BCF member and Young Chef of the Year 2019 winner, Nathan Lane shares the story of his early career to date with President Peter Griffiths.
My journey as a chef began back in 2013. I was 15 years old and still at school. I took part in the Young Chefs’ Academy which was held on a Saturday at University College Birmingham, the course was sponsored by the BCF. This was my first insight into a kitchen.
I enrolled at UCB in September 2014 and completed a VRQ Professional Cookery Diploma level 1-3, finishing in July 2017.
From start to finish, I massively enjoyed my course and time spent at college. It gave me all the skills needed for a young chef to step into the kitchen and to succeed within the industry.
Each year was full of many exciting challenges. Within my first year, I was able to gain work experience at the 5-star hotel, Lucknam Park, 1 Michelin star. In my second year, I went to work in a butcher’s, which was very interesting. In my final year at UCB I was selected to go to Denmark for a 4-week trip working at Restaurant Bind which was truly amazing.
UCB and the BCF also gave me numerous amazing opportunities to compete, ranging from small competitions within Salon Culinaire and the BCF Student Cook and Serve Team Challenge to competing in the world's biggest competitions. During my time at UCB I was part of England’s National Junior Team. In 2016 I was the youngest chef in the team to win an Olympic medal for England.
At the age 17 I secured my first job in a Michelin starred restaurant, Simpsons in Birmingham. For the first 3 months I went weekly and worked for free to gain experience at this level. After proving my commitment and skills ability, Chef Director Luke Tipping offered me a job.
I then moved to London to work at The Ritz under John Williams MBE. For any 18-year-old, this was a massive decision. Moving to a big city at this age can be very overwhelming and scary but I never let this get in my way as I knew the reason for my move, to fulfil my dreams and start to master my craft from a young age.
In my eyes my time at the Ritz was not as long as I wanted it to be. But another truly amazing opportunity arose which I had to grasp with both hands. This was to be the commis chef for the Bocuse D'or UK team working alongside Tom Phillips, Head Chef at Restaurant Story.
I moved back to Birmingham to start my journey in the world's biggest cookery competition. We began training in January 2018 until February 2019 and finished in 10th place in the European qualifiers which meant we could proceed to the World Finals in Lyon, where we were placed 10th in the world. It was such a great feeling and amazing to represent my country on such a huge stage.
In between the European qualifiers and the World Final, I was part of the brigade at The Cross in Kenilworth alongside Adam Bennett MCA. It was really great to work with Chef Adam. He's such a superb and talented craftsman.
From beginning to end, my Bocuse d'Or journey was surreal. I learnt so much, it taught me the real meaning of perfection, it opened my eyes wider than ever before and made me see a lot in a different light. Being part of the Bocuse d'Or family is such a privilege and makes this huge world we live in become so small and tight knitted.
Off the back of the Bocuse d'Or, I was invited by renowned chefs who I was fortunate to meet to work within some of the world's best restaurants. They were all 3 Michelin stars and within the world's top 100 list. I went to...
Geranium Copenhagen (4th May - 4th June 2019)
The restaurant was the 5th best in the world’s top 50. I met the Bocuse legend Chef Rasmus Kofed in Lyon at the world finals and he offered me the opportunity for a Stage. This was an amazing experience and I saw and learnt how to take wild foraged ingredients to another level. This was a completely different concept/theme I had ever seen or been interested in before. I was offered a Chef de Partie job after my one-month Stage.
Pavillon Ledoyen Paris (15th June – 15th July 2019)
Ranked 25th best in the world’s top 50. I met Chef Yannick Alleno and Chef Martino Ruggieri at the Bocuse d’Or World Finals. Chef Ruggieri was the Italian candidate. Ledyoen is a very special kitchen, the level of produce is unreal, it was massively eye opening. The kitchen really takes you back as it keeps traditional French ways but it’s also evolved and modern at the same time. I was also offered a job at Ledoyen, but didn’t want to make any commitments straight away.
Per Se New York (29th July – 10th August 2019)
The third restaurant on my trip was Per Se in New York. Chef Thomas Keller was my connection as he is the Bocuse d’Or USA President and he gave me permission to see his beautiful kitchen. For me, even before stepping into the kitchen, I was really excited. I had never been to the US before let alone New York City. It was very overwhelming and surreal when I arrived, I felt I was in a movie. The moment I stepped through the Per Se doors I felt at home. It really took me by surprise how professional and organised every part of the restaurant was. The food really spoke for itself; it was all about finesse. This excited and captured my imagination. After two amazing weeks, Chef Corey Chow offered me a job. I was over the moon as this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I felt as if my hard work during Bocuse had paid off and the goal I set had been achieved.
Eleven Madison Park New York - Previously no.1 Best Restaurant in the World (14th and 15th August 2019)
Whilst over in New York, I wanted to see EMP. It was definitely a restaurant on my list. The difference between EMP and Per Se was massive; they were so different you couldn’t compare them in any way, shape or form. The attention to detail was insane! I suppose for any chef saying you’ve been in the kitchen of the best restaurant in the world is pretty special too. After only two days here I was offered the opportunity to become part of the team.
I also went on to spend some time at Simon Rogan’s newly opened restaurant in Hong Kong, Roganic.
Per Se was my favourite and I really wanted to pursue the next step of my career here but unfortunately, due to new laws in the USA, I didn't meet the requirements for the visa, so the hunt for my next move began again.
Just before Covid19 hit, I started my next chapter and new venture at the 2 Michelin star Greenhouse in Dublin under chef Mickael Viljaen where I am working today.
AWARDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS TO DATE.
England’s National Junior Culinary Team. Gold medal, Battle of the Dragon against Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
Finalist in the BCF National Young Chef of the Year competition in November 2017.
England’s National Junior Culinary Team. IKA/ Culinary Olympics October 2016. Bronze medal, Restaurant of Nations and a Silver medal, Cold Edible Buffet. Achieving 7th best country overall out of 24.
BCF Student Cook and Serve Team Challenge 2017 overall winners and Best Kitchen team, representing UCB.
UK representative in Paris for the Deli France World Cup 2016 after winning the British stage of the competition. Achieving 4th place in world.
UCB Culinary Team at Hotelympia International Salon Culinaire. Winning 1 best in class, 2 silver medals, 2 bronze medals and 1 merit award over 2 days.
North Warwickshire & Hinckley College live Salon. Two silver medals, one bronze and one merit.
Gold medal, Best in Class in Butchery Skills, at the Great Hospitality Show NEC Birmingham.
Part of the Michelin-starred Simpsons Restaurant team, cooking at the BCF Dinner and Awards event at the Botanical Gardens for 190 people, including some of the best chefs in the country.
Young Chef Ambassador for the British Culinary Federation.
Awarded the Johnnie Borra Memorial trophy by the British Culinary Federation – this award is presented to the most promising young chef under the age of 25, who demonstrated outstanding talent and enthusiasm.
BCF Young Chef of the Year Winner 2019.
CARRY ON FOLLOWING NATHAN’S JOURNEY
Twitter - @Nathanlane1997
Instagram - @nathanlane97
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