Josh broke his leg skiing and told her that if she could fix his leg, he'd let her take him out on a date.
The couple moved back to the UK. Victoria went to work at The Black Swan with Tommy Banks and Josh worked in York. She learned a huge amount about service and wine at the Black Swan. 'We were very much in the market for opening a restaurant and it was then that the opportunity to take on Le Cochon Aveugle arose and the rest is history.'
'The first year for us at Le Cochon was a learning period for us both. We became obsessed with wine and Victoria did loads of courses.'
Josh sometimes thinks back and wonders how they've got to where they are now.
He says one of the reasons is because he and Victoria are both incredibly competitive. 'We always want to do better and we encourage our team to be the same. Each month we hold a Project Night to involve everyone in what we do. We encourage the chefs to invent a dish, the waiters to create a new cocktail and we bounce ideas off each other.'
And how does Josh cope with the pressure? 'People's expectations are definitely high when they come to dine with us. That pressure can be tough. We are always aiming higher to make the diner's experience not just one of the best in Yorkshire, but ultimately one of the best in the country.' u
Le Cochon Aveugle
37 Walmgate, York YO1 9TX