Nick Grieves – Head Chef & Owner of Ophelia

After studying construction at university, Nick Grieves graduated and moved to Qatar. When the great recession hit in the late 2000’s, Nick’s construction job disappeared overnight and he headed home, where he took on a local pub with a friend. After helping out when they were short, Nick soon realised he loved cooking. Nick has subsequently spent time at Simon Rogan’s Fera, in the historic Claridge’s Hotel and also at The River Café before deciding to go it alone with the launch of his first and now widely acclaimed restaurant, The Patricia before opening his second restaurant, Ophelia last year.

Tell us about Ophelia?

Ophelia is a neighbourhood restaurant inspired by French brasserie style cooking with a wine cellar also predominantly focused on France. As with The Patricia, the food is centred around ingredients rather than fancy techniques.

Describe your cooking style?

I would say it’s a simple style with a huge focus on the product.

Did you have any mentors?

Yes, one of my best mates Tom Anglesea in my early career (I started 12 years ago). I would call him most days to ask questions, he was probably sick to death of me.

Who inspires you in the industry?

My mates Tom Anglesea (Dovetail) and Shaun Hurrell (Barrio Comida) they are two of the best cooks in the country. Ruthy at the River Cafe. Local Legend Terry Laybourne who is now a good friend. James Lowe at my favourite London spot. Iñaki Aizpitarte from Le Chateaubriand, Simone Tondo from Racines, the Hart brothers, Ben Chapman, Erchen Chang. So many more I could list.

How do you create new dishes?

I probably do my best thinking after a busy service; I often sit down with a glass of wine and write.

What were the key steps in your development and career?

I started with no experience in a pub I had with my friend, so was self-taught for the first 4 years. I used to read all the time and watch YouTube videos of Ruthy and Rose (The River Café) constantly. I would also eat out everywhere, it’s probably the best way to learn. I then moved to London and spent a year at The River Cafe, this was the most important step I’ve ever done.

What would you say to a 16-year-old starting out in a kitchen?

Go and work in very good restaurants run by good people and spend all your money on eating in other good restaurants.

What cuisines, flavours or techniques are you loving right now?

I’m enjoying researching classic French stuff, Ophelia means that we have a stricter guide to follow than I’m used to.

What are your next goals and targets?

I want to learn to be a better leader and build a very strong team around me so we can build the business. We have plans to open some more places and relocate The Patricia to a fancier spot, so a lot of my focus is on the future.

How would you change the hospitality industry?

I think over the past few years there has been a lot of focus on how negative it can be and yes, there are some places that are bad, but in my experience, there are so many places that are amazing environments to work in and run by people who really care about their team. I would like to see us showcasing that and encourage people to come and work in what I think is one of the most exciting and fulfilling industries out there.

Any tips to deal with the challenge of rising costs?

This is extremely difficult and one we have been hit hard by in the new gaff, trying to offer a more accessible price point has been very hard and one we are still trying to figure out. We have had to sacrifice margins and try and make savings elsewhere. I don’t ever want to compromise on quality. Hopefully in colder months we can save a little by putting on long braises with ‘cheaper’ cuts of meat and larger more hearty vegetables that have larger yields.

Tell us about an ingredient you can’t live without and why?

Probably vinegar, I’m obsessed with high quality vinegar, used correctly it can transform everything.