Food is art AND entertainment

Here's Johmmy: Head Chef John Lyons
Here's Johmmy: Head Chef John Lyons
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Some cooks say food is a form of art.

John Lyons believes it should also be entertainment.

Different: Chef John Lyons serves crab on a copy of The Sun and with a hammer.

Different: Chef John Lyons serves crab on a copy of The Sun and with a hammer.

The new head chef at The Copthorne Hotel’s 18Fifty5 kitchens reckons his rivals are not other restaurants, but the X-Box and the iPod touch.

“I want to give diners enjoyment and theatre – an evening to remember,” says Lyons, 38.

“If someone has £200 in their pocket they can go to Comet and buy the latest gadget. If they choose to take their friends for a meal, it’s got to be entertaining.”

John, whose food is described as “cutting-edge rustic”, has a bit of the Blumenthal about him, judging by his wildly inventive influences on the menu at the award-winning 18Fifty5.

A roast beef consomme comes with baby Yorkshire puddings instead of bread - and a hypodermic syringe sticking out of the top. It contains a gel liquid which turns instantly into noodles when it hits the hot liquid.

If that’s not theatrical enough for you, what about his Breakfast Favourites dessert? Your platter boasts a ReadyBrek souffle, Crunchy Nut Cornflake creme brulee, Weetabix ice cream and a pannacotta made from the milk that’s left when you’ve finished your Coco Pops.

Then there’s his ingenious little twist on the classic chocolate and venison combo - a deep-fried Ferrero Rocher chocolate nestling beside a tender hunk of Tankersley-farmed beast. It came to him after a brainstorming session with a Scottish chef who had raved about deep-fried Mars Bars.

“It works really well and it’s incredibly easy; we dip them in tempura batter and deep-fry them for a few seconds,” says Wakefielder John, whose CV includes the Savoy, the Michelin-star Rascasse in Leeds and a year in Michelin-starred restaurants in France. No stranger to Sheffield, he’s cooked with Richard Smith of Artisan and Fabrice Limon at the Cricket, Totley.

The chef who wants to put fun into food is particularly proud of his main course, Crab Dans La Soleil, a whole, freshly-steamed crab served on a copy of The Sun (Page Three is usually removed by his kitchen boys), with chips, Hollandaise – and a hammer.

“It’s simple, primitive and messy; the idea is you get stuck in. Foodies love it,” says chef, who arrived at the Bramall Lane restaurant, which has an AA rosette, in November.

And John credits his dad with the inspiration for a dessert that’s got diners all shook up... The Elvis. It’s a dainty deconstruction of the King’s favourite, artery-busting fried peanut butter, jelly, banana and bacon sandwich.

And no, he hasn’t totted up the calories!