Restoration Yard Blog

The Kitchen Welcomes New Head Chef Nicky Cornet

Meet Nicky Cornet our new head chef in our beautiful restaurant - The Kitchen at Restoration Yard. Nicky, who has a wealth of experience in creating delicious dishes in top-end restaurants, is passionate about sourcing local, seasonal produce and creating a menu for The Kitchen that embraces that.

Did you always want to be a chef?

My Dad was a Chef so it was always the plan.  From aged just 11, I was ‘working‘ part-time and at weekends in hospitality and I did everything from washing the dishes to food prep and even front of house.  I realised that my interests and skills were in the kitchen. So I left school at 16 and spent three years at Telford College (now Edinburgh College) gaining my qualifications.  

Are there chefs that have inspired you along your journey and what did you learn from them?

For many years when I was starting out, I worked for William and Susan Westwood.  Bill and Susan were like my second parents they gave me a job when I was 11 years old, peeling potatoes for their grill room and chip shop in Portobello. One was called The Porto Grill and the other was the Porto Restaurant. Both were very busy places selling the best fish & chips and ice cream in Edinburgh.  They sold the businesses in 2003/4 to retire and move up to the highlands. Unfortunately Susan passed away in March 2006 after illness. I’m still in touch with Bill who lives in London now. Bill is my mentor (even now in his retirement). They both took me under their wings and provided a varied and solid foundation in hospitality.  I learned all aspects of the business, particularly the importance of making connections and building relationships in terms of suppliers and others in the trade. 

What are you looking forward to in your new role in The Kitchen at Restoration Yard?

The existing team has welcomed me to The Kitchen and it’s honestly been great.  I’m looking forward to developing the kitchen team and working with them to strengthen the skills and talents that are already there by sharing my experiences and expertise.

Nicky is looking forward to developing the offer in The Kitchen and strengthening the talents of the team. His Mother's Day Takeaway box (above right) is just one of the new ideas he's bringing to Restoration Yard.
Can you give us a little insight into creating an exciting seasonal menu in The Kitchen?

Like a magician, a good chef never reveals their secrets!  I’m passionate about keeping menus seasonal.  In Spring/Summer it’s all about light and refreshing dishes and Autumn/Winter making sure that we offer cosy, comforting food.  The Kitchen is a great place for families as well as a catch-up with friends so there has to be something for everyone.

How important is local produce to you in creating a menu in a Midlothian restaurant?

I’ve worked in Midlothian for a number of years so I feel I have a good knowledge and understanding of the produce available right here on our doorstep.  We are very fortunate to have high quality produce in the region. I have forged excellent relationships with suppliers to ensure we are using the finest of ingredients and offering our patrons the best.  I’m always looking out for what’s new and how we can adapt.  The shortage of stocks throughout the recent pandemic caused issues for some, but because I use local produce, I was able to ensure that what I offered was unchanged for customers.  Buying local is important in so many ways. 

"I’m passionate about keeping menus seasonal.  In Spring/Summer it’s all about light and refreshing dishes," says Nicky
What is your vision for The Kitchen and how will you make it happen?

I’d like everyone coming along to have the very best experience and tell others.  We are very fortunate to be surrounded by the beautiful Dalkeith Country Park where there really is something for everyone to appreciate and enjoy.  I want to that to be the same for the food that we offer both in The Kitchen and also at the extended kiosks throughout the park. I’m really keen to enhance our wedding breakfast menus. I see it as a privilege to assist couples in the planning of their special day from initial discussions about their favourite foods through to tastings and ultimately surpassing their expectations on the big day itself.

How easy is it for you to switch off from your profession?

I’m probably not the one to ask!  It’s not always easy to switch off although it’s good to know that the team can deliver the same quality in my absence.  At home I enjoy being fed just as much as I enjoy feeding others.  My seven-year-old son, Daniel, loves nothing more than heading out for a good steak.  Eating as a family at the table on a Sunday is always good too.  While answering these questions, I’m sitting by the harbour in Tenerife.  I’m always looking for food inspiration and I’ve travelled throughout the world eating some of the most delicious food.  I particularly enjoy eating in local eateries and plan on having fresh seafood as well as tapas on this trip.

Is eating out in other restaurants a way of keeping up-to-date and if so, across the UK, which restaurants are your go-to for creative influences?

Absolutely.  I make sure I get around Midlothian to eat often.  There are so many good restaurants locally.  I also enjoy eating out in cities across the UK when I get a weekend off to head away.  I particularly like the variety that larger cities such as Manchester and London have to offer.  I’m going to stay at The Lowry Hotel in Manchester in May and I’m looking forward to the dining experience as well as London and Paris in September.  I’m sure I’ll bring ideas back with me.

How would you define the perfect dining experience when eating out?

To me, the perfect dining experience starts with the menu. I think it’s great to pick up an menu and struggle to decide what to have.  Food is even better when it’s shared so that’s always a good solution. You know you’re onto a winner when you can sit back and say “wow I really enjoyed that, next time I’ll have…”.

Interested in sampling Nicky's handiwork in The Kitchen? Book your table online. Share your experience via social media. Want to hear all the news from Restoration Yard first? Sign up to our newsletters. You can also follow us over on Facebook and Instagram.