Nico Ladenis, Famed Michelin-Starred Chef, Dead At Age 89

The culinary world lost one of the greats on Sunday, September 10. Chef Nico Ladenis, known for his commitment to excellence, numerous restaurant ventures, multiple Michelin stars, and an attitude that sometimes bordered on harshness, died at 89 years old, confirms The Guardian. He is survived by his wife Dinah-Jane Zissu, and daughters Natasha and Isabella.

Despite coming to the profession later in life, Ladenis had strong opinions about how diners at his restaurant should behave, and he wasn't afraid to say so. Requests for salt and pepper and modifications to dishes were met with reprimand, as were infractions in regard to promptness for reservations, dining etiquette, and dress code. While many considered his approach less than savory, he certainly contributed to a chef-driven confidence that is much more the norm in today's restaurant scene. Ladenis had strong critiques for molecular gastronomy, teeny tiny portions, and overly fussy dishes, but loved to cook well-executed traditional French dishes with opulent ingredients like truffles and foie gras.

Nico Ladenis' famed career

Nico Ladenis opened his first restaurant, Chez Nico, in 1973 on the outskirts of London after his business career came to an unexpected end. He learned to cook by practicing himself and reading cookbooks. The only time he spent in a professional kitchen was for a few months in a friend's restaurant just before opening his own.

He received his first Michelin star in 1981 after moving Chez Nico from its original location in East Dulwich to Battersea and gained a second star in 1984. This success was no doubt influenced by Ladenis' apprenticeship at three Michelin-star restaurant Moulin de Mougin under the tutelage of chef Roger Vergé. After a brief and unsuccessful foray to the countryside, he opened Simply Nico, which became a more casual bistro, as well as another iteration of Chez Nico. Nico at Ninety located in the Grosvenor House hotel, later renamed Chez Nico at Ninety Park Lane, is where Ladenis landed that coveted third Michelin star.

A prostate cancer diagnosis in 1998 prompted a moment of self-reflection for Ladenis, after which he decided to bow out of the Michelin rat race. He metaphorically gave up his stars from the guide. After some years, he opened two more casual concepts, Incognico and Deca. Though his restaurants have all since shuttered, Ladenis will always be remembered as a legend and the first chef without formal training in the United Kingdom to receive three Michelin stars.