Executive Chef of The Collective Inc, Natalie Firth, chats to Confidentials about the new summer menu at the interior design store and cafe-bar
There aren’t many places in Leeds where you can choose your curtain fabric alongside the type of alternative milk for your flat white. But at The Collective Incorporated showroom on Boar Lane, a large shelving unit houses tactile samples of upholstery; from woven vinyl wallpaper to velvet cushion covers, terrazzo tile samples and squares of leather in hues of burnt orange and rich mauve.
Inside, there’s a mix of wooden cladding and marble countertops, industrial silver extractor pipes and rattan backed furniture. A curation of colourful mixed-media artwork hangs behind plush sofas and white boucle armchairs. Clusters of statement globe pendants hang from the ceiling; tables glow with the warmth from beige linen lampshades. It feels like an ‘after’ transformation by one of Michelle Ogundehin’s protégées.
It’s the little bits of attention to detail, the elegant plating and letting the ingredients speak for themselves that makes us enjoy a meal in its entirety
Open since just eighteen months ago, The Collective Inc. combines the vision of businessman Dale Wynter with Soho House ambassador and director of the award-winning design agency,, Ellen Pryce. On their website, in bold print beside a scrolling gallery of aesthetic interior shots, the paragraph headline reads: “The Collective is more than just an eatery and creative hub, it’s a lifestyle.”
A lifestyle you can carry with you from your workplace, to your lunch break, to your living room. “I’m trying desperately not to go home with another vase!” confessed Natalie, the Executive Chef who was brought on board in April to develop The Collective Inc’s new summer menu. Natalie clearly has an artistic eye. It was hard to miss her hot pink kitten heels as we tucked into plates of whipped ricotta on toast with asparagus and herb oil.
“The Collective is a really cool, elegant design space, so I wanted the menu to reflect that…to focus on quality, elevating classic brunch and lunch dishes [with] no fuss and clean plating,” Natalie affirmed. After studying Fashion at Leeds University, she went on to teach DT, food tech, graphics and textiles at a local high school. Working with cocky teenagers every day must have stood her in good stead for walking into a kitchen full of territorial chefs as she launched her consultancy business.
“It’s actually been really fun,” said Natalie. “I love getting to know a new restaurant, being creative and developing the food offering. It’s always nice to meet new chefs and work in a different kitchen as you always learn something new. The Collective team have been very welcoming, really engaged in the creative process and worked really hard to make the new menu launch a success.” In fact, six weeks ago, the menu refresh was such a success, that Natalie panicked after a day or two of radio silence. “I kept checking my phone to see how it went…and if anything was wrong, but apparently no contact was a good sign. It all went smoothly.”
Natalie, who is known in the city for her healthy, vibrant dishes, has had various stints at the likes of Friends of Ham, Grön, and Green Room Bar on Wellington Street. Her fresh meal subscription service, Just The Fox Kitchen, was popular over lockdown with yoga studios and busy professional Mums across Yorkshire and beyond. She was delivering meal plans three times a week with Chase, her excitable eleven-month-old German Shepherd howling on the back seat of her Mini Cooper.
These days she’s either contract catering for the crew at Coldplay gigs or swapping her heels for Birkenstock clogs, getting hands-on in the kitchen and creating foolproof spec books of costings and recipe cards. Natalie has helped The Collective zhuzh up their lunch offering with omelettes and orzottos, superfood bowls and summer green salads. Their events line-up and evening menu transforms the space into the perfect after-work drinks spot, somewhere to enjoy a crisp glass of wine with tapas style plates, cheeses and charcuterie.
“We get all our fresh pastries and cakes from Baltzersens bakery in Harrogate, we use a local farm for fresh free-range eggs and all our meat comes from Sykes house farm in Wetherby. We try to focus on quality and ethically sourced ingredients,” Natalie adds. “Even down to the wording of the menu…the description of the dishes can make your mouth water. We definitely eat with our eyes. It’s the little bits of attention to detail, the elegant plating and letting the ingredients speak for themselves that makes us enjoy a meal in its entirety.”
And if your eyes are drawn to the sleek chrome cutlery, don’t worry, at The Collective Inc. you can buy those too.
Follow Sarah Cotterill on Twitter @scottnodot
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