Grange December 2020 blog

For our first blog, I would like to introduce to our Head Chef Will Nicol.  Will is, without doubt, one of the finest chefs in Yorkshire and the North of England.  He has just completed his seventh year at The Grange.


JC: Will, where did your start your career?

Will: I trained at Chapeltoun House in Ayrshire, close to where I lived.  The Mackenzie brothers who were the proprietors also owned Culloden House.  They instilled in me from the start the necessary disciplines of attention to detail and hard work that became second nature.

JC: And where did you go from there?


Will: To Dunkeld House, as chef de partie for 5 years. The hotel specialised in game and fish from the nearby lochs and rivers.  I learned there to skin, butcher and prepare all manner of game. There was one German party that came regularly and stayed out all night on the hill.  I remember I used to drive up the hill at 5 in the morning to cook their breakfast outdoors.  When they had made a kill, I used to take out the liver, a great delicacy, and fry it for them over the embers with some haggis.  This was usually helped down with a shot of whisky.

JC:  Why did you leave there?

Will:  I was offered the position as Junior Sous Chef, effectively the 3rd highest position in the Kitchen, at Summer Lodge in Dorset.  The hotel gained 3 rosettes during my 4 years there.  The owner offered me a Stage of nearly one year at the Martinez Hotel in Cannes to broaden my experience. I worked in the Palme d’Or Restaurant within the hotel, that had 2 Michelin Stars.  We cooked for all the most famous film stars during the Film Festival as well as the French Cabinet, who are renowned for their love and knowledge of French gastronomy.  I went with the Head Chef to the Market at dawn and back in time to cook lunch and dinner.  It was a long day but I got to learn many of their secrets!

JC:  And then you went North?

Will:  Yes, I was asked to come to Oulton Hall near Leeds, a 5 star and 2 rosette hotel, as Senior Sous Chef. I was number 2 in a brigade of some 40 chefs serving up to 250 dinners in a night, as well Afternoon Teas and Functions including private dinners.  The hotel had many football teams staying for periods.  Among those I cooked for there were David Beckham, Ronaldo and Bruce Grobbelaar.  I was also responsible for feeding leading teams Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea.

JC: So was it just footballers that visited there?

Will: Oh no, we had our fair share of film stars that we fed as well– Elton John, Jason Donovan, the Spice Girls and many others.

JC: Come on Will, tell us a few secrets about their habits…..

Will:  Oh no, I couldn’t possibly do that.  We Chefs follow our own Hippocratic oath and never tell!


JC:  Then we managed to entice you to the Grange in 2013….

Will:  Yes, I really enjoy the intimacy of a boutique hotel and the proximity to the client.  I also have more choice as to what I can cook.  I have the opportunity to forage for wild foods, berries and mushrooms and have the time and opportunity to teach my team about nature and the elements of cooking much as I was shown in my early years.

The clientele at the Grange are very discerning.  As well as our fair share of visiting stars – just recently Caroline, Quentin, Nigel Havers, Jack Dee, we have gourmet parties that I love to prepare for.


JC: What do they like to eat and what do you like to cook?

Will:  I particularly like to cook fish and shellfish.  Classic dishes such as Lobster Thermidor, Beef Wellington are always fun to prepare for a special meal.  But even a luxury fish pie, or a Grand Marnier Souffle are good fun to teach and to serve.  Now, I’m sorry Mr C, but I have to get back to the kitchen.  There’s a wedding tomorrow and there’s a lot to do………