A talented young chef who has cooked for big names like pop star Morrissey and the late Wales football manager Gary Speed will be sharing his secrets at a food festival.
Jack Harley, the head chef at Gale’s of Llangollen, will be one of the star attractions at the Hamper Llangollen, one of the highlight’s of the UK’s culinary calendar.
He will demonstrate his butchery skills at the two-day festival which will see thousands of foodies flocking to the world famous Denbighshire tourist mecca over the weekend of October 15 and 16.
He also teaches regularly at Upstairs Downstairs, a cook shop in Oswestry which runs cookery lessons.
Joining him on the demonstration stage to add spicy flavour to the meat he prepares will be his friend and culinary colleague Yossi Gliksman who runs a thriving cookery school above his cook shop in Oswestry town centre.
It was during the year or so that 31-year-old Jack spent as demi chef de partie in the kitchens of the legendary Chester Grosvenor that he cooked for some of the five star hotel’s celebrity guests.
He recalled: “I remember preparing dishes for people like The Smiths singer Morrissey and the golfer Nick Faldo, which was a thrill for me.
“Later I moved on to become chef de partie at another large restaurant in Chester where I cooked for the late Wales manager Gary Speed on one occasion.
“He was a fantastic person who not only bought a bottle of wine for myself and my colleagues in the kitchen to say thanks for the meal but also stayed to have a drink with us.
“That was really memorable for us all, especially our head chef who was a very big Wales fan.”
Jack, who is originally from Norfolk, moved to Oswestry, where he still lives, with his parents when he was eight years old.
He attended the Marches School in town and later moved on to study for his A Levels at Shrewsbury Sixth Form College.
“While I was doing my A Levels I also worked part-time as a kitchen porter in the Queen’s Head pub in my village,” he said.
“I didn’t want to go on to university and as I really enjoyed the kitchen environment I decided that was what I really wanted to do.
“I got a Modern Apprenticeship at the Brooks Round the Corner restaurant in Oswestry and started there as an apprentice chef.
“After a while I moved on to finish my apprenticeship at Sweeney Hall just outside the town before going over to Jersey to become commis chef at the Sumas restaurant at Gorey in the south of the island.
“A couple of years later I came back to England and worked first at the Chester Grosvenor and then at the Got Wine restaurant in the city, which is where I was fortunate enough to meet Gary Speed.”
Jack landed his first head chef position at the Golden Pheasant restaurant – now re-named the Mulberry – in the Ceiriog Valley.
After a couple of years in that job he took on a similar role at the Navigation Inn gastro pub in Oswestry and earlier this year moved to take over the running of the kitchen at Gales Wine Bar in Llangollen.
He added: “I’m really enjoying being head chef at Gales where we’ve adopted the new ‘small plate’ concept, which means that, instead of starters and mains, you can if you wish have small or large portions of different items on the menu.
“It’s a bit like very upper class tapas, fits in well with the wine bar theme and is going down very well with our customers.
“I also do my own butchery at Gales, which is what I’ll be aiming to demonstrate at Hamper Llangollen.
“At the moment the plan is for me to butcher down an amazing piece of Welsh lamb and show what can be done with it.
“Apart from my job at Gales I also teach regularly at Upstairs Downstairs, a cook shop in Oswestry which runs cookery lessons in everything from bread making to Greek or Italian cooking.
“The man who runs it, Yossi Gliksman, a former chef, will also be appearing at Hamper Llangollen, working closely with me, and at this stage we think he’ll be showing how the lamb I butcher can be flavoured with spices and herbs.
“We work together very well and have a fine rapport, so it should be a real treat for visitors to the festival.”
Jack added: “Although I’ve previously done demonstrations at food festivals like Oswestry, this will be the first time I’ve appeared at Hamper Llangollen but I’m really excited about it as it’s such a high profile event in the foodie calendar.”
Yossi was equally enthusiastic about his own debut appearance before the Llangollen crowds.
He said: “My wife Raine and I have been running our Upstairs Downstairs cookshop in Oswestry since 1987 and we won the title of Britain’s Best Cookshop in 2013.
“We have a very successful cookery school upstairs at our premises in Leg Street where we run at least three lessons every week.
“These include everything from bread making to tapas but it’s not just about cooking because we also teach things like how to use knives properly.
“It’s all about being passionate when it comes to your food. People want a little more than plain cooking and the difference between food now and 25 years ago is tremendous.
“The lessons are proving very popular and we have people coming not just from the local area but from places such as Wolverhampton. We’ve even had pupils from Australia who were over here on holiday.
“The lessons are always run by a professional chef. Jack was one of our originals and is still with us three years later.”
Yossi added: “I was born in Israel and my parents were Moroccan, so there’s a definite spicy French Moroccan influence to my cooking.
“That means I like to work with spices and herbs and when Jack butchers the lamb we’ll work together on adding something to it to make it exceptional, like a dry rub or a marinade.
“I’ve done demonstrations at a number of big shows before but this will be my first time at Llangollen and I’m looking forward to being there and passing on some of my passion for food.”