Since we relaunched Leeds Love Affair we’ve discovered that most of our readers are searching for great independent places to eat. It seems like everyone wants to get their nom on in the city centre and we’ve been inundated with requests for recommendations on Twitter since the start of the new year. Never wanting to disappoint our lovely readers, we’re bring you another fabulous place to stuff your face.

Hepworth’s Kitchen has been cooking in Leeds homes for the last few years and their sell-out dining events are as popular as ever. Cheerful chef and namesake Joe Hepworth extended the experience to open up his deli in Thornton’s Arcade last year and has been enjoying a steady influx of curious customers ever since. And for good reason!

Serving a delicious range of homemade food using locally sourced ingredients to takeaway or eat in the chilled out cafe area, Hepworth’s is a relaxed but tucked away little haven for customers of all kinds. We talked to Joe about going from hotel chef to going it alone, the strength of indie eateries in Leeds and his favourite places in the city centre…

Who are you and how did you get here?

I am Joe Hepworth and I have Hepworth’s Kitchen & Hepworth’s Deli in the Thornton’s Arcade. Basically I started the business when I was 23 years old. I was made redundant in 2009 from The Ellington Hotel in Leeds and I was asked to provide a dinner party for an ex-girlfriend’s boss while I was looking for a new job. I bought all the crockery, cutlery, food etc. for the event out of my redundancy money.

After the event I made 750 profit and it seemed like a pretty good idea to go to people’s houses and provide dinner parties within the client’s house. I had a very basic website built for free by a friend to promote “Joe’s Kitchen”. I later had to change the name as I was getting sued by a company for breach of copyright (ooops!)

Business grew and grew. I managed to secure a few large scale events that allowed me to build up a large amount of my own equipment. All the equipment provided for a dinner party is provided by me. I liase with the client to finalise menus and requirements, arrive at the venue one hour before guests are due, provide a waitress to lay the table and prepare pre-dinner drinks for the guests as well as serve the meal. I usually then cook an 8 course tasting menu, clean the kitchen until it’s spotless and leave the client to enjoy the rest of their evening (Hepworth’s Kitchen is now fully booked until August and we have 24 weddings booked this year!)

The profits I saved from Hepworth’s Kitchen has allowed me to purchase what was “Lillians Sandwich Shop” and create Hepworth’s Deli which has been trading very well since 6 May 2012.

What do you think is unique about Hepworth’s?

At Hepworth’s Deli we pride ourselves on customer service, the freshness of the product, quality and a pleasant relaxing environment. Setting up the Deli in a recession has given me and the team an opportunity to provide all these things to our customers.

Some older eating establishments in Leeds seem to have forgotten that every penny, and customer counts. I think some older more established eating places in Leeds have become complacent and expect the custom just because they are in the city centre without necessarily providing a quality product.

Independent business are becoming the preferred choice for the consumer which also gives us an advantage. A lot of places call themselves delis in Leeds but they are basically sandwich shops or cafes. At Hepworth’s Deli we have a large cheese counter, deli retail products as well as cheese, meat and deli platters, a large sandwich menu, daily specials and all our cakes and desserts are homemade. We have a stall on Briggate market every 1st and 3rd Sunday where we sell our deli products. Apart from the bread which Anthony’s bakery deliver fresh every day we make everything at Hepworth’s Deli.

What can customers expect from Hepworth’s?

Hepworth’s Deli customers can expect great customer service along with a quality fresh product as well as great value for money.

What’s your favourite product?

The Hepworth’s Deli Afternoon Tea is the newest addition to the menu which is 10.95 for a 3 tiered stand of awesome cakes, salads, sandwiches and a choice of Teapigs tea.

What’s your bestseller?

The Chicken Piri Piri Pitta has been the most consistent and biggest selling product at the deli (3.65) along with Lottie Shaw’s Parkin which is sold at the Deli and made locally in Elland.

What do you think makes Leeds so awesome?

The people of leeds (especially our customers) are so friendly and polite. They have really made opening Hepworth’s Deli a positive experience .

The redevelopment of the city centre has been amazing to see too. I have worked in Leeds since I was 16 and the city has changed so much for the better in the past few years with Trinity opening, the Leeds Arena and also the redevelopment of the Majestics building has been great to see. Also the East Gate development is something to also look forward to.

The increase of independent business in Leeds is also great, too many chain restaurants,bars and coffee shops opened in Leeds.

Where do you like to hang out when you’re not cooking up a storm?

Wow there are so many places! Laynes Espresso, Midnight Bell, Friends of Ham, La Bottega Milenese, Ok Comics and my awesome arcade neighbours Chimp.

And finally, describe Hepworth’s in 3 words…

Professional, quick and quality!

Images courtesy of Joe Dawson Photography