Today, Tommy is a familiar face on television (appearing as a veteran judge on Great British Menu in 2019) and The Black Swan is often cited as one of the best restaurants in the UK. No other chef grows produce on the scale that Tommy and his family do, with an immense amount of planning going into what needs to be grown months or years before it makes it onto the plate. With his parents overseeing the farm and his brother James looking after front of house it’s a true family business, but one that’s become renowned for incredible food and hospitality. While many chefs would be happy enough with the incredible produce Tommy has access to, he constantly pushes himself, looking at new techniques and ways to preserve ingredients to take his food to the next level.

As The Black Swan found its feet and went from improving in leaps and bounds to fine-tuning things, Tommy opened Roots, his York-based restaurant, in September 2018, which won a Michelin star in 2021. ‘The original concept was quite small, but it just naturally turned into quite a big place,’ he says. ‘The Black Swan is magical but running a restaurant in the middle of a city is a lot easier logistically. We also wanted to make it more accessible in terms of price, whilst keeping The Black Swan a destination restaurant.’

Opening Roots meant Tommy could start to utilise his beloved ingredients to their fullest. The very best is reserved for The Black Swan’s tasting menu, while vegetables that aren’t quite the right size, for instance, go to Roots, where the more relaxed sharing plate set-up means things don’t have to be quite as meticulous. ‘It works so well having two restaurants. For instance, last year we did a dish at The Black Swan which saw duck leg wrapped in cabbage leaves. We were left with all these cabbage hearts which we had no use for here, so we took them down to Roots and turned them into a roasted cabbage heart side dish. When we didn’t have Roots we sometimes felt obliged to use produce which perhaps wasn’t as perfect as we wanted it to be, but now we can only use the exact produce we want here without worrying about waste. In that sense, Roots has allowed us to refine the food at The Black Swan better than ever before.’

With two restaurants and an entire farm to manage, Tommy and his family certainly aren’t short of things to do. But they’re not stopping – in 2019 they began growing five times the amount of produce they did in 2018 and set up a pop-up farm shop in York to sell fruit and vegetables direct to the public. There are plans to reintroduce livestock to the Banks’ farm, with 100 acres of grassland set aside for heritage sheep, pigs and cows. The kitchen team is experimenting with charcuterie, there are plans to expand on the nine rooms currently at The Black Swan and of course there’s Tommy’s TV work. The Covid-19 pandemic also resulted in Tommy launching Made In Oldstead, a hugely successful dine-at-home box scheme. For a chef who was never formally trained and was brave enough to branch out with his own cooking style whilst maintaining two Michelin-starred restaurants, it’s a seriously impressive feat. There must be something in the water surrounding the Banks family farm.

Three things you should know

In 2018 Tommy released his first cookbook Roots, which tells the story of The Black Swan and includes seasonal recipes from the chef.

As well as the family farm, The Black Swan is home to a two-acre kitchen garden complete with polytunnels, where smaller ingredients such as herbs, fennel and tomatoes are grown.

To get an idea of the scale Tommy needs to think about when planning dishes, the farm grows 6,000 onions for one dish served at The Black Swan during the summer months, and sows 1.2km of peas to supply both his restaurants.