THE title Local Food Hero is well deserved by Stephen Jackson, chef patron of the area's only restaurant with its own kitchen garden.

He's been championing the cause of fresh, local, seasonal produce - straight from the ground and into the kitchen - for nearly a decade and can now claim that as much as 80% of the fruit, vegetables and herbs used in the Weavers Shed, Golcar, are home produced.

Stephen's efforts to follow in the footsteps of his own food hero, chef Raymond Blanc, have not gone unnoticed or unrewarded.

In the past few years his restaurant has won a number of accolades and was recently voted the Yorkshire Life Restaurant of the Year.

Much to his delight and surprise he won Chef of the Year at the same awards ceremony.

The Weavers Shed is also the Which? Good Food Guide West Yorkshire Restaurant of the Year for 2006.

Stephen, a linguistics and French graduate, has always loved good food and was inspired by a trip to Raymond Blanc's Manoir aux Quat' Saisons to plant a potager, or kitchen garden.

Fortunately, his parents at their Holywell Green home had a plot of land big enough to sow an array of fruits and vegetables.

From apples, pears and raspberries to squashes, tomatoes, peppers and parsnips, the garden is now the restaurant's major supplier. He's even got a polythene tunnel to grow baby vegetables.

"I've been doing locally-sourced and home-grown produce since before it became trendy," says Stephen.

Stephen took over the restaurant 13 years ago at the tender age of 24. He trained at Prue Leith's cookery school and knew where he wanted to take the Weavers Shed.

The establishment, which first opened 30 years ago, always had a reputation for fine dining.

When Stephen took over he also acquired an experienced head chef, Ian McGunningle. Today the restaurant is a family affair, with Stephen's wife Tracy meeting and greeting diners.

Over the years Stephen's confidence and abilities have matured. Today he buys in as much local and regional non-fruit and vegetable produce as he can.

His diners are clearly prepared to pay for the best that he can find. Lancashire cheese, Worsborough red deer, Goosnargh poultry and locally-made black puddings all find their way on to the seasonal menus.

When UKTV Food launched a quest to find Gary Rhodes' Local Food Heroes Stephen's customers were fast to nominate and vote for him.

More than 3,800 outlets were nominated - reviews of which can still be accessed at

Internet voting reduced the pool of farm shops, cafes, restaurants and producers to 80, which were divided up into 10 regions with eight competitors in each.

Stephen is competing tomorrow in the north-west heat - the final is being held on December 1.

In the regional heat he's up against café owners, a cheesemaker, ginger bread shop, black pudding maker and farm shop.

Part of the selection process involved an assessment by a celebrity judge - in Stephen's case it was former politician Edwina Currie. "She did an in- depth interview with me and I prepared my vegetable risotto for her using vegetables from the garden - using white carrots, courgettes, patty pans, squash and other home-grown veg," said Stephen.

"She was quite charming and came back off her own bat and brought her husband for dinner," he added.

The cook-off at the television studios saw Stephen cooking local lamb from a Hade Edge butcher with vegetables from the kitchen garden.

It was while filming that Stephen discovered one of his suppliers, Graham Kirkham from Mrs Kirkhams Lancashire Cheese, was a fellow contestant.

To find out how Stephen did, turn on to UKTV Food at 8pm. The series starts today and will be screened every weekday night until December 1.