Jay Tanner is head chef at Chester’s twenty eight. Sister restaurant to the much-lauded Chef’s Table, also in the city, it’s a dining spot that holds the same high standards and ethos of serving great food, but with a more casual offering, with inventive growing-led British dishes served tapas-style. The seed-to-plate concept is key to what Jay and his team do, using fresh daily produce from Growing @ Field28 in Daresbury, alongside meat, game and fish sourced from local suppliers.

Here, Jay shares his food loves.

First dish you learned to cook?

Probably, cheese on toast. It’s simple, delicious and easy to make. Plus, it can be elevated with a variety of condiments.

Most vivid childhood food memory?

When visiting restaurants, my parents always encouraged me to try new dishes I’d never had before or something we wouldn’t usually have at home. This helped expand my palate at an early age and ignited my love for both eating and making food. I’d love to encourage my future children to be adventurous with their food choices, we can learn so much from trying new things.

Most memorable meal out?

So difficult to choose! In the last six months, three meals really standout. The Arkle restaurant in the Chester Grosvenor Hotel is a masterclass in fine dining, perfectly blending classic techniques with more contemporary methods. Next Door, Frodsham is a great neighbourhood restaurant serving local produce with a focus on sustainability. I was also lucky enough to visit the Michelin starred, La Aqualera in Gran Canaria last year. The menu is really unique, comprising of modern dishes inspired by the Canary Island with a Nordic touch.

Favourite ingredient?

I’d have to say beetroot, its humble but so versatile to cook with. It can help to elevate a dish or shine as the star of the show. We serve an extensive vegan offering at twenty eight and beetroot is a great replacement for meat in dishes as it provides an earthy depth of flavour. I’m really looking forward to incorporating more beetroot from Field 28 into the menu when it’s in season this year, which is from late spring to early autumn.

Your go-to snack?

Something salty, like pork scratchings or salt and vinegar squares.

If you weren't running twenty eight, what would you be doing?

If I wasn’t running twenty eight or working as a chef elsewhere, I would be putting my efforts into growing and creating chutneys, oils, sauces etc. During 2023, I started growing unusual and lesser-known varieties of chilli at home, these are great ingredients, and I would love to incorporate them into condiments on a larger scale.

Dream dinner guest?

I would love to have Gareth Ward as a guest at twenty eight. What he’s done at Ynyshir is incredible and his modern take on dining is really innovative. The DJ curating the music and the theatre of the kitchen taking centre stage all contribute to the experience. It would be great to soak up his knowledge and gather his opinions on my dishes.

What's your guilty food pleasure?

Smash Burgers, they seem to be everywhere at the moment, but I still love them.

Who are your Cheshire food and drink heroes?

Firstly, Liam McKay at our sister restaurant, Chef’s Table. We work very closely together ensuring minimum waste from both sites, often using each other’s by-products in our respective menus. Elliot Hill, executive chef at the Arkle is a genius creating elevated elegant dishes using classic techniques. Lastly, I have to mention Gary Usher of Elite Bistros, not only has he created a well-respected restaurant group, he has never compromised in his vision or principles.

A hospitality industry person who inspires?

Michel Roux - he changed the UK restaurant scene and trained some of the best chefs in the business. One of my goals is to enter the Roux Scholarship programme.

A place you love to eat?

Next Door in Frodsham. It’s everything I’m looking for in a restaurant – small and intimate with a really inventive menu. The owners are a married couple comprising of a sommelier and chef and they share the same sustainability ethos as we do at twenty eight.

A career highlight?

Gaining my first head chef position, aged 25, was a massive achievement, even more so that it was at Sticky Walnut, Elite Bistros flagship restaurant. Sticky Walnut has played a huge role in establishing the Chester dining scene and is well-respected on a national level.

What's next?

I plan to grow and develop twenty eight as a restaurant, but also continue to improve myself and nurture my team. We are always looking to find new and inventive ways to incorporate the daily produce from Growing @ Field 28, as well as utilising lesser-known cuts of meat.

What wish do you have for 2024?

For twenty eight to continue to be recognised for its strong sustainability practices, use of fresh produce and inventive menu. I’m planning a food and drink tour through Europe this summer to gain further inspiration for future menus and events.

Great British Life: BBQ ox heart, hashbrown, chimichurri and smoked Shimeji mushrooms. BBQ ox heart, hashbrown, chimichurri and smoked Shimeji mushrooms. (Image: Caitlin Sullivan)

Jay’s favourite dish

BBQ ox heart, hashbrown, chimichurri and smoked Shimeji mushrooms.

I love to us lesser-known cuts of meat and this is a perfect example. Ox heart has a robust gamey flavour and pairs perfectly with chimichurri packed with herbs from Growing @ Field 28 and house-smoked Shimeji mushrooms.