Chef Joe Wright reveals his passion for food, fry-ups and Jürgen Klopp

Joe Wright in the kitchen
Photo: Ben Wright

Joe Wright in the kitchen Photo: Ben Wright - Credit: Archant

Joe Wright runs Chester’s Joseph Benjamin and Porta in Chester, Altrincham and Salford

Joe Wright in the kitchen
Photo: Ben Wright

Joe Wright in the kitchen Photo: Ben Wright - Credit: Archant

The co-founder of the Chester culinary hotspot, Joseph Benjamin, and Chester, Altrincham and Salford tapas success story, Porta, tells us his favourite foodie moments and memories.

First dish you learned to cook? Pretty sure it was spaghetti bolognese - one of my mum’s specialities. I can remember the amazing smell of the house when it was simmering away for hours on the stove.

Most vivid childhood food memory? Sharing a huge bowl of shellfish rice at a restaurant in Silves, Portugal. I remember pulling out huge chunks of crab and prawns in the shell and enjoying the mess it made while I picked out the tasty bits of meat. They also served the most amazing toast with aioli spread over it.

Most memorable meal out? At a chiringuito (beach bar) in southern Spain, near Garrucha. The tables were right next to the sea. I ate a big plate of sardines grilled over charcoal, with a delicious tomato salad, with a bottle of ice cold Verdejo.

Favourite ingredient? A really good quality olive oil. So many dishes benefit from a little drizzle of olive oil to finish them. Or salt... If any dish isn’t properly seasoned, it will taste bland and dull.

Ingredient you loathe? Micro-herbs and edible flowers. In the wrong hands, they are just used to make a bad dish look pretty.

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Favourite place to eat? In a busy, buzzing restaurant. For me, much of the enjoyment of a restaurant is about the atmosphere. Obviously the food needs to be pretty good too.

Describe your cooking style in three words Simple, tasty, classical. I’m not really into putting ‘twists’ on a classic. It’s a classic for a reason.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be? Something hands on, maybe a gardener... but only in the summer. I’ll go butcher for the winter.

Favourite country for food? Given we run three tapas bars, it has to be Spain. I love how different the style of food is from region to region. The quality of produce is unbelievable, and often needs very little doing to it to make it delicious.

Tell us about the menu at Joseph Benjamin The menu has changed a bit since lockdown. It’s a fairly small, focused menu, ensuring super fresh, quality ingredients. We have a selection of small plates which are great to share as starters or lunch. Main courses include simple grilled meat and fish. We have some amazing lamb chops which we’re getting from a local farm and some great whole grilled Cornish mackerel. We’re also serving traditional paella to share. Our head chef José, is from Valencia (the home of Spanish rice) and he is creating some really authentic, tasty dishes.

What are your food philosophies? European in style, we are ingredient focused. We try to buy the best seasonal produce and not do too much to it. We prefer to have two or three elements in a dish cooked perfectly.

Who would be your dream dinner guest? Jürgen Klopp. I’m a huge Liverpool fan.

What’s your food guilty pleasure? I love a fry-up... In a proper greasy-spoon cafe. Ideally served on a ‘bin lid’ bap.

When you’re not in the kitchen, what do you get up to? My daughter is keeping my wife and I pretty busy. She was born in mid-May, right in the middle of lockdown.

Find out more about Joseph Benjamin here and tapas and wine bar Porta

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