My Gastronomy, by Nico Ladenis, is special to me on several counts. My years working for him at Chez Nico at Ninety Park Lane, in London’s Grosvenor House hotel, were hugely influential on my cooking, and I also owe him a lot for his support and encouragement down the years.
More importantly, this book was probably the catalyst for me buying my first restaurant, the Priory House in Somerset. Many chefs like to dream, and talk, about opening their own restaurants, but beware: reading this book could actually tip you over the edge, like me, into making that dream a reality.
My Gastronomy was first published in 1987, but I didn’t own a copy until 1998 – about the time I started thinking about my own venture. Reading it filled me with confidence that what I was planning was the right thing to do. Although there are plenty of menus, pictures and recipes – some of which are now accepted classics – for me, the most important part of the volume is the enthusiasm, knowledge and understanding of both restaurants and food construction it contains.
The book includes Nico’s account of starting out as a chef-restaurateur and details his reactions to successes through the years, including the quest for three Michelin stars. What is always present is his single-minded determination to reach the top of his profession.
The book’s format is recipes, menu examples and pictures punctuated by Nico’s own experiences, recollections and instructions.
Maybe not everyone at the time subscribed to Nico’s perfectionist views – which by current standards were quite moderate – but I’m sure most would now agree that he was a man ahead of his time and a true gastronome. You only have to consider the number of talented chefs who went through his kitchens – André Garrett and Steve Drake among them, who are now Michelin star holders in their own right – to appreciate his influence on the kitchens of today.
The book is a reminder of why he was so successful and influential.
Martin Hadden, executive chef, Historic Sussex Hotels