With a wealth of experience behind him and currently taking on the role of Head Chef at Wynyard Hall, Kleo Tabaku is bringing his passion for learning and fresh ingredients to the North East.
Kleo champions the use of seasonal fresh produce that takes him back to his Albanian roots and aims to make healthy cooking a lifestyle that’s accessible to everyone.
A meal that takes you back to childhood?
Salad! As a young boy, we’d spend a lot of time outdoors so we’d always have BBQs with grilled fish we’d caught that day and vegetables that we’d picked to make a really fresh salad which often included peppers, tomatoes, cucumber and herbs like basil topped with olive oil.
The food that brings you the greatest joy…
Anything from the kitchen garden. For me, all food brings me joy and anything that’s been planted in the ground and ends up beautifully presented on a plate, meaningfully as a healthy meal, brings me joy.
The food that represents where you come from?
Anything Mediterranean style. I’m from Albania so food that’s feel-good, brings the family together around a table really represents where I’m from. Usually, food that is vibrant and colourful brings back memories of home.
Your most memorable meal?
Back home in Albania, there was a restaurant we used to visit often. It was a restaurant that was 100% sufficient, they never offered any menu, they’d literally bring you a plate of food which would be what was freshly picked or caught that day.
The last time I went there was probably over 5 years ago and it’s just one of those experiences that has really stuck with me and now I’m lucky enough to be Head Chef of a restaurant that is on its way to achieving similar success with the kitchen garden.
Your favourite meal of the day?
Breakfast, of course! The most important meal of the day. Usually, I have a smoothie for breakfast and I tend to put in there things such as fruit and kale, depending on the time of year. It sets me up for the day both physically and mentally and nourishes me from the inside out.
The best cook you know?
My parents. I’d watch them plant their own veg then cook it. I draw a lot of inspiration from them, particularly my Dad who was a very passionate cook.
A lot of what I know has come from him and I feel very fortunate to have been taught what I have been taught from him. I think a passion and love for food runs in my family as my sister is a very talented baker too.
The food you turn to when you need some comfort?
Freshly made pasta with vegetables.
The food you always need in your fridge?
Tiramisu. This is a tradition from being young in Albania. My parents always had a Tiramisu in the fridge and no sooner had it been eaten, it would be immediately replaced and a tradition that I now carry and hopefully pass on to my children too.
The food you could never give up?
What food means to you?
Everything. As cliché as it sounds, it really does mean everything to me. I’m so passionate about it and I live, work and breathe food.
I feel so lucky to be living my childhood dream through being Head Chef at The Glass House at Wynyard Hall. It’s such a meaningful role to me and to see my childhood come to life through the power of food on a plate is truly an emotional sentiment for me.