We were introduced to Nurdin a couple of years ago by fellow chef Craig Grozier, who brought him to Islay so we could forage, cook, and play. We supported a collaboration between Nurdin and the guys at Lyan Cub in Hoxton back in May. Here we find out something about the michelin-starred chef’s working principles and background.
Nurdin Topham: In 2016, I closed the doors to my restaurant NUR in Hong Kong. We were proud to serve people in Hong Kong pioneering ideas in food. ‘Nourishing Gastronomy’ was a media phrase we coined to help Hong Kongers box us into something meaningful rather than gimmicky when we marketed NUR Hong Kong.
The name is rooted in my family history where my grandmother was an early member of the Soil Association and my mother who believed in the healing power of food. My education along these lines continued whilst working for Raymond Blanc over a decade, assisting him in creating better sourcing policies for the restaurant and cookery school. We would visit leading organic & biodynamic farmers, the food ethics council etc. to understand and obtain a holistic perspective of the foodscape we were working in.
I brought this approach into the development kitchen in Hong Kong prior to opening the restaurant. With my team of chefs, we would tie ourselves in knots as the challenges we faced seemed far more unsurmountable than the ones in the UK! 94% of all produce in Hong Kong is imported with the majority of plant foods coming from China in inconspicuous lorries arriving late at night. Many vegetables had lingering chemical flavours, they lacked depth of taste that I believe would come from well managed organic healthy soils.
When NUR finally opened, we had settled on a procurement policy and approach that was logical to the region we were in. Laborious research and commitment had established weekly deliveries from local farmers in the New Terriorities. Driven by taste as well as sustainability, we realised some ingredients were best sourced from neighbouring Japan – a country with exceptional artisanship in food culture & transparency in sourcing.
And last but not least, I put considerable weight into the nutritional ideal of an ingredient, then a dish, and the balance of a menu. Working and learning my craft as a chef in Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, with support from Raymond Blanc, I had pursued theoretical studies in nutrition. This remains at the heart of my pursuit for noble foods.
Read more about one thing Nurdin has been doing since returning to London; the Bruichladdich and Botanist supported NUR x CUB pop-up