Leeds’ Michelin-starred chef, Man Behind the Curtain, Michael O’Hare, aims for second Michelin star Yorkshire News

Michael O’Hare, Michelin Star Photography Allen Markey

I don’t expect people to actually cook the recipes that are in my book, says Michelin-starred chef Michael O’Hare of his first book Violations of Good Judgment.

And truth be told, it’s definitely more of an art book than a cookbook. With a height of barely half a meter and an impressive value of £135, you’ll need a pretty sturdy coffee table to hold it up.

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But O’Hare, 40, is deeply proud of his creation, as he is of his Man Behind the Curtain restaurant in Leeds, which received a Michelin star in 2015, a year after it opened and has held ever since.

Michael O’Hare has published his first book Violations of Good Judgment Photo: Allen Markey

To consider Violations of Good Judgment as just another cookbook is to consider The Man Behind the Curtain as just another restaurant.

O’Hare’s vision of the dishes he creates is different from that of most chefs. For him, his dishes should be considered works of art or haute couture. He’s all about creation and evolution, but he hates the idea that people think his restaurant is ‘crazy’ or ‘rock and roll’.

“The Man Behind the Curtain is a very different place than the one I opened seven years ago and I wanted the book to be a presentation of what it is like now. It’s as much about art and fashion as it is about food,” says O’Hare.

“It cannot sit still or it will become obsolete.” He says that Violations is not a collection of recipes, although it does include recipes for some of his signature dishes.

Michael O’Hare with Great British Menu presenter Andi Oliver Image: BBC

“His intention is not ‘look what I can do, you can do it too.’ It’s a frozen image of where the man behind the curtain is now.

“With art and fashion books people don’t expect to be able to do the things they see at home and the same goes for this. A Tom Ford book doesn’t show you how to make a shirt, so why should a book about food be any different?

He was first asked to write a book five years ago. But this self-proclaimed perfectionist wasn’t going to get involved in anything he didn’t have total control over, and that wasn’t perfect.

And so it has come together over several years and the result is practically perfection; It is as quirky as its restaurant. The photographs are definitely works of art and they are not just about food.

Emancipation: one of the dishes in Violation of Good Judgment Image Allen Markey

There are surfboards and skateboards, a motorcycle and even a pair of shoes: O’Hare is famous for his taste in shoes, as well as his long locks and tattoos.

“I have worked with the same photographer Allen Markey for years, so he knows me and my ways. Everything has to be 100 percent right and I have to be in total control. I know it makes me seem a bit manic, but it’s a character trait.”

Whether it’s turning 40 or becoming a father (the book is dedicated to his five-year-old son Hedi), it feels like O’Hare has grown since he first took the culinary scene by storm seven years ago.

“For quite a few years I took every opportunity that came my way. If they paid me I would. I turned into a bit of a shit if I’m being honest. Once I had my little boy, life changed. I decided I wasn’t going to do anything that wasn’t creative and fun, I also wanted to make sure I had a good work-life balance, I drop my little one off at school every day. As a single parent, your priorities change.

Octopus Hot Dog Photo: Allen Markey

“I am a different person than when I was 35 years old, my life is completely different.”

Growing up in Redcar, O’Hare’s parents were working class; his mother ran a flower shop, his father was a welder.

He flirted with careers from ballet to aerospace engineering, before turning to food,

“I decided that cooking was something I really wanted to do. I was 19 years old when that happened. Before that, I had never bought my own products, but I did on a daily basis. I used to buy fresh fish and stuff.

“I spoke to a local restaurant and asked for advice on what to do and he said you could go to college and start over or you could start working in restaurants. I chose the latter.”

He did a stint at Judges Country House Hotel, Yarm, before moving to Harrogate to work with former royal chef Graham Newbould and later John Burton-Race in London.

He was also the driving force behind The Blind Swine in York, a company he left in 2014 after an unfavorable rent increase.

He opened The Man Behind The Curtain under a veil of mystery about Flannels in Leeds, the former home of the elegant Anthony’s restaurant, in 2014. It now occupies a ground-floor location on Vicar Lane. The name is from the Wizard of Oz and the idea was to make it a collaborative effort. However, his inaugural appearance on the BBC’s Great British Menu in 2015, where he was described as a…

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This notice was published: 2022-03-20 06:00:00

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