How I Got Here: Natasha Cooke

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Natasha Cooke Lupins restaurant London Bridge

Related tags: Chefs, London

A former professional event rider Natasha Cooke opened her first restaurant Lupins in London Bridge, along with her friend and business partner Lucy Pedder, in early 2017.

Why restaurants?
I fell into it by accident. When I was 13 I worked in a local bakery on weekends and then part time at Carluccio’s when I left school. Life then took me in a completely different direction and I became a professional event rider. A few years later I found myself back in the kitchen in a restaurant in Mayfair and then The Glasshouse in Kew. I guess it was meant to be.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
The higher up you get the harder it is! You have grand dreams of owning a restaurant and when you get there it turns out to be a lot less swanky and glamorous than you imagined. A lot of the time you’re dealing with pest control, bins, kitchen porters and dishwasher issues.

What do you do in your spare time?
I exercise, dance, travel as much as I can and believe it or not I love to cook. Oh and I love cleaning … seriously!

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
I loved Gymkhana until it sadly closed down due to a fire. In fact I love all of the JKS Restaurants places. Another favourite is Yama Momo in East Dulwich. I’ve often been known to take myself off there, just me, a glass of wine and a plate of the most incredible sushi.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
They say you change careers three times in your life. I’ve been an event rider and a restaurant owner. I like the idea of being a florist (it sounds romantic although it probably isn’t), or a pro golfer (not that I can actually play). We’ll see what the future holds.

What motivates you?
Creating a nice environment where people feel looked after. That applies to my customers as well as my team. I’m very nurturing. I like to be the perfect host and provide lovely food and a cosy setting for my diners, but I also want my staff to be happy at Lupins. I think we’re pretty good when it comes to bonuses and letting them have time off.

Where was your last holiday?
In Snowdonia, climbing. It was very cold and wet but lovely.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I would have to say it was three head chefs that I worked with at The Glasshouse. Anthony Boyd was the first head chef I worked with. He was very respectful, very firm but never rude and would never shout at anyone. Daniel Mertl was incredibly driven and Joe Mercer Nairne (now owner of Medlar) had such passion. All three of them had a huge influence on me, inspiring me in different ways and helping to shape the way I work.

What keeps you up at night?
Money. Worrying generally. I generally only sleep about four hours a night anyway.

Worst business decision?
Deciding to paint the entire restaurant ourselves before it opened to save money. Never again. I think we’d pay double now just to get someone else to do it.

Best business decision?
To leave my job and open my own restaurant.

What are you reading at the moment?
Hacking Darwin by Jamie Metzl. A very thought-provoking read. I read a lot of non-fiction.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Take advice. Listen to your superiors. And do the job because you are passionate about it and it makes you happy, not for the money.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
The way the public views us. I think that common thinking is that restaurants charge too much. But we have very high business rates, food prices are high and we have hard-working staff to pay. We are all just trying to make a living.

 

CV to date

1990 Born in Oxford
2001 – 2006 St Joseph’s School, Launceston, Cornwall
2007 – 2009 Kennet College, Thatcham, Berkshire
2007 – 2008 Carluccio’s, Bicester Village
2008 – Villandry, London
2008 – 2009 Hush, Mayfair
2009 – 2011 The Glasshouse, Kew
2011 – 2012 Medlar, Chelsea
2012 – 2014 The Sand’s End, Chelsea
2014 – 2015 The Cross Keys, Chelsea
2014 – 2017 Founded The Cooking Collective with Lucy Pedder
2017 – present Opened Lupins with co-owner Lucy Pedder

 

 

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