Scottish chef Nick Nairn is no stranger to our screens with lots of TV appearances under his belt including having been a regular chef on popular daytime Cookery programme Ready Steady Cook, as well as featuring on Great British Menu when he won the chance to cook the main course for The Queen's official 80th birthday celebration in 2008.
Self taught cook Nick opened his first restaurant, Braeval, in 1986 near his home town of Aberfoyle with the restaurant going on to win a Michelin Star in 1991, making him the youngest Scottish Chef to win a star. In 2000, Nick opened his first cook school at the picturesque Lake of Monteith before selling the restaurant in order to concentrate more on the cook school side of his business as well as allowing him to undertake a range of corporate work. A second cook school was added to the group when the doors to the Aberdeen Cook school opened in 2012. A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to meet Nick whilst he was setting up for an outside broadcast for the BBC2 Landward programme. Never being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I took this opportunity to ask him to answer 5 Questions and inbetween trips to the USA, where he is currently filming a third series of Big Food Trip with fellow chef Paul Rankin, I soon had my answers back.
Here's Nick's story;How did you get started?
I answered an advert to be a navigating officer in the merchant navy and set off across the seas. While travelling, I discovered the most wonderful flavours of global cuisine I’d ever experienced. Back in Scotland, studying at the Glasgow College of Nautical studies, I began experimenting in the kitchen in my flat, trying to copy some of those exotic dishes. And during that process a fascination with food and cooking began to develop. This grew into a consuming passion and in 1986 I opened my first restaurant, Braeval, near Aberfoyle, in the Scottish Trossachs, near where I had grown up. I basically taught myself and worked very hard!
What's the best piece of business advice you could give?
The harder you work, the luckier you get.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
Continuing to grow and expand, to see a new wave of hardworking people cooking great food, whether that’s in cafes, restaurants, hotels, cook schools. It’s all about the people. Also, with the help of my Scottish Food Family, I’d like to see an improved food culture thriving across Scotland.
If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?
Scottish langoustine is about the best ingredient there is. My good friend Paul Rankin and I made a dish called Argyll Marching Prawns, using Scottish langoustine. It’s genuinely one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Why not try it at home by following the Cook School recipe?
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal - who would it be and why? And what's on the menu?
My wife Holly. We’d eat salad that she’d grown in the garden – she’s a fantastic gardener - the salad would be lightly dressed with a simple vinaigrette. This would be accompanied by best Scotch rib-eye steak that we'd grill on the barbecue and drink a fabulous premier cru old red burgundy.
A few years ago I won a competition run by Graham's Family Dairy where the prize was a fantastic day class at the original Cook School. Unfortunately, Nick wasn't on site on the day of my cooking course but under the watchful eye of chef John Webber, myself and the other prize winners had a great day of learning, eating and drinking.
So far, over 58000 budding home cooks have walked through the doors of Nick Nairn Cook School and with the capacity to teach up to 78 individuals each day across the two venues, Nick and his staff are doing their bit to help more people feel confident in the kitchen. In fact, the set up and teaching at the schools is so well regarded that they have been voted to be in the top 5 cookery schools in the UK in the British Cookery School Awards.
Find out more about the two different venews, the classes available, and what's involved on a typical teaching day by visiting the Nick Nairn Cook School website.