From The Archive - The Man Behind The Curtain: An Interview With Michael O'Haire
This article was originally featured on the One&Other Magazine website.
Michael O’Hare is a well-respected name in York gastronomy. With his bleached blonde hair and tattoos you’d expect him to be more accustomed with an electric guitar than a ladle. History shows us it is the latter though with his two previous York based establishments the Blind Swine and Cochon Aveugle leaving a lasting impression on the taste buds. With the announcement of his new restaurant The Man Behind The Curtain opening in Leeds around 9 May we decided to have a chat about his new place.
O&O: Why the name "The Man Behind The Curtain?
MOH: The full name is "The Man Behind The Curtain" a restaurant by Michael O'Hare. It’s a quote from the Wizard of Oz, "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain". The name came about during discussions with a friend about how people view restaurants and the importance of a figure head. A face if you like that people take comfort from. Celebrity chefs have become chain restaurants, it’s bizarre. You can eat at Marco Pierre White’s on a ship or in a department store or a grill room its ridiculous people go expecting to see that guy. Jamie’s Italian another example, truth be told there are much better grill rooms and Italian restaurants than either of those but the modern chef has become a brand. The man behind the curtain sounds like the most pretentious name in the world but it’s actually the opposite. Who is the man behind the curtain? Is it me the chef? I work within a team, it’s my team that execute the food/ the service etc. The restaurant will host guest chef evenings in which top chefs from the UK and Europe are invited to do a night in Leeds and in that case, they will become "The Man Behind The Curtain”.
O&O: What will make your new restaurant different to the Blind Swine?
MOH: The Blind Swine happened by mistake it was never intended to be a restaurant. it was a Rock Bar and by chance its popularity grew as a restaurant in a way I could never have expected but it still was never a restaurant. The new spot will be a standalone fine dining restaurant, a place that people dress up to go to, a sense of occasion that has been lost I feel. I think there's nothing better than people dressed smart in a restaurant it makes you feel good. The Man Behind The Curtain will be a restaurant you make an effort to go to and have an experience that will stay with you.
O&O: Is there anything you're keeping the same?
MOH: My hair will remain the same.
O&O: What will make you stand out from your other competitors?
MOH: Our food will make us stand out the style will change a lot. None of this boring Nordic copycat food that is penetrating the UK at the moment. There’ll be no stoneware or rustic wooden boards. We will focus our food like art and be progressive with it. Maybe we will make some mistakes I don’t know but originality wins in the end, right? It’s about time somebody did something different because if I see another chef put another picture of a herb they foraged on twitter I'm going to shoot myself .
O&O: Is the food a specific cuisine?
MOH: I don’t want to pigeonhole what we will do, I can’t say fusion because it’s not but i won’t limit myself. We will use any flavour, any ingredient and any technique we see fit. If that means it has an Asian influence then so be it or French or Spanish, whatever works for the dish. We are not bound by a conventional menu, it’s a creative freedom that comes from the knowledge of how things should be and not the blind adherence to the way things are.