Our dedicated team at L'Ortolan

James Greatorex - Head Chef

‘I guess I was destined for the kitchen, almost every member of my family prepared me for this route.'

From the humble market town of Chesterfield, James began his career in the kitchen at 15 by washing pots in a gastro pub. Situated right on the edge of the peak district it was a popular tourist destination and served food worlds apart from what he was used to. Gradually staff came and went and James hastily moved up the ladder despite working just weekends and evenings whilst juggling his studies. At the time James was adamant on completing his A level studies in Maths, Physics and Chemistry to pursue a career in science.

At 17 James was running the kitchen on Sunday’s whilst the Head Chef took his day off. When the crunch time came and his A level results came in, he faced a huge decision, should he head off to university or had the infectious charm of the kitchen already seduced him. He had fallen in  love with the kitchen and decided cooking was the only way forward for him. Consequently James spent one year at Chesterfield college where he studied level 3 professional cookery in order to gain some solid qualifications in the cooking field.

His time at college was spent under a fantastic lecturer who challenged him further every day. James would go to college to reproduce the standard dishes from the curriculum, but his lecturer Ian, would have countless copies of the Caterer on hand with many recipes he would be excited by and for James to get stuck into. From here James entered the Young Chef of the Year in his local area which he went on to win in 2016.

His next job came from one of the competition judges who took James on at his newly opened restaurant, this was James’s first time working under a chef with any Michelin experience. There he learned huge amounts of the basics of cooking; techniques and flavours whilst working around his college course – normally resulting in seven-day weeks. Once well prepared he looked for a big break and sent CV’s to renowned restaurants around the country. One of them being 3 Michelin star, The Fat Duck by Heston Blumenthal. James left home and started working there at the age of 19 learning modern techniques, 3 star standards and working with the most spectacular produce available worldwide. 

After 2 years at the Fat Duck, it was time to start developing his own style and management skills. James joined L’Ortolan in July 2018 as a Sous chef and worked his way around the kitchen quickly on all sections. Working closely with Tom, they developed a strong team and continued to uphold our high reputation. Once Tom left, he felt that he was ready to take on the challenge of running the kitchen and is now putting his own unique stamp on our restaurant.

MARCO NARDI - Restaurant General Manager

Marco Nardi - Restaurant Manager ReadingMarco is a very passionate professional, and just like one of his favourite wines - he is considered a "biodynamic" manager.

His hospitality background started at the age of 14 in Italy, when he decided to join Hospitality School with the goal of one becoming a great Chef.

After a summer season in a hot, Italian kitchen - he realized  that he was missing the direct contact with guests, hence why in his 2nd year he decided to focus on Restaurant & Bar Management.

At the age of 15, during his first international experience at The Palace Hotel in Gstaad (Switzerland) he discovered what later would become his great passion and obsession - wine.

During his 3rd year at Hospitality School, he started researching hotels and restaurants with great and notable wine lists and Sommeliers to work with, and thus he ended up working at several Relais & Chateaux properties in Italy and Europe, where he finally reached a Manager position as Matire Hotel and Head Sommelier at Saint Hubertus Resort in Cervinia ( Italy ).

Finally deciding to search for a new challenge, at the age of just 25 years old, Marco has moved to UK which in his view is considered "one of the most open-minded country when it comes to speaking and discovering wine ".

His first steps led him to Chewton Glen Hotel in Hampshire, under the guidance of Francesco Gabriele (now the Wine Director at Chewton Glen). There he had the chance to be a part of a two year consecutive Best Wine List in UK and had the opportunity to approach the world of the Sommelier competition. During his time at Chewton he reached Management level within the Sommelier department before spending big part of his last couple of months there as a Restaurant Manager.

He joined the Team at L'Ortolan at the beginning of September 2018 as the new Restaurant General Manager, willing to improve within the "Michelin world of fine dining" and by working closely with our Head Chef James Greatorex, aiming to improve further the exquisite dining experience we provide.

Lucian Obreja - Head Sommelier

Lucian - Head Sommelier Restaurant ReadingLucian was born in Romania. In his youth he used to cook to his siblings and at this early stage he developed the passion for combining different spices and ingredients together.

As a teenager, after a long day at school he used to work in restaurant, and the more different restaurants he visited, the more experience he gained which helped him develop his dream of becoming a professional chef.

However, working class ambitions initially ended up pushing him down an academic path and eventually lead him to University where he studied Economics. Half way through his course he came to realization that the choice he made would finally put him in front of a computer screen "for the rest of his life”. He took a hiatus from studying and decided to move to Italy, where he ended up working in different restaurants for several more years. It was during those years he considered committing fully to a career in hospitality and thus he decided to embrace that path.

For three years he intensely studied Food & Wine at AIS. His free time was spent travelling and visiting various vineyards of Friuli and sampling delicious wines.

His passion for traveling took another curve when he took on a position of a Sommelier at a Silversea Cruise Line ship. Given the opportunity to sample fine wines, great food and meeting with unique personalities. It is during that time I met my future wife, who just like me shared passion for good food and wines. After 4 years spent at sea I moved to UK, got married and did a series of WSET courses, and started working at L’Ortolan.

Wine is my passion, and it’s a great privilege to be able to work with it daily. But more than anything, it’s the people who make the world of food and wine so fantastic.