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The Hot Scots Power 40: Nick Nairn, Nairns Cook School

21 February 2013
The Hot Scots Power 40: Nick Nairn, Nairns Cook School

Ranking: 10

Nick Nairn - Snapshot

Nick Nairn has arguably the highest and most far reaching media profile of all Scottish chefs thanks to a parallel career as a television presenter and chef on both Scottish and national UK television. He achieved a Michelin star, back in the 1990s at his first restaurant, Braeval in Aberfoyle. These days his culinary empire is centred on two Nick Nairn Cook Schools, but he also has consultancy roles at the Kailyard by Nick Nairn (in the Doubletree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro hotel), and at a café, Vanishing Willows, at the Erskine Hospital Garden Centre, in Bishopton, Renfrewshire. The championing of Scottish produce and campaigning for healthy eating in the country are also inextricably linked with Nairn's culinary identity.

Nick Nairn - Career guide

Born in 1959, Nairn grew up in Port of Menteith, Stirlingshire, where he would later found his cookery school. After schooling in Callender he joined the merchant navy at the age of 17 in 1976, returning to civvy street in 1983. Touring the world, in particular the Far East, gave him a fascination for food and the impetus to teach himself how to cook and try his luck as a chef.

He opened his first restaurant, Braeval, in Aberfoyle in 1986 and both he and it soon began picking up awards including a 1987 Caterer and Hotelkeeper Acorn Award. His big break-through came in 1991 when Braeval won a Michelin star and the Good Food Guide's Country Restaurant of the Year award. Over the ensuing 20 years he garnered more than a dozen further awards for cooking, writing, TV shows and food and equipment lines he helped to develop for the commercial world.

After the success of Braeval, he opened Nairns in Glasgow in 1997, a restaurant with rooms, selling this on in 2003 in order to concentrate on corporate and TV work and his new Nick Nairn Cook School which he founded in Port of Menteith in 2003 (he had resigned his interest in Braeval in 1997 following the break-up of his first marriage). He launched an outside catering company, Nairns Anywhere, in 2000, which immediately got backing from the Eurest arm of the Compass group, but the two soon parted company and Nairns Anywhere relaunched in 2002.

His corporate work has included - among other things - food consultancy for more than one supermarket chain and the development of a sauce range for Baxters, plus a line of cookware and bakeware for Tower (both won industry awards). Undoubtedly, the opportunities for projects in the commercial world opened up to Nairn because of his prolific TV work.

His TV career kicked-off with regular appearances, from 1995 onwards, on the BBC's Ready, Steady, Cook series. A hit on this show led to three cookery series showcasing Scotland's natural larder: Wild Harvest, Wild Harvest 2 and Island Harvest, all of which were subsequently broadcast around the world. Other TV programmes that Nairn has made include Nick Nairn and the Dinner Ladies for which he won a Glenfiddich Food and Drink award in 2004. His TV career also encompasses presenting on BBC Scotland's Landward show and a successful run on the inaugural Great British Menu in 2006 which culminated in cooking his main course at a banquet for the Queen's 80th birthday.

His latest TV series, presented in tandem with his fellow-chef and friend Paul Rankin, was Paul & Nick's Big Food Trip in 2012. A second series of the programme will air in 2013 on Scottish TV.

Nick Nairn Cook School expanded in 2012 to a second site, in Aberdeen. This meant that Nairn and his growing team of chef-teachers could teach up to 78 people a day across the two sites. They have already taught nearly 60,000 people at the schools. In 2009, Nairn signed-up to consult at Doubletree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro, lending his name to its showcase restaurant, The Kailyard by Nick Nairn.

He also consults at the Vanishing Willows Café at the Erskine Hospital Garden Centre in Bishopton, part of the Erskine organisation which works to rehabilitate servicemen into civilian life.

Nick Nairn - What we think

Nick Nairn was Scotland's first celebrity chef, but his media fame came after he had established himself as a self-taught culinary chef of great talent at his first restaurant in Aberfoyle, gaining a Michelin accolade there. And until he sold Nairns, his second restaurant - in 2003 - he was still heavily involved in the kitchen.

These days he is an author of 12 cookbooks, television presenter, newspaper columnist, consultant, teacher (at his cookery schools) and all-round culinary entrepreneur. He is also a tireless campaigner for healthy eating in his native Scotland and the wider UK, as long ago as 2002 delivering a keynote speech at Caterer and Hotelkeeper's Chef Conference urging his fellow chefs to reduce salt seasoning in their cuisine.

In 2012 he backed schoolgirl Martha Payne in the furore over her school meal blog, at the same time as being a founder-member of the Menteith Group - a think tank comprising broadcasters, food experts, nutritionists and politicians whose aim is to improve food education and school meals in Scotland.

Nairn is also a member of numerous chef organisations, is always ready to take part in industry events and conferences and never misses an opportunity to promote Scottish produce. In 2007 he was given an honorary doctorate by Stirling University for his outstanding contribution to Scottish cuisine and his work in promoting healthy eating.

Nick Nairn Cook School >>

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