Can you get a ticket to this exclusive Norfolk supper club?
- Credit: Stefan Sloboda
For Nathan Rackham, dining is about more than just a meal.
“It has to be personal, it has to be exciting,” he enthuses. “It is our job to throw out the rulebook and give the diners the best experience we can.”
And with that as his ethos, the Michelin trained chef has launched a new venture and a new chapter of his career in Norwich – the fittingly named Journal Dining.
It has three elements. Pop-up supper clubs at venues around the city – his first was on July 22, at Connaught Kitchen in the city’s Golden Triangle, private dining, cooked at the guest’s home or in a venue of their choice and events catering for larger parties and weddings.
“The concept came about because every chef carries a journal of recipes, notes and experiences much like chapters,” says Nathan.
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“Over time you get a collection of these books in which you look back on and develop new ideas from your past.
“I wanted to bring my experiences and knowledge into a new venture using Journal Dining, in which the guest gets to experience a journey not just a meal.
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“The food itself is fine dining without all the stiffness,” he continues. “We are using the finest techniques to emphasise the ingredient rather than mess with it. And the diners should have a relaxing experience.”
The menus for the supper club pop-ups are designed to intrigue.
You know what ingredients you’re going to be eating, and the focus is on the local and seasonal. But, in a clever plot twist, you don’t know how they will be presented on the plate.
“The menu for the supper club pop-ups are divided into chapters to help take you on your journey through your meal much like reading a book, or notes in a journal,” explains Nathan.
“The menu is listed as ingredients to give the diner enough knowledge of what they are eating without telling them how I am going to do it, so there’s the surprise element.
“Dishes such as the carrot and duck dish are listed on the menu as just five ingredients, but the dish consists of chamomile roast carrot, duck ham, carrot puree, puffed wild rice, toasted almonds, lovage oil, Charlie’s leaves and a duck jus.”
Initially Nathan is planning to hold at least two supper club pop-ups a month. He’s looking at additional locations around the city and eventually further afield.
Nathan is a well-known name on the local and national dining scene.
His own food story began as a child.
“My mother who taught me the basic principles of how to cook and where it can go from a young age, always making sure we were fed well and with fresh local ingredients.
“We also travelled quite often as my father worked away from home running his business.
“As a family this meant we ate out frequently, often in nice restaurants experiencing high standards of food and service.”
He trained at the classic French Michelin restaurant and hotel Le Pont De L’Ouysse in Lacave, in the Dordogne Valley.
On his return to England he went to the Michelin-starred Paris House in Woburn, which is set in a 22-acre deer park.
“There I learnt more modern scientific cooking techniques,” says Nathan.
He then returned to Norfolk where he worked with Dan Smith in his first two years as chef patron of The Wildebeest at Stoke Holy Cross, where the cooking gained attention from Michelin and AA Rosette Awards and he also made the final in the Chef of the Year category of the Norfolk Food and Drink Awards.
He then spent a short spell with Andrew Jones opening the award-winning Farmyard restaurant, before a move along St Benedict’s Street to work with Richard Bainbridge.
And then it was over the border into Suffolk where he worked as a private chef for the luxury holiday retreat Wilderness Reserve, cooking for high profile and celebrity guests.
Cheffing has also allowed Nathan to pursue his love of snowboarding and he’s worked as a private chef at luxury chalets in the Alps.
Journal Dining is a concept which has been more than four years in the planning.
His partner, Taylor, is front of house manager – and also one of his food heroes.
“Taylor always makes sure no matter how hard I am working, however stressed I am, that I am eating the best healthiest meal possible,” he says.
The food industry is tough and Nathan is candid about the issues that it faces.
“The decision to finally open Journal Dining came about when I noticed all my friends in the industry were leaving to do other jobs outside of hospitality – years of being underpaid and mistreated has finally reared its head,” he says.
“I decided to do something about it and open Journal Dining and take it as far as I can while maintaining the principles of being ethical and looking after the staff and customers at all times, as other businesses in the city have started to do.”
He also firmly believes that the food industry needs to step up to the plate when it comes to climate change.
“We need to look at the global climate problems with how we as an economy consume food and bring more responsible dining to the table, whether it be in the sourcing of the ingredient or using less of a product,” he says.
Nathan supports smaller scale independent producers wherever possible and he wants to use Journal Dining as a platform to champion what they do.
“Eventually when my social accounts are in a healthy position to be helpful to everyone, I will be doing arranged visits to small scale farms, butchers, orchards, raw milk producers, etc to do video edits to platform them on social media.
“I don’t want Journal Dining just to be about us, I want it to be about ethical business and supporting others so everybody wins.”
Journal Dining will return to Connaught Kitchen on August 19. Follow @journal_dining to find out how to book and about forthcoming supper clubs.