Skip to main content
nathan cooper graduate awards finalist
7th September 2023

Learning more about Graduate Awards highest achiever, Nathan Cooper

Written by: David Foad
Nathan’s culinary career began aged 16 at Westminster Kingsway College. He completed a three year professional diploma, before going to Florida where he worked in a golf club for a year to enhance his knowledge and travel. Since being back in the UK, he has worked in a fishmongers, come 2nd in the Riso Gallo Young Risotto Chef of the Year and now works at Goldman Sachs for BaxterStorey. Straight after the Graduate Awards final, he told us more about his career and future plans.

Why did you decide to enter the Graduate Awards?
I decided to enter because I wanted to see what knowledge I have and to push myself to see what I could achieve and to network with other chefs, having fun doing what I love.

What would achieving the Graduate Award mean to you?
It would mean a great deal as it would give me more confidence in my cooking and show what I can achieve in the culinary world. However, just being involved in the competition has helped me and has opened my eyes to new things.

What would you most like to achieve as a chef and why?
I would like to enter Young National Chef of the Year, and maybe when I’m old enough to try for National Chef of the Year, as these would be amazing experiences and a massive learning curve.
In terms of jobs, I would love to work in a Michelin-starred restaurant to gain experience, have fun and learn as much as I can with the farm to fork aspects. Sustainability and using local good produce has always been a passion of mine and I always want to improve my knowledge.

How did you find the mentor trip you went on in July.
I loved every second of it. The trip was packed full of knowledge and enjoyment; seeing how the pigs are raised and bred at Dingley Dell Farm was an eye opener as well as how they are helping the environment. It was also great to visit Pump Street and see how they have two companies that work hand in hand to produce some amazing chocolate.
I learnt so much on this trip and would love to be able to do it all again. It was good to network and connect with the other Graduates.

What advice would you give to a young chef who is considering entering the Graduate Award?
Practice and ask your mentor as many questions as you need to. When you are getting mentorship take in as much as possible.

What do you love most about being a chef and why?
I love the constant change in the food we cook as trends are always changing. The seasons make the food we cook fresh, new and exciting. Two days being a chef are never the same and I've never regretted working in this industry. 

What’s your favourite type of food to cook?
My favourite type of food to cook would have to be Italian as it’s clean, light and there’s always something new to learn. I've always loved making pasta, and risotto is one of my favourite dishes to eat.

Tell us about the best meal you’ve ever eaten.
The best dish I have ever eaten was at Adam Byatt’s Restaurant Trinity. It was a Red Prawn Ravioli, Prawn Bisque and Sea Vegetables. It was light, perfectly seasoned and had everything I love and want to cook as a chef.

Which chefs do you look up to in the hospitality industry and why?
There are two chefs I look up to in this industry. One is Josh Niland who is an Australian chef who has changed the way people think about fish, using nose to tail to reduce wastage. Plus, how he treats fish like meat, making tuna burgers or koftas for example. One thing I’ve never been able to forget is him using fish eyes to make ice cream.
Adam Byatt is a more local chef that I look up to. His dishes are always clean, classical and simple, trying to use only three elements on one plate. This thinking on food and the culture has always interested me and I would love to learn more from him.