As one of Wales’ top chefs, Nick Brodie is a busy man.
Between heading up the kitchen at Llangoed Hall in Wales, winning awards (including Condé Nast’s “Best Green Practices” for 2016) and scoring number 29 on The Sunday Times’ top 100 UK restaurants, he also forages for his food.
That’s right: the chef extraordinaire plucks produce from the backyard, bringing fresh ingredients into the kitchen to create seasonal and delicious dishes. But before he was pulling weeds out back, Chef Nick has built up a cooking career that has taken him from Hong Kong to London to Bath and beyond. Now he’s taking Wales by storm, cooking masterpieces for guests in this magnificent country house hotel dating back to 1632. His pre-dinner canapés with a cocktail are some of the most unusual and delicious.
We sat down with Chef Brodie to chat about where in the Welsh countryside Chef finds his food inspiration.
So what makes Llangoed Hall’s food so special?
The Hotel sits on 17 acres of land, so sustaining our daily output is certainly achievable. I love going into the greenhouses or foraging the vegetable beds for daily inspiration. It makes menu planning easy and keeps you bang on season with our dishes. Our smokehouse adds an extra dimension to what we do. We even use our own chickens, ducks and quails for the eggs we serve.
What’s one of your earliest food-related memories?
Mackerel fishing with my family as a child, the preparation and cooking felt so natural to me, something that I have always felt and understood in the production of menus and food.
How would you describe your style of cooking? What is a typical Nick Brodie dish?
Creative, natural and tasty, a typical dish that could be a little more difficult as I’m always developing dishes or elements we use, but we have a Welsh Beef tartare on at the moment, it’s been on a while in various guises, but it’s a great dish.
What does food mean to you?
Everything! From the moment I wake up to the time I go to bed – I’m either cooking, thinking of food or drawing new dishes up…and it pays the bills!
Do you consider yourself a ‘Wild Food’ expert?
No, not at all, but I have a real passion for the outdoors and what it offers, whether it be hunting or foraging.
Who came up with the concept of “From the garden to the plate in 2 minutes?”
It was never really a game plan, it’s just what we do. Just before service, we pick what we need in accordance with our bookings.
Some dishes and menus, such as the Vegetarian Degustation menu, are picked or cut to order because the quality and freshness is remarkable. But this also leads to a lot of out of breath chefs, running in the garden with a flashlight for that extra table pick up, or cutting an extra element needed to complete a dish.
What’s the one food you absolutely cannot stand?
I can’t think of anything I cannot stand. I have a dislike for some cooking methods on some ingredients – like water-bathed snails (something I probably wouldn’t have again) or very fatty foods.
You’ve eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world, I’m sure. Where has been your most memorable meal?
A few years ago with my wife at the Dylan Hotel Amsterdam, the ambience, food and service, very memorable.
Some sage chef advice for those who want to make cooking a profession?
Just stick with it. Everyone has had peaks and troughs of working in kitchens. The good times far outweigh the bad, and choose the right kitchens to work in.
Make sure you feel comfortable with the people you work with, as you will learn a lot quicker and have a better life having the team with you.
Finally, what does the future hold, food-wise for Llangoed Hall? I understand that there is a ‘new’ five-year plan?
My goal is to gain a Michelin star and the 4th AA Rosette for Llangoed Hall. It’s something that excites me to make every dish the best it can be and spurs me and the team on to achieve these goals.
As for Llangoed Hall itself, we are always improving and striving to gain the 5 AA Red Star status. The house is quite remarkable, and frankly, it comes down to the commitment of the great staff we have here to make it really shine and stand out, making every guest’s experience a memorable one. We have always had a focus on energy use and the sustainability of the products we use, whether that be simply turning lights off to sustaining the kitchen’s use of food by the gardening team, whether that be honey, eggs, fruit, nuts, vegetables or potatoes.
The writer’s meals and accommodation were sponsored by Llangoed Hall. The hotel did not review or approve this article.