Leeds restaurants: Chef Nathan is back where it all started cooking Thai food for his mum at Jino's Thai Cafe
Chef Nathan Brown has cooked up a storm all over the world, from a high-end Asian fusion restaurant in Amsterdam to a brasserie in Berlin.
Born in Hong Kong to a Thai mother and father from Leeds, Nathan was in the kitchen as soon as he could reach the counters.
But he really honed his craft when his parents moved back to Leeds and launched Jino’s Thai Cafe, a stalwart of the Headingley culinary scene.
Now an accomplished head chef with a repertoire of experience under his belt, Nathan is back where it all started - heading up the kitchen at Jino’s.
Cooking has been an outlet for his creativity and he’d be “doing nothing” without it, he admits.
“I was a bit of a wrecker,” Nathan, 30, said.
“I used to drink a lot when I was a kid and I only got two GCSEs.
“I used to come to the cafe after school and I slowly made my way through the kitchen, making spring rolls and putting chicken on satay sticks.
“It’s been my escape through everything. I was that kid in high school and college who could never go to parties because I was working. I’ve never experienced a whole weekend to myself in my life.”
Nathan learned on the job at Chino Latino, a pan-Asian restaurant in Leeds, and has since worked at MOMO in Amsterdam, LS6 Cafe in Hyde Park and most recently as head chef at Tattu in Edinburgh.
Then the pandemic hit.
“We all had life-changing experiences through Covid”, Nathan said.
“I needed to get back to working at independent restaurants, because they need the most support at this time.”
Nathan left his job in Edinburgh to rejoin his mum Malinee Brown, who has run Jino’s Thai Cafe for 18 years.
The family business is booming during lockdown, relocating to North Lane to meet the demand for takeaway orders, and Nathan is excited about the future ahead.
He said: “I looked at the pandemic as a time to reflect on myself and see what more we can do within the culinary world.
“My mum has had Jino’s for 18 years and is doing an amazing job. Our kitchen staff are the backbone of the restaurant, they are the hardest working team of middle aged Thai mommas you could imagine.
“I’ve got some crazy ideas for the future.”
As Jino’s Thai Cafe prepares to reopen, family is key for Nathan.
He added: “There are stereotypes about chefs and that party lifestyle. But I’ve never had that attitude towards life.
“It’s not about getting drunk and partying, you put your passion into the food and that’s the fuel that gets you up in the morning.”
Nathan has shared the recipe for one of his favourite Thai dishes - Pad Krapao Kai Dow - so you can whip up a taste of Thailand in your own home.
Watch his video tutorial here.
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