A brief History of Nick’s Career
Nick Buckingham was born into the catering trade. His parents ran hotels and restaurants in North Wales and Hampton-in-Arden, and he had always been interested in food – sitting in a high chair watching mum cooking is an early memory. But Nick’s first experience in the kitchen came at the Rutland Inn in Rutland in the 50s. He had been blackberrying and made a blackberry and apple pie with the spoils. It was so good it ended up on the menu – Nick’s first commission at the age of seven!
Nick would come home from school and start chopping onions , making bread sauce – and then help with the night service, after clearing the kitchen its time for bed. The next morning before going back to school bottle up the bar . At fifteen he began a three year apprenticeship at the Red Horse Hotel, Stratford Upon Avon. Though the establishment left much to be desired – In the Kitchen there was no hot water or soap so everything was perpetually greasy – Nick learned a lot from a French chef M. Rouxette who was the Escoffier Commi de Cuisine.
He studied further at the South Warwickshire College for City and Guilds certificates, showing great promise at this early stage in his career:
“You could have knocked me over with a feather when I received the College Prize for Catering Student of the Year and the College Service, Effort and Progress Awards.”
Over the next three years (Nick has never been unemployed) he gained further experience under an Italian chef in Stratford, the Manor House Hotel in Leamington Spa and the Hyde Park Hotel in Knightsbridge, London. He then honed his sauce making skills at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair.
Just before his 21st birthday Nick was successful in gaining a position in private service as chef to the music entrepreneur Robert Stigwood. This meant cooking for stars like the Bee Gees, Eric Clapton and Andrew Lloyd Webber at occasions ranging from small elite dinner parties to banquets and buffets of 800, and working in London, New York, Los Angeles, Morocco and Paris. He was also in charge of household expenses and the daily running of Mr Stigwood’s establishments.
“I went from £17 a week to £70 a week. Then when Robert Stigwood found out it was my birthday he gave me a £10 raise and a case of Krug champagne!”
Wanting to get back into mainstream cooking after three years or so, Nick accepted the position of Head Banqueting Chef at the Institute of Directors in Belgrave square London. He then became Chef Manager at the Black Lion Hotel, St Albans, where he successfully doubled the weekly takings in the first trading year. However, the recession began to take hold and the hotel was sold, with staff being relocated to the Bedford Arms Hotel in Woburn.
It was at the Black Lion and Bedford Arms that Nick worked with Eric Marsh, General Manager for the hotel’s owners. Eric moved to Derbyshire where he acquired the lease on the Cavendish Hotel, Baslow, in 1975, and offered Nick the position of Executive Chef at this new venture. This was the start of a 25 year success story at the Cavendish. The highlight, and the one of which Nick is most proud, was the invitation to enter the Taittinger Prix Culinaire International in 1986 in which 360 international chefs took part. This resulted in Nick taking third place and, in 1987, being made a Master Chef of Great Britain.