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Alumni Stories: Sandy Jarvis and Bavette

Leiths graduate Sandy Jarvis (ex Culpeper, Terroirs, Racine) and his sommelier husband Clément Cousin (Brawn, the Buxton) open their neighbourhood bistro Bavette in Horsforth, Leeds in February 2024. Here, Sandy tells us how an encounter with fellow Leiths alumnus Henry Harris decided the course of his career.

bavettebistro.com

@bavettebistro

Casting your mind back, what was it that took you to Leiths?

“I went to university in Manchester to do chemistry, and decided after that I wanted to be a chef. I think the conversation was: “If you’re going to do it, do it properly and go to Leiths”. So after uni in 2006, I moved down to London to do the full year Diploma, with very much the plan to go straight into cheffing afterwards, which I did.”

Had you always been interested in food?

“I loved cooking growing up. I always used to stand by my mum and watch her cook. Also, my parents were very hospitable and did lots of parties; we always had meals together; and Sunday roast as a family was a big thing. Just seeing food as the vehicle to bring people together was something I’d grown up with. I loved food and I loved cooking but also really loved general hospitality.”

How was your time at Leiths?

“I absolutely adored it. It was just the best year. I loved the environment, loved the lectures, loved all the cooking every day. We always used to try and hire one Leiths graduate every year just because their knowledge, their foundation of cooking, is absolutely incredible; it’s very easy to teach them how to turn that into a restaurant environment.”

What did you do after Leiths?

“I went to work at Racine [Henry Harris’ now closed bistro in Knightsbridge]. We were very lucky and had loads of amazing chefs come in and cook loads of amazing things. When Henry came in, I remember it so clearly, he sat on a stool all morning and I think he cooked two steaks au poivre. I think he ate one himself and we shared the other one, while he talked about his life in restaurants. I was like, I really want to work for this guy! I just wanted to listen to more of his stories. So, after Leiths, I took my CV, which was basically a blank piece of paper, into Racine and sheepishly asked him for a job and he said yes.”

“I worked there for a year, then moved to Terroirs, where Pascal Wiedemann [now of Pompette, Oxford] who had been junior sous at Racine was sous chef. I was there for five and a half years and worked my way up to head chef. After Terroirs, I met the guys who were opening the Culpeper and fell in love with them and their vision. I went from head chef of the Culpeper when it opened to Managing Director for the group, and left there after nine years last June. I was very lucky to find places that I really loved and had good progression.”

How did Bavette come about?

“My husband Clément is French. We met whilst working at Terroirs, where we sold his Dad’s wine. He was supposed to come over just for a summer to work at Terroirs and see a bit of London, then he just fell in love with hospitality and is still here, 11 years later. Our plan was always to one day do something together. We felt like we’d always regret it if we didn’t. So about 18 months ago, we were both at a stage in our careers where it felt like the right time, and then somehow we decided on Leeds. I’m from Leeds but I’m not sure how Leeds won over rural France but it did! It’s a really lovely city, a really nice size, and it’s very close to the countryside. We really like the people and the hospitality scene.”

What is the idea behind Bavette?

“It’s a neighbourhood bistro as that’s what we both really love. So classical French cooking, traditional bistro food, and that warm engaging hospitality. I’m staying very close to my Leiths, Racine, Terroirs roots! That’s the food that we both really love to eat’; that’s the food that gives me the most joy to cook. Seeing people’s reaction to Henry coming back to London [at Bouchon Racine], when you talk about bistro food to people, it does just really excite people. People say ‘why did everyone fall out of love with it?’ but I don’t think people did. I think chefs and restaurateurs did but I don’t think people ever felt that.”

What will you be cooking?

“So there’s a good amount of charcuterie that we’re doing in house, like a pâté en croûte. Starters-wise, we’ve got an individual onion tart, shellfish bisque, pork rillons. Main course, we are doing bavette – a really love steak frites with a shallot sauce, a lovely piece of halibut with a vin jaune sauce. For pudding, there’s a Paris Brest, a bitter chocolate tart…”

What plans do you have the future?

“There’s no big expansion plan. The big thing was to move out of London which was necessary for us to run somewhere that gives us a bit more of a work-life balance, after running four pub restaurant hotels that were open seven days a week. We just want to have a popular neighbourhood bistro that people love coming to again and again.”

To find out more about the course Sandy did take a look at our Diploma Hub here.