We Grill – Matt Healy
Matt Healy is the owner of X The Foundry in Leeds. The runner-up in BBC Masterchef: The Professionals 2016, he was crowned national winner of British Roast Dinner Week in 2018. The Foundry Wine Bar and Restaurant, part of the award-winning Round Foundry estate, has steadily built a great reputation in Leeds for its British cooking.
Congratulations on being crowned the British Roast Dinner Week national winner!
Thank you! Before I owned my restaurant, I never used to go out for Sunday lunch because I could never find somewhere that could do a roast as well as I could do it at home. I was reluctant to go out and spend £20 on a piece of undercooked lamb and overcooked veg. Therefore when I opened X The Foundry I aimed to make Sunday lunch here like a home away from home – and I think that’s what we’ve done!
What’s the secret to serving an award winning roast?
The way we do it is to serve it all on one board for the table to share. Loads of roast chicken and slow-cooked beef sirloin served with duck fat roast potatoes, homemade Yorkshire puddings, roasted carrots, greens, cauliflower cheese, and of course gravy. And a bottle of wine. We offer mushroom wellington for customers not wanting to eat meat. The meal isn’t about fancy presentation, it’s about having a perfect Sunday afternoon.
How has winning impacted your business?
We are lucky that we are almost full Tuesday through to Saturday. However, since winning the competition we have extended our opening hours on a Sunday by three hours; going from 50 covers to 100! We’re booked a month in advance for Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays – now Sundays are going that way too!
What simple mistakes do some outlets make with a roast?
Making it overcomplicated! We focus on making the actual meat perfect, coupled with a mega gravy, roasties, Yorkshire puddings and a simple veg offering! Anything more than that is just faff (in my opinion!).
Tell us about X The Foundry…
It was a long-standing restaurant in Leeds, which I took over in March 2018. I gave it a facelift, stripped it back to barebrick walls and put a polished concrete floor in to make it in keeping with the Round Foundry estate -refurbished industrial buildings. It was very important for me to have my own restaurant in Leeds. It’s not only where I come from but I was so touched by all the people from the city who got behind me during my time on Masterchef that I wanted to create something here that we can all be proud of. Leeds is finally getting its place on the map. It was a good few years behind London and Manchester but it is catching up and I hope I can add to that.
Can you describe the menu?
I want the food I serve at my restaurant to get customers thinking. It’s simple, tasty and well executed. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here; we are serving British food with seasonal produce. The menu is written in such a way that the dishes appear understated, then people tend to be overwhelmed when the food arrives! I’m quick to dismiss the term ‘fine dining’ because I think that puts people off trying new places. We’ve removed the shackles of an à la carte three course meal and delivered a more comfortable, relaxed way of enjoying the dishes we prepare. Our menu encourages a grazing, sharing style of dining, delivering dishes as and when they are prepared and at their freshest. This encourages our guests to sit back and enjoy their time with us.
How did appearing on Masterchef: The Professionals boost your career?
I had an amazing time – especially when two-Michelin-starred judge Marcus Wareing described one of my sauces as ‘one of the best he had ever tasted’! I came runner-up in 2016 and thanks to that had a golden ticket to open my own restaurant. Most of the contestants on the show returned to their kitchens and continued what they are doing. However, the show helped to create awareness of me and that gave me the platform on which to be able to build my own restaurant and reputation.
What is your career history?
I started washing up at a restaurant in my village of Horsforth, near Leeds when I was 15 and then trained at Thomas Danby Catering College in Leeds. After graduating I worked at Stuart’s Wine Bar in Leeds as a commis chef, then Babylon and Livebait before moving to Ripponden and working under Simon Shaw at the original El Gato Negro – the only Manchester city centre restaurant to hold a Michelin Bib Gourmand – as head chef. I then moved to London and worked at the critically acclaimed restaurant Terroirs as senior sous chef before returning home.
What advice would you give to a young, aspiring chef?
Buy a notebook so you can jot everything down and go to a good catering school. Then go and work somewhere where you’ll know it’ll be tough, and where you’ll get your backside kicked for two years! That’ll help you find where you want to be – whether that’s in a vegan cafe or a high end restaurant. It’s important to figure out what it is that makes you tick in the kitchen – once you’ve done that chase after it and don’t let anyone stand in your way.