Where are they now? Nico Rilla

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Where are they now? Nico Rilla

2009 graduate Nico decided on a career change and is now a Head Chef in Hackney

Name: Nico Rilla

Year graduated: 2009

Current job title: Head Chef

How would you describe your year on the diploma at Leiths in 3 words?

Demanding. Instructive. Fun.

What were you doing/Where were you working before the diploma?

I worked in the film industry.

What made you decide to start the diploma?

I found myself at a crossroads in life and had always enjoyed cooking. I felt like I needed a complete change and thought the Diploma course would shift my world on its axis. It certainly has.

What were the highlights of your year at Leiths?

The wonderful tutors, in particular Phil and the ever-lovely Sue. The great and varied guest lecturers. The opportunity to be utterly immersed in all things culinary. The ups and downs (sometimes scandal-hit) but ultimate camaraderie of Leiths student life.

What was your first job or work experience following the diploma?

I worked as a freelance agency chef for companies such as Alison Price. Then worked for Alastair Little in his fantastic deli Tavola . I then set up my own private catering business.

Where are you working now?

As Head Chef at The Spurstowe Arms in Hackney.

How has the diploma helped you in your current role?

It has ensured that I know what I’m doing and can also instruct junior chefs in the correct way to do something.

How often do you use the skills you learnt at Leiths?

Every day. My Leiths cooking bible is still the most thumbed book in the kitchen. It is so used that I am already on to my third copy as the others eventually fell to pieces!

What are your long term career goals?

To run my own restaurant.

What are you cooking or eating for dinner tonight?

Braised violet artichokes w/ thyme, preserved lemon, Ticklemore goat’s cheese and griddled polenta.

What key piece of advice would you offer to anyone thinking of studying at Leiths?

Go with an open mind and leave your cooking prejudices at the door. Although some of the dishes may not be to your liking they are on the syllabus because it is all about technique. To break the rules you need to know them first.

What is your favourite restaurant to eat at?

I have been more interested in the food I have tasted on the streets of my travels. However, if pushed would say Murano in Mayfair. The food is faultless and the service friendly and welcoming. Fine-dining without the pompous self-importance.

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