We Sat Down With Farm to Fork Fine Dining Restaurant Jericho

Photos: Timmy_Fooduk
Interview: Julia Head
Sunday 21 April 2024
reading time: min, words

From the chaotic scenes portrayed in series like The Bear to the high tensions captured in British dramas like Boiling Point, the intense atmosphere of restaurant kitchens is no secret. These environments are often characterised by extreme stress, with high-end establishments notoriously earning reputations for mistreating staff and inhabiting a sub-culture of abuse and exhaustion - so bad that it’s described by some chefs as akin to ‘going to war’.

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However, Jericho, a fine-dining restaurant that is quite literally off the beaten track on a farm deep in the Vale of Belvoir, is challenging the status quo. Owned by self-taught couple Rich and Grace Stevens, their restaurant offers a sanctuary from the industry’s norms on their family land and provides an encounter with sustainable and ethical farm-to-fork dining cooked over fire.

We sat down with Rich to get to the crux of it all and learn more about how Jericho is reshaping these perceptions of kitchen culture.

Let’s start by going back to the roots and where it all began: in this modern-rustic barn which has been converted into a beautiful restaurant now known as Jericho. Why did you open Jericho? And what inspired the concept?
Jericho represents over two hundred years of farming our land. It’s a testament to the generations of our family who worked hard to build and maintain a life here in the Vale of Belvoir. When the current Duchess of Rutland took our land away, we were faced with a difficult decision: either sell the farmstead and move or stay and diversify. Our stubborn farming blood made us choose the latter and our hospitality business was born. 

All our inspiration and ethos come from a deep connection to the place we call home. Farming values underpin our style of hospitality, which is a warm and honest welcome, with the best ingredients sourced directly from the people who grow, rear, and farm them. It’s real food from real people. 

I’ve been lucky enough to dine at Jericho a few times now. It’s always been interesting to have a view of the open-plan kitchen and watch you and the other chefs working together. Can you tell us more about your kitchen culture?
I would say that we are rooted in our location and legacy, but our culture is progressive, adaptive, and self-aware. It’s a culture based around friends cooking and serving together. At first glance this looks idealistic, but it’s a perfect framework and we are proving that with every service. Moreover, our customers comment on our calm and collected kitchen regularly.

So, tell us, how does your ethos set you apart from others in the industry?
It might sound simple but it’s quite complex and meaningful and takes constant work. Grace and I put huge emphasis on trust, accountability, and responsibility, but above all we need to be enjoying what we are doing. Through enjoyment we can cook great food; we are creative and innovative, and we work as an all-equal team. Our communication is calm and effective, and we always support each other. Mistakes happen, but rather than offer negative criticism we work out why and learn from them. A culture like this can only exist when egos are put aside, and purpose is at the forefront of what we do. We have a constant narrative on how we can improve and support proactive self-awareness. A restless desire to improve is ultimately what drives us forward. 

Ego-led kitchens stifle creativity and progression, ultimately leaving no room for personal development

It may not be as extreme Ralph Fiennes’ role in The Menu but restaurants, particularly high-end restaurants, are notorious for having toxic workplace environments. How is Jericho changing those perceptions?
As a self-taught cook, I haven’t worked in such places and so can’t comment through experience, but in my opinion toxic kitchens are outdated and offer nothing to our industry. I pity them and just like on the playground, bullying never leads to anything positive. We believe that ego-led kitchens stifle creativity and progression, ultimately leaving no room for personal development. They also harm the hospitality industry by discouraging potential talent that could one day be the avant-garde. Jericho is a collective entity and is not reliant on one person’s fragile ego. There is no room for toxicity here. We encourage curiosity, creativity, and confidence. We embrace passion and feed appetites for learning. To cook with your heart, you need to feel valued and secure. We all feel like we are a part of Jericho and love it in our own way. 

I agree. It seems there is a discourse that one’s ability to endure suffering in the kitchen is measured against character and worth. How do you personally develop the chefs working for you? Is there a strong sense of hierarchy?
I think to be measured like this is a consequence of insecure leadership. Hard work is a commitment, but it is only productive when it’s enjoyed, not endured. My hope is that kitchens that make people suffer won’t exist in the near future, which would lead to our country’s food culture benefiting substantially. Our kitchen is also not hierarchical and has never been. We all feel the food and energy together and work towards one common goal which is to keep getting better. I trust my team to develop themselves through experimentation and observation. We learn from each other, from books, and from our experiences. 

It’s commendable what you’re doing, and certainly gives other restaurateurs some food for thought. What is next for Jericho? Any big plans for the warmer months ahead that you’d like to share?
Just like any farm, our restaurant is intrinsically linked with the outdoors. One of its first incarnations was outdoor seating only. As summer approaches, we are looking at how we can use our beautiful outdoor space and communal fire pit as an inclusive part of our dining experience. Excitingly, we have also purchased two large teepees from Gareth and Amelia at Ynyshir in Wales and will be offering accommodation - if and when it stops raining!

Obviously, you’re based in the Vale of Belvoir, which is a little bit of a drive out for some of our city-dwelling readers. In one hundred words or fewer, can you tell us why it’s worth the trip?
Where we are is what makes us so individual, and it’s what drives us and grounds us. The truest explanation of what we do is that we bring our guests to the ingredients, and we give them an experience of what’s around us. Because of our ethos, if we were anywhere else, we would be completely different. You can’t have one without the other. We are defined by our location. I would add that our experience is one of the most honest you will find in the area and it’s not that far. The trip is worth it.

Find Jericho at Orchard Farm, Plungar, NG13 0JA. Bookings can be made through their website


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