Liam Nichols, Head Chef, STORE at Stoke Mill “I just knew I wanted to go and work in a Michelin Star restaurant”

The Staff Canteen

 Receiving its Michelin Star in 2023, STORE at Stoke Mill is an experiential dining venue in Norfolk. We sat down with Liam Nichols, who heads up the team at STORE to find out all about the fine dining restaurant’s cuisine, his culinary career to date and what’s next.

“I just prefer chef,” Liam shares, when we start chatting. Shunning the title of head chef in favour of the simple and humble ‘chef’, it’s clear Liam prefers to let the proof be in the pudding (quite literally) when it comes to his talent and skills.

With his relaxed and humble attitude, you might be mistaken for thinking Liam has a wing-it kind of attitude. But not at all. On what inspires him, that’s easy: “Hard work,” Liam tells The Staff Canteen. “Stupidly addicted to it,” he adds.

It’s with a love for cooking though rather than through gritted teeth. “I like coming into work every day, pushing on, with a big smile, and just cracking on,” Liam shares. Positivity and fun are all part of Liam’s work ethic. “You’ve got to have a giggle, haven’t you?”.

A life-long passion for a life in the kitchen

Heading up STORE at Stoke Mill, Liam always had aspirations of becoming a chef. “I just always knew I wanted to be a chef, ridiculously so,” Liam shares. Ever since he first found his way around his family kitchen, in fact, from about the age of 12. “I was just cooking at home, always loved it, would get home from school, cook [the] family tea,” Liam says.

Describing his career to date as “quite a journey”, Liam started working in hospitality in the same village that STORE sits today. He first called a kitchen his place of work at just 14 working with “the lovely Daniel Smith”. There, in the local pub up the road from STORE, he would wash up and learn all that he could. Then, at 16, Liam did his two-year apprenticeship with Daniel.

From one Daniel to another, after completing his apprenticeship, Liam then went to work for “the wonderful Daniel Clifford” at 2 Michelin-starred restaurant Midsummer House in Cambridge. It was just after his 18th birthday when he first walked into that kitchen. “A wild ride,” he fondly calls it. “If anyone knows Daniel or works there, you’ll understand why,” Liam shares.

Liam Nicholas Michelin star STORE

After two and half years, he wanted a slower pace. “I needed a break,” Liam shares. He couldn’t stay away from cooking though and continued to pursue his passion for food. Liam went and did a ski season and found a “welcome refresh in the mountains”.

Liam returned to the UK and worked at the 2 Michlin starred Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham. “[I] worked with some really great chefs who have all gone on, in their own right, to do phenomenal things,” Liam says.

Travel—a source of inspiration, rest and true adventure for so many of us— was calling Liam once more. This time, he set his sights on Melbourne, Australia. “[I] did that classic thing, where I went for one year and stayed for three because it was such a good life,” Liam enthuses. New York City was next on Liam’s list, which saw him live in Williamsburg, working in the Lower East Side and “loved it”.

Liam Nicholas Michelin star STORE

Liam then went to London to work with Nick Beardshaw as part of Tom Kerridge’s Bar and Grill’s opening team. Spending a year at the helm of the revered capital’s foodie destination “was amazing”, Liam says.

After launching the go-to for foodies from around the world, Liam then went to “the legendary Necker Island,” which he continues is “where chefs go to die.” After spending six months there, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, bringing him back to the UK—to where it all began: Norfolk.

The path to opening STORE, mid-pandemic

Returning from Necker Island following the pandemic, Liam began working for STORE in Stoke Mill. “It was about mid-2020, when I came home unemployed from travelling, I was baking bread in my parents’ house,” says Liam.

Through the culinary scene, Liam knew the restaurant’s owners, Andy [Rudd] and Ludo [Laccarino]. He messaged them and asked if they’d like to do some lockdown takeaways from the restaurant on a larger scale than what he was doing in his parents’ kitchen. They agreed.

Liam Nicholas Michelin star STORE

“We set about it, and we cracked on doing takeaway meals from the restaurant, selling bread, selling fish and chips on Friday night,” says Liam. But then one conversation in the room The Staff Canteen visited changed the course of his career.

So, together, the trio bought and built tables, chairs and kitchens in the middle of 2020. “We were absolutely crazy—it was the dumbest thing in the world to do, spending all this money when there was nothing really coming in apart from takeaways. But we did it,” Liam shares.

The team proudly opened STORE in December 2020, mostly welcoming family and friends. Then lockdown three happened around Boxing Day that year. That closed that room until May 2021, so that’s when Liam considers the restaurant-in-a-restaurant’s official opening date.

Gaining its star in the Michelin Guide UK and Ireland 2023 was a massive pinch-me moment for Liam and the team. “As a team, we’re hugely proud that the star came in 2023, honoured, humbled,” says Liam. It was an unexpected win, too. “We never thought it would happen,” says Liam. In fact, that was never the team’s goal. “The goal was to be busy. Cook the best food we could cook within the confines of our kitchen and our room, and that’s what we did,” he says, adding he’s “beyond proud”.

When the Great British Menu came knocking

Appearing on the Great British Menu put Liam on the mainstream stratosphere in the culinary world. And even though “It’s the most stressful thing I’ve ever done in my life”, he’s now got an appetite for TV. Though it may seem counterintuitive, “Overall, I look back and it was a phenomenal thing to do”, Liam says. And also a “big tick in a chef’s career”.

So, with his extrovert personality and massive smile, Liam would certainly be up for doing more TV if the opportunity comes along. “My biggest dream is to be the new Keith Floyd,” Liam shares. And as for which part of the globe does he see himself in? “I want to be in a field in Tuscany, drinking red wine, telling the cameraman to zoom in,” says Liam. He’s ready to make his next vision come to life. “Anyone got their producer out there?” he asks.

The next chapter

In April 2024, it was announced that Liam would be leaving STORE at the end of August 2024. As for what’s next? “The next chapter is travelling,” Liam says. Over the next eight or nine months, Liam will see more of the world with his girlfriend, this time around Asia.

“It’s not working. I’m calling it fun-employed,” Liam says. No itinerary. No fixed plans. Starting in Japan, they hope to visit South Korea, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, ending in the Philippines. That’s the next chapter. “Beyond that, I don’t have an answer,” Liam adds.

Beyond that, Liam has his sights set on staying close to his roots. “What I’d love is a city centre restaurant in Norwich that’s buzzy, fun, energetic—me in a restaurant,” Liam shares.

Liam Nicholas Michelin star STORE


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Editor 18th June 2024

Liam Nichols, Head Chef, STORE at Stoke Mill “I just knew I wanted to go and work in a Michelin Star restaurant”