Nico Ladenis: Legendary chef dies aged 89

 (Danny Elwes)
(Danny Elwes)

The influential chef and restaurateur Nico Ladenis has died, aged 89.

The self-taught chef shot to critical acclaim when, in the 1990s, he won three Michelin stars at 90 Park Lane.

His eponymous Chez Nico in Dulwich opened in 1973 and later, Simply Nico in Pimlico opened in 1989 but it was Chez Nico at 90 Park Lane where he became a household name.

Ladenis was described as a “field marshal of classical cuisine”, spoken in the same breath as industry legends including Raymond Blanc and the Roux brothers.

Entirely self-taught, the chef who entered the profession late at aged 37 having spent his early life in the oil and gas industry. He went on to achieve the pinnacle in British gastronomy, as the first self-taught chef to win three Michelin stars in Britain and the first to do so of British-Cypriot heritage. He released two highly influential books; My Gastronomy in 1987 was followed by 1996’s Nico was part memoir and part kitchen psychology book.

He is one of only seven chefs in the UK to receive a 10/10 in the Good Food Guide and spent his career mentoring some of the UK’s most famous chefs, including Marco Pierre-White, Jason Atherton and Andre Garrett.

Tributes from a host of Britain’s top culinary talent have poured in. Sat Bains described Ladenis as: “a true gastronomic leader of chefs that inspired a whole generation”, while Tom Kerridge called him a “a true culinary hero”.

Nico Ladenis had a famously cavalier attitude with his guests and, alongside former protégée White, ‘handed back’ his Michelin stars, asking the French guide to avoid his restaurants. Ladenis later revealed that it was not only the pressure of the expectations of Michelin and its effect on guests, but an ongoing battle with prostate cancer.

At the end of the nineties, his move towards less formal gastronomy saw him close Simply Nico in Pimlico, opening the more casual French brasserie Icognico on Shaftesbury Avenue in 2000, followed up by Deca in 2003.

While his later restaurants and the Battersea, Dulwich and Mayfair iterations of Chez Nico have all since closed, the enduring legacy of one of Britain’s most influential chefs continues to live on.