Chef-proprietor, the Black Swan at Oldstead, Yorkshire
Nominated by James Banks, owner, the Black Swan at Oldstead
Proudest moment “The growth and development of the Black Swan. What the team have achieved over the past couple of years is amazing. Cooking at the Great British Menu banquet was also pretty special.”
Greatest inspiration “My family. Building a business in a rural location is difficult, but when you’re all in it together and reliant on its success, you have a constant motivation.”
Ambition “There is so much more I want to do at the Black Swan and I believe we can become a world-class restaurant.”
Tommy Banks’ story is an inspiration to all would-be entrepreneurs. In 2006, he left school and used his savings to buy a struggling village pub – the Black Swan at Oldstead – with his brother and parents. With an annual turnover of just £300,000, it had already defeated three owners in four years but, 11 years on, Banks and his family have built a healthy, sustainable business, turning over £2m a year.
It has also been a successful employment story for the area. In 2006, there were three full-time and six part-time employees; today there are 33 full-time staff. The business has bought three properties to accommodate them and also provided two cars. Key to the pub’s success is Banks’ culinary skill. He trained by working up through the ranks within the business and seeking unpaid work placements at other leading restaurants – and it has clearly paid off. In 2013, he retained the Michelin star the Black Swan gained in 2012, becoming, at 24, the youngest head chef of a one-Michelin-starred restaurant in the UK. In 2015, the restaurant was awarded four AA rosettes, and in 2016 Banks appeared on BBC Two’s Great British Menu. He is currently taking part in the 2017 series and has won his regional heat.
In 2015, Banks bought a field bordering the pub to create a kitchen garden-farm and, since then, he has only used produce grown on site or from local suppliers.