Meet the chef: Michael Yates of NoMad London

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Despite a long and fulfilling cheffing career that’s taken him across the world, Michael Yates admits that he hasn’t spent much time cooking in the capital. Now executive chef at the luxury NoMad hotel in Covent Garden, he describes his new job as a “homecoming story”, where he can finally cook on home turf and show the people of London what he’s all about. 

Yates grew up in the Ribble Valley in Lancashire where his first job at a local Italian restaurant sparked a journey to some of the world’s finest kitchens. He developed an appreciation for local produce at Northcote in Blackburn and spent time in Edinburgh at Restaurant Martin Wishart. His career also took him to the three-Michelin-starred kitchen Oud Sluis – a former culinary destination in the Netherlands – and it was here that Yates learned the art of precision and presentation. From there, he travelled to the Qualia luxury resort, on Hamilton Island in Australia, before venturing out on his own. 

The globe-trotting chef seized the opportunity to open his own restaurant in Antwerp in 2016. Sail and Anchor, a 24-seat restaurant, showcased his love and dedication to quality, locally sourced ingredients via daily tasting menus that changed in response to the produce supplied by a collective of local farmers and growers. Seven years later, it was finally time to return home and to the NoMad London.  

And while the hotel is new(ish), having opened in 2021, Yates is newer. His debut menus launched at the end of April, with Yates at the helm of the culinary offerings across NoMad, including its signature eponymous restaurant, the Mexican-inspired Side Hustle, the Library, and the newly opened cocktail bar, Common Decency. Set in a soaring glass conservatory with hanging plants and pale-green furnishings, the signature restaurant’s menus focus on farm, field and coast, featuring Shetland scallops with pan-fried morels; suckling pig with rhubarb, chicory and ginger confit; and a newly-launched Sunday roast which reimagines the classics.

nomad restaurant michael yates

Elsewhere, Side Hustle serves South American favourites, such as Baja-style prawn tacos and chorizo tetela tortillas, and The Library is renowned for its all-day small plates, including Cobble Lane cured meats and crudités with smoked cod roe. 

With three restaurants to oversee, it’s fair to say Yates has got plenty on his plate. We caught up with him to discuss what drew him to London and how he’s settling in. 

Tell me about your early food experiences.

My first memories of cooking are podding broad beans and peas and my mum teaching me how to make scrambled eggs. My first job was in an Italian restaurant at the bottom of my road called Nico’s when I was 16. I started off washing dishes but was soon bitten by the cookery bug and it was here that I fell in love with the culture of hospitality. I essentially learned the basics of how a restaurant works and I’ve never looked back.

From there I moved to Northcote Manor, the Michelin-starred restaurant in my hometown, Langho. I worked for chef Nigel Haworth and began developing my passion for using local produce. Then I went to the luxury country house hotel, Mitton Hall, also in the Ribble Valley, working with chef Mark Gaukroger.

How does it feel to be working in London for the first time in your career?

London is one of the world’s most exciting culinary hubs, you’re surrounded by so many people dedicated to their craft, and as a chef it’s great to be a part of it. This is a bit of a homecoming story for me and it’s nice to be back in the UK after so many years away. London’s culinary outlook is a perfect fit for my ethos and style.

Out of all the countries you’ve lived in, which native cuisine do you like the most?

If we’re talking about ingredients that are truly native, I would say Australia. While working there, I had the opportunity to create dishes with ingredients such as macadamia nuts and wattle seed that you don’t often come across anywhere else.

nomad restaurant

Spring Tartare

What led you to close your restaurant in Antwerp?

It was a dream come true to have my own restaurant and, in some ways, I could have done it forever, but at the same time I also knew it was time to embark on the next stage of my career and take on a new challenge. It was wonderful running a successful, small independent restaurant and it was fully booked pretty much every night, but I’ve always been ambitious throughout my whole career. After seven years, I knew it was time to move on as I still have so much more to give and so much more that I want to achieve.

What drew you to the NoMad?

There is a harmonious compatibility between my own outlook and culinary style and that of NoMad’s. Seasonality and provenance are at the heart of this shared ethos. The challenge lies in teaching the team how to bring the authentic flavours on a larger scale. I have a lot more people to manage now but I still want to show as much as possible on the floor. I like to be hands on, so you’ll find me at the grill during service.

What influences your menus at NoMad?

I aim to transport people out of the city into the countryside, using a lot of different wild herbs and seasonal produce. For me, farmers and producers aren’t suppliers, they are partners and through the menu I aim to honour their stories. For example, we work with an English charcutier who is based in north London, who, like us, wants to bring the pleasures of simple countryside life to central London.

I like working with the right products and preparing them properly. Flavours are essential for me, I devote all my time to them. I explore tastes and smells that bring with them a feeling of nostalgia, bringing back memories. But ultimately, I cook to make people happy and to bring them these products in the sincerest way possible.

nomad restaurant michael yates

Shetland scallops

You’ve mentioned before that you find the young talent in the NoMad kitchen impressive. Do you enjoy teaching aspiring chefs?

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with some truly inspirational chefs during the early stages of my career and I want to pay this forward with today’s young chefs. I see myself in the young talent in the NoMad kitchen.

I enjoy teaching young chefs that are truly interested and passionate about their craft. Being a chef is a great thing because you can change moods and make people’s day. My one piece of advice is to just push on. Show up, learn, and get the work done.

What is your favourite restaurant in London?

I have always loved St John (in Barbican) because of the simplicity and the produce. However, right at this moment I would say it’s Gymkhana: not only is the food exceptional, it’s also such a cool place to sit (I love the cellar) and the service is excellent.

Being a chef is a great thing because you can change moods and make people’s day. My one piece of advice is to just push on. Show up, learn, and get the work done.

Michael Yates

Are there any other London chefs you’re impressed with at the moment?

I’m a big fan of Henry Harris, the chef and co-owner of Bouchon Racine. He has a similar outlook to myself by paying homage to classic dishes and giving them a new lease of life.

How do you spend your free time away from the restaurant?

I love a good pint in the pub and going to the cinema. I enjoy just being at home, cooking a nice meal in my own kitchen while listening to music or shouting answers to a quiz on TV with a glass of wine in hand.

What’s your favourite dish on the menu and why?

The lamb shoulder. It’s the epitome of my cooking; it resembles my roots, and you share it with your company. The nostalgia comes with the lavender I serve it on, the smell transports me to my fondest holiday memories.


Read more: Meet the chef: Ian Howard of The Athenaeum

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