From restaurateur to celebrity chef, Nick Nairn has had a long and pioneering career in the UK food industry. A familiar face from his many television appearances, Nick is equally famous for his staunch support of top quality Scottish produce and passionate advocacy of healthy eating. Based at his stunning Port of Menteith Cook School, Nick’s hectic schedule includes teaching, filming and writing, but he is also in high demand as a food consultant, and travels the world giving cooking demonstrations and speaking on food-related issues.
Growing up in the gorgeous Scottish Trossachs, Nick’s love of the outdoors and native country came early. But it wasn’t until he answered an advert for a navigating officer in the merchant navy that he discovered the wonderful flavours of global cuisine.
Returning to Scotland to study at the Glasgow College of Nautical studies, he found himself experimenting in the kitchen in an attempt to copy those exotic dishes he experienced on his world travels, and it wasn’t long before a fascination with food began to develop. This soon grew into a consuming passion and in 1986 he opened his first restaurant, Braeval, near Aberfoyle. Entirely self-taught, Nick was soon causing a stir with his fresh style of cooking, and just a year after Braeval opened he won the Scottish Field and Bollinger Newcomer of the Year Award. Four years later, Nick’s status as one of Scotland’s finest chefs was confirmed as the restaurant was awarded a coveted Michelin star.
As word of his cooking skills spread, Nick stumbled into the world of television, where his irreverent style combined with Scotland’s fabulous natural produce created Wild Harvest in 1996. Wild Harvest 2 and Island Harvest soon followed, all with accompanying books, and these programmes have now been enjoyed by millions of viewers around the world, from Sweden to Zimbabwe. Other shows include Who’ll Do The Pudding, Back to Basics, and Nick Nairn and the Dinner Ladies, for which he won a Glenfiddich award in 2004. He then took part in three seasons of the Great British Menu, winning the Scottish round in season one, and making it through to the final of the programme. Ultimately, he was voted for by the public to cook the main course at the banquet for the Queen’s 80th birthday. His most recent television venture, Paul & Nick’s Big Food Trip, sees him and his chef buddy Paul Rankin sailing round the coasts of Ireland and Scotland cooking up feasts for the locals. This is due to be aired on STV and UTV in autumn 2013.
Nick is also among the team of presenters on long-running rural affairs programme, Landward. This was his first show where he wasn’t cooking for the cameras. The series investigates topical countryside issues such as climate change and land usage. And before that he was a regular chef on the popular show, Ready Steady Cook.
While his successful television career grew, Nick continued to work as a chef, opening Nairns Restaurant with Rooms in 1997. It was an instant success and proved pivotal to the burgeoning Glasgow restaurant scene.
A desire to spread his knowledge of cooking good, simple food brought about the opening of the Nick Nairn Cook School in April 2000. With its idyllic setting on the Lake of Menteith, the school soon built up a well-deserved reputation as a foodies’ heaven with state-of-the-art facilities for up to 24 students to enjoy hands-on cooking. In 2012, Nick opened a new urban Cook School in Aberdeen city centre. The new school is enjoying great success, particularly with its popular after-work and lunchtime Quick Cook Classes, as well as a Cook Shop.
At both Cook Schools pupils benefit from of an unprecedented level of tuition from Nick and head tutors John Webber (winner of the ‘Best Tutor’ award at the 2012 British Cook School Awards) and Tristan Campbell. The Cook Schools have a reputation for great tuition, using fantastic ingredients from some of Scotland’s finest producers, and are always a fun day out full of cheffy tips, cooking and chat.
In the same year he opened his Cook School, Nick also established Nairns Anywhere, an event catering business boasting restaurant quality food in any location. In 2001, Compass group acquired Nairns Anywhere to provide the highest level of food and service in the prestige catering sector.
In 2007 Stirling University recognised Nick’s contributions to Scottish cuisine and his work in promoting healthy eating and awarded him an honorary doctorate.
Nick remains totally passionate about Scotland’s fabulous natural larder. He uses every possible opportunity to promote his passions; his burning ambition being to make his fellow Scots enthusiastic about the wonderful produce that surrounds them.
Nick still lives in central Scotland and is married to gardening expert Holly and they have two children, a fair few free-range hens and a couple of cats.
For more details about Nick, see the lists of his work, books, television and more in the menu choices above. Nick’s latest cook books are available to buy from the online shop.