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Nathan Davies: “Your menu is your CV. It shows where you've worked, it shows where you've travelled”

08 Dec 2022

Nathan Davies: “Your menu is your CV. It shows where you've worked, it shows where you've travelled”

The storming success of his SY23 has shot chef patron Nathan Davies into hospitality stardom making him the next big thing.

Nestled neatly on the west coast of Wales, in the coastal town of Aberystwyth, SY23 comprises of three unique dining experiences for guests who seek to sample some of the most captivating food and drink on offer in the UK.

In the last twelve months, Nathan’s attention for detail and knack for understanding what his guests want has helped him win a host of awards including a Michelin star, Michelin’s Opening of the Year for 2022, and Number 12 in Good Food Guide’s Top 20 British Restaurants.

Explaining how his work across the UK has helped him become the chef he is today, Nathan said: "I think influences and things like that come from where you've worked, where you've been, where you visited."

He added: "I think the point where you become a head chef, I think your menu is really your CV, it shows where you've worked, it shows where you've travelled."

Before opening a place of his own Nathan worked in professional kitchens in London - including Shakespeare's Globe Theatre - and was briefly a private chef in France before moving back to Wales.

After finding his feet in the industry, Nathan worked for Steven Terry at The Hardwick in Abergavenny and was Gareth Ward's head chef at the two Michelin-starred Ynyshir restaurant for four years before moving to Cardiganshire to open SY23 with business owner Mark Phillips in late 2019.

Talking about his time working with Gareth at Ynyshir and his own influences, Nathan said: “I spent a long time with Gareth at Ynyshir, and obviously that's had a knock-on effect to me and my food style and just approaching things a bit differently, but then we've got our own style. I love the Basque Country cooking, that live fire thing, and a lot of the fish-based things that we're doing.”

The running of SY23 is managed by 40 employees across the venue’s restaurant, kitchens, bar, front of house and office, something of a challenge when your location is slap bang on the west coast of Wales.

Describing how he ensured that the right people were selected for role, irrespective of the restaurant’s unique location, Nathan revealed that creating relationships with the town’s university and colleges ensured the location wouldn’t be a problem.

“Being where we are on the far west of Wales, it's not the easiest place in the universe to get staff, to combat that what I've done is I've gone and worked with the university, so we've got a really good relationship with the colleges and university here,” explained Nathan.

Talking about getting experienced talent from elsewhere, Nathan said: “We need to appeal to staff, like Charlie that's travelled from Liverpool to come and work here, who's a sous chef, it's about offering something different and also when they get here, it's a different way of life. You know, the beaches are here, the woodland are here, it's that work life balance we need to do and that's what helps us retain our staff.”

For Nathan, being influenced by past employers and experiences is an inherently positive and natural process with the trick lying in using these experiences to shape and develop something.

Detailing how Ynyshir’s and Gareth’s cooking shaped him for his recent success, whilst emphasising the stark differences between both chef’s venues, he explained: “I didn't want to lose everything that Ynyshir had taught me because otherwise what was the point in going there and working there. I had acquired a skill set there that was going to change my life in cooking."

Cooking in progress...