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Nick Smith impressed the NCOTY judging team in June 2018 to take one of just ten final spots at The Restaurant Show and is currently working towards the finals of this year's NCOTY

Earlier this month, National Chef of the Year finalist, Nick Smith visited our London Innovation Centre, where he was able to check out the wide range of Lockhart products, as well as cooking up some of his favourite dishes in our state-of-the-art kitchen.

Update May 2019: Nick Smith has just been announced as a semi-finalist for this year's NCOTY competition; view the full list of 40 Chefs selected here.

The Bunzl Lockhart Catering Equipment's 3000 square foot showroom has been designed as a showcase for our company vision which is to bring "innovation and inspiration to the preparation and presentation of food". Our Innovation Centre incorporates front of house displays, several fully functional demonstration areas such as a mixology bar and commercial kitchen and an array of displays from leading brands.

You can take a virtual tour of the centre online but if you would like to see it in person just email LIC@bunzl.co.uk or call 0207 580 0278. You can also get a flavour for all things Lockhart by following us on Instagram.

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Behind the scenes with Nick Smith

Nick Smith is currently working as a head chef for Ashurst and impressed the NCOTY judging team last June to take one of just ten final spots at The Restaurant Show. He created three amazing dishes for us during his visit and you can check out the full story on the Craft Guild of Chefs' Instagram story highlights. You can also learn more about Nick Smith by reading his Meet the Chef interview on the National Chef of the Year website. We sat down with Nick after he had finished cooking to find out more about his career, cooking style and the dishes he had made.

Could you tell us a bit about your history as a chef and how you came to where you are today?

In his younger days, my dad was a chef & he has always had a passion for food. He wanted to get back into cooking, so I went along with him to do an evening class & at the time i was just finishing school. They had a careers evening at the local college and I was intrigued by it all and along with my dad's passion, I knew this was the career for me. I went to Southend College where I began my culinary journey & at the same time gaining experience in london restaurants. After my course I continued to develop my skills, learning new techniques & gaining as much knowledge I could. A very poignant time for me, which i will always remember on my first interview, was when i was qouted 'If you don't love it, don't do it” this has stuck with me throughout my career & I have always strived to put in 110% with all that i do.

You said in an interview with the Craft Guild of Chefs that you love classical cookery with a modern approach. Tell us more about your cooking style.

I like to look at a lot of different inspirations when it comes to creating my style of food, usually taking humble ingredients & crafting tjem with a twist. A lot of my food will stem from classical cooking and my NCOTY dish was a Lamb Provencal; a classic French dish. I wanted to adapt that dish using my own interpretation. At Ashurst, we do a version of a Chicken Kiev, but we play around with it so we are turning something rustic into something a little more refined. We use poussin so it's more delicate, with a garlic farce and butter crumb, which is gently poached in the water bath & finished on the stove. Even the dishes I am cooking here at the Innovation Centre today have the same emphasis.

What does a normal service at Ashurst involve?

We provide all the hospitality and fine dining at ashurst. This varies from day to day, which would include lunches, dinners and canape events in the same day. I really enjoy restaurant service but it's a different style of work and we get to do some really good stuff. Whilst you don't have the buzz of a restaurant service, the intensity is still there as we can be doing a lot of different types of service at the same time.

Do you find it a different experience working for a contract caterer as opposed to a restaurant?

It is a very creative enviroment at Ashurst & we have to be adaptive & quick thinking at lot of the time. We deal with specific requests & cater for various tastes, so this can be a little different for us. We try and utilize our time to develop new ideas & concepts. By doing lots of different things it means we get to experiment & create all the time.

You chose Artisan Serene Stoneware for serving your starter, tell us what you cooked and what you like about this dish?

Pegwell Bay Crab with Cucumber, Avocado & Sea Herbs from @niknakchef , presented on Artisan Serene Stoneware for our @craftguildofchefs / @bunzllockhart #london #innovation centre #instatakeover ?? follow our story throughout the morning for mains & dessert! ----------- #chef #chefseye #chefs #chefsofinstagram #chefstagram #londonevents #london #londoncatering #food #foodie #chefnetworking #innovation #NCOTY #competition

61 Likes, 1 Comments - The Craft Guild of Chefs (@craftguildofchefs) on Instagram: "Pegwell Bay Crab with Cucumber, Avocado & Sea Herbs from @niknakchef , presented on Artisan Serene..."

My starter is Pegwell Bay Crab with Cucumber, Avocado & Sea Herbs. Crab is in right now and I love it. This has come from Kent near Broadstairs and you can do so much with it; you can make a soup out of the shell or an oil, so nothing is wasted. It's good to show our younger chefs about utilising every part of the ingredient & keeping waste to a minimum.

For your main course you used the Crème Renoir Coupe plate, what dish did you make?

Romney Hogget with Jersey Royal, Ramson & Somerset Ricotta from @niknakchef , presented on Crème Renoir Coupe Plate for our @craftguildofchefs / @bunzllockhart #london #innovation centre #instatakeover ?? follow our story for dessert! ----------- #chef #chefseye #chefs #chefsofinstagram #chefstagram #londonevents #london #londoncatering #food #foodie #chefnetworking #innovation #NCOTY #competition

42 Likes, 0 Comments - The Craft Guild of Chefs (@craftguildofchefs) on Instagram: "Romney Hogget with Jersey Royal, Ramson & Somerset Ricotta from @niknakchef , presented on Crème..."

I created Romney Hogget with pressed Jersey Royals, Ramson & Somerset Ricotta presented on a Creme Renoir White Plate. This was my chosen dish as I wanted to keep with the Kentish theme and picked Hogget as spring lamb is just coming in to season. It has a beautiful flavour and always sounds interesting for our clients. Ramson is also in season & packs a punch, which works brilliantly with the hogget.

You chose the Alto Staccato Plate for your dessert, what dish did you make?

White Chocolate Blondie, with Daffy Gin, Lemon & Fennel from @niknakchef , presented on Alto Staccato Plate for our @craftguildofchefs / @bunzllockhart #london #innovation centre #instatakeover ?? follow our story for the rest of the mornings action! ----------- #chef #chefseye #chefs #chefsofinstagram #chefstagram #londonevents #london #londoncatering #food #foodie #chefnetworking #innovation #NCOTY #competition

40 Likes, 0 Comments - The Craft Guild of Chefs (@craftguildofchefs) on Instagram: "White Chocolate Blondie, with Daffy Gin, Lemon & Fennel from @niknakchef , presented on Alto..."

I loved creating this dessert of White Chocolate Blondie with Daffy Gin, Lemon & Fennel. It's a bit of fun and with the summer fruits not quite in yet, the ingredients for this really make it work with the white chocolate

Does seasonality and provenance play a big part in your cooking and menu choices?

I think its important from both a chefs view & clients view, to celebrate locality as much as possible. Sustainability is something that all of us play a part in, and this is a good way of promoting that. With NCOTY this is always a big focus to champion the main ingredient & to show our understanding of sourcing. It's always good & for me exciting to discover amazing produce that's right on your doorstep.

As a finalist of NCOTY and having competed on three separate occasions, have you noticed the competition change over time?

It is a very competitive arena & really makes you push to draw the best from yourself. The main change i have noticed is from myself & how it has helped me develop as a chef, each time helping my culinary skills grow. Competing is a brilliant way of developing & learning, you set the bar so high for yourself, that you want to acheive the best. I've enjoyed every year that I've competed & feel very privileged to have been a part of this exciting competition.

What advice would you give to any senior or young chef thinking of entering NCOTY?

I've been watching Chefs Table on Netflix and you see chefs that have so much passion for their craft, & the challenges that they have had to conquer to reach the top. This for me is the same as NCOTY, you've got to have a burning desire to compete & fight your way to achieve the very best. I think NCOTY is a wicked competition to get involved in & I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey each time. It's a labour of love & a lot of work but it's an amazing experience to be part of, i would wholeheartedly recommend it to any chef pushing there boundaries.

What would you have liked to have done as a job if you weren't a chef?

I love watching the salvage hunter & how he discovers these amazing antiques and turning these hidden treasures into works of art, that would be a vocation I would of love to have been if it was not for being a chef.

Thank you to Nick Smith for creating such fantastic dishes for us at our London Innovation Centre. You can follow his career on Instagram and Twitter. Look out for another National Chef of the Year finalist joining us for our next Chef Insight Series over the coming weeks.


Lockhart Catering on 25 May 2019 10:00 AM

Lockhart Catering on 24 May 2019 10:00 AM

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