Nico Ladenis was born in Tanganyika, now Tanzania, on 22 April 1934. He was born to Greek parents. Unlike many chefs of his stature, Ladenis was a self-taught chef and did not attend any culinary schools.
Education and Early Career
After earning a degree in Economics from Hull, Ladenis worked at The Sunday Times. It was during this time that he met his future wife, Dinah-Jane.
Ladenis and Dinah-Jane had two daughters, Natasha Robinson, born in 1964, and Isabella Wallace, born in 1966. They also have one granddaughter, Lily-Rose Wallace, born in 1999.
While working at his restaurant Chez Nico in Dulwich, London in 1976 or 1977, he met fellow chef Michel Roux at a party. Roux arranged for him to work for a week at the three Michelin star Moulin de Mougins under Roger Vergé.
In 1989, he opened a bistro-style restaurant in Pimlico, London, named Simply Nico. In 1992, he became the first named chef to move his restaurant into a five-star hotel, the Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair. His former two Michelin star restaurant on Great Portland Street was converted into the bistro-style “Nico Central.”
In 1995, Chez Nico at 90 Park Lane was awarded three Michelin stars, making Ladenis the first self-taught chef to receive this honor.
A Change of Course
In 1999, disenchanted with the London restaurant scene and dealing with a prostate cancer diagnosis, he decided to give back his Michelin stars. He opened more restaurants: Incognico on Shaftesbury Avenue in 2000, and Deca on Conduit Street in 2002. In 2003, he decided to step back from running restaurants entirely.
Philosophy and Influence
Ladenis was best known for his fiery temper and his mantra that “the customer is not always right.” He taught a generation of British chefs who went on to run their own successful businesses and win Michelin stars. His motos were ‘Precision, Restraint, Simplicity‘ and ‘Consistency, Consistency, Consistency‘.
Awards and Recognition
Chez Nico, Ladenis’s family-run restaurant, was for many years the highest-rated restaurant in the UK. It not only had 3 Michelin Stars but also received ten out of ten in the Good Food Guide and 5 AA Rosettes.
Ladenis authored two semi-autobiographical books, ‘My Gastronomy‘ and ‘Nico‘.
- My Gastronomy. London: Ebury. ISBN 9780852236826.
- Nico. London: Macmillan. ISBN 9780333651773.
Later Life and Legacy
Ladenis retired to the South of France in 2000 and returned to England in 2011. He passed away in September 2023, at the age of 89. His two daughters, Natasha and Isabella, remain involved in the restaurant business, carrying on his legacy.
His influence and contributions to the culinary world make him a significant figure, and his life serves as an inspiration to many in the industry.