In Conversation With Jake Jones, Head Chef at Forge Middleton Lodge Estate. 

Following our stay at the wonderful Middleton Lodge Estate and superb dining experience at Forge, earlier this year, we thought it would be interesting to hear from the man behind the culinary magic. Read on to discover more. 

Please tell us a little bit about yourself 

I’m Jake, I’m 31 years old. I grew up near York and I have always loved to cook. I made the move further north over five years ago now and I live near Middleton Lodge with my wife and daughter. When I’m not cooking, I am a big sports fan and love football and cricket. 

When did you realise you wanted to pursue a career as a chef? 

My dad and uncle are both chefs so I grew up around cooking. I started working with my dad when I was 13 and learnt lots of skills from him – it was a one of those things that fell into place.

Please describe your typical working day (if such a thing exists!) 

After I go through what’s been delivered that morning (we work with some amazing local producers), I’ll then check product costs and get any meetings for the day sorted. 

I like to check in with the Forge team daily to touch base and make sure everyone is aware of their tasks for the week.

There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into creating a tasting experience at this level. In the kitchen, everything must be perfect. This includes every ingredient we use, the cooking process, and making sure each course is executed to perfection.

After I have my main jobs for the day sorted, I will make the team supper. We sit down together every night before service starts and there’s very much a family feel – it’s a great chance for the team to talk and bond, and to maintain a welcoming and helpful environment. 

You were previously Head Chef at The Coach House, Middleton Lodge Estate’s first restaurant – how do the two restaurant offerings differ and how has your role changed? 

Although there are some slight similarities between the two restaurants, both taking inspiration from the walled garden, estate landscape and a large commitment to sustainable gastronomy, they are very different too.

The Coach House is much more relaxed, open seven days a week. It’s somewhere to spend the day; it’s authentic and rustic, dishes are heartier. Forge is refined, precise and complex. 

My role has changed in many ways. The Coach House is a busy restaurant with lots of cover; at Forge, it is all about the tasting experience. There are fewer covers, but timing and execution are paramount. 

It has taken six months for you and the team at the estate to bring Forge to fruition. What have been the highs and lows of the journey so far? 

It has been a very enjoyable journey. The highs have been creating the high-quality team we have both in the kitchen and front of house; the lows have been when certain dishes during development have not made the cut. 

Describe Forge in three words. 

Refined. Excellence. Intimate. 

Seasonality, the local landscape and freshly foraged estate ingredients are at the heart of the Forge dining concept. Tell us how you incorporate these elements into the menu. 

I am passionate about conserving the landscape. Cooking with the rhythms of the seasons is more sustainable – ingredients growing here in the gardens and landscape are filled with flavour and at the peak of quality. I work closely with the estate team and gardeners to plan and plant the produce each season to ensure we can create a menu from here. The ethos is seasonal sustainability which encompasses and celebrates the produce we have here and in the British Isles with delicate and refined cooking. 

The creative dining experience currently comprises nine courses – will this always be the magic number? 

The tasting menu will change with the seasons, so the number of courses could increase or decrease depending on the new dishes that we develop and perfect. We are all happy with the nine-course menu and it really showcases what we are all about at the restaurant. 

Each course is delicate, intricate, tastes delicious and is beautifully presented. How do you create a ‘design’ that reflects the flavours? 

I take a lot of inspiration from the estate; it is very beautiful here. I like everything to look as natural as possible. I don’t like to over-complicate courses. There is something effortless about the colours of natural foods and our job is to make sure they look elegant on the plate.

Diners can choose an optional wine pairing, created in collaboration with the founder of Barrique Fine Wines, Edd Simpson. Tell us more about the collaboration. 

Since the Forge development started, I have been lucky enough to work alongside Edd who has brought the knowledge and skillset we needed to ensure the wine pairing at Forge was perfect. 

Edd has researched and curated the wine list with the team and developed an amazing wine pairing where the notes match perfectly with the flavours of each of the nine courses of the tasting menu. He’s been a pleasure to work with. 

You’ve worked alongside some of the most noted chefs in the North at Michelin Star and prestigious restaurants. Who has been the biggest influence on how you work today?

I have worked alongside some very talented chefs and it has been my pleasure to do so. I don’t have one specific place or person who has been the biggest influence; I believe they have all had an influence on my work and how I look at developing a menu. 

Who would you most like to serve in your restaurant and why? 

Because I am such a football fanatic, it would have to be Sir Alex Ferguson. I am a huge Manchester United fan and I have read he loves his food, so I would love him to try the Forge experience one day. 

What key trends are making an appearance at fine dining restaurants? 

There is a much greater focus on sustainable dining, which is great, and there also seems to be a trend of old classic food combinations coming back in a modern way. 

Finally, what is your life motto? 

Strive to be better, every day…

Contact Details

The Forge tasting menu is priced at £125pp with an optional wine pairing, which is an additional £95pp. Reservations are required. Vegan and vegetarian menus are available on request. Diners can book to stay the night at the award-winning hotel. Room rates start from £235, bed and breakfast.

Address: Kneeton Ln, Middleton Tyas, Richmond DL10 6NJ

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