The new head chef of The Fork in the Road says he’s determined to help make the charity-led Middlesbrough eaterie “the best restaurant on Teesside”.
Award-winning chef Louie Miller will also be responsible for transforming Teessiders who’ve been long-term unemployed into a new generation of talented chefs.
Backed by local charity CEO Sleepout, the not-for-profit project on Linthorpe Road is run by experienced catering professionals who mentor trainees including ex-offenders, those in recovery from addiction and the long-term unemployed.
Louie, who is originally from Yarm, has returned to Teesside after building a big reputation at the award-winning Nags Head at Pickhill, near Thirsk, the Star at Harome, near Helmsley, Aysgarth Falls Hotel near Leyburn and most recently Lockwoods in Ripon, the Good Food Guide’s 2016 Restaurant of the Year.
Having succeeded The Fork in the Road’s interim head chef Matty Gair, former Conyers School pupil Louie said: “I would only have come back to Teesside for the right opportunity – and this is as exciting as it gets.
“From a food point of view, I want The Fork in the Road to be the best restaurant on Teesside. To be the head chef of the best restaurant in the area in which I grew up would be the best possible recognition.”
After leaving Conyers to study at Darlington Catering College, Louie worked at restaurants in Yarm before landing a job in the kitchens of the Michelin award-winning Star at Harome, working his way up to sous-chef during a four-year stay.
He landed his first head chef’s role at Everley’s in Yarm – now known as Muse – before joining the 2AA Rosettes Nags Head, the AA Rosette Aysgarth Falls Hotel and most recently Lockwoods, who he helped clinch the 2015 Taste award for use of local produce as well as the Restaurant of the Year gong.
“I will always buy local where possible, relying on a first class network of suppliers,” said Louie, 30. “I’d describe my style as modern British cuisine with seasonal local dishes and some world influences.
“We’ve already extended the menu to give people more choice of classics and creative dishes, but the menu will be constantly evolving.”
But he says the opportunity to produce the cooking stars of tomorrow was a big draw to The Fork in the Road.
Louie said: “There’s a massive shortage of skilled chefs so if we can help to address that by training locals who’ve been long-term unemployed then that would be fantastic to give something back to my industry and Teesside. There really is no other job like this.”
The Fork in the Road, which will fund the adjoining Bar Zero for the local recovery community, was the brainchild of CEO Sleepout chairman Andy Preston, who said he was delighted to have attracted one of the catering industry’s rising stars to the restaurant.
He said: “Our interim head chef, Matty Gair, did a brilliant job helping us get the project started, producing some excellent food before launching his own catering business, so we wish him all the best.
“We persuaded Louie to come home and do some good work on Teesside. We’re absolutely delighted to have a top chef join us who will help us reach our goal of being one of the very best restaurants for miles around but is very interested in the training and development side too.
“We want to train a new generation of young chefs especially those who need a new start in life, whilst creating a restaurant that serves the whole community.
“If any chef can make that happen I think Louie’s the man. He’s a top quality chef who can take us to a new level.”
Along with CEO Sleepout, The Fork in the Road and Bar Zero project is funded by Public Health England, with input from charity Recovery Connections and Middlesbrough Council’s Public Health Department.