Santiago Lastra is a Mexican chef with a passion for combining his native customs with local ingredients. Bringing a sense of Mexican celebration to his cuisine, Santiago merges traditional recipes from his homeland with regional produce to create vibrant, flavoursome dishes.
For the past four years Santiago has been travelling the globe, taking up guest chef invitations at high profile establishments including London’s Tate Modern and Carousel, Hija de Sanchez in Copenhagen, Meteri in Italy and Neolokal in Istanbul. His reputation preceding him, he was also invited to return to his homeland to launch NOMA Mexico in 2017 as project manager and Rene Redzepi’s right-hand man; sourcing exceptional ingredients from unassuming small-scale producers across the country. Following this, he decided to move to London where he has been dedicating his time to culinary research trips around the UK and Europe, and gathering inspiration for his debut restaurant KOL.
Deeply tied to his roots, Santiago began his professional career in Mexico City at the tender age of 15. With dreams of travelling the world since childhood, it was after graduating from high school that Santiago first satisfied his wanderlust and travelled to Spain, where he took a job at one Michelin-star restaurant Europa in Pamplona and worked there for two years.
Inspired by the world of fine dining, at the age of 19, Santiago returned home to attend the Coronado Institute culinary school in Mexico City. He then returned to Spain and spent 15 months working at Mugaritz, outside of San Sebastian–considered one of the best restaurants in the world, according to the World’s 50 Best.
At the age of 24, Santiago bought a one-way ticket to Copenhagen and worked in many of the city’s restaurants. Santiago was offered a position working on culinary research projects at Copenhagen’s prestigious Nordic Food Lab, titled ‘the secret of the tortilla’, creating tortillas with local Scandinavian grains. Santiago was recognised as one of San Pellegrino’s top ten young Scandinavian chefs of 2015, representing Denmark.
NOMA Mexico opened its doors in early 2017 for a total of six weeks, throughout which time Santiago successfully sourced every supplier. The experience allowed Santiago to explore and understand Mexico’s cuisine in ways he’d never done before.
For the following two years, Santiago spent his time travelling and cooking in some of the best kitchens across the globe, in a total of 27 countries–to include France, Italy, Taiwan, Georgia andTurkey- and which earnt Santiago the nickname ‘The NomadicChef’.
Over the years Santiago has also hosted guest chef residencies and pop-ups at restaurants and festivals including Mume* Taipei, Postrivoro and Wooding in Italy. In London he has staged dinners at Tate Modern,Taste of London,Marylebone’s revolving chef hub Carousel and the V&A, to launch its exhibition Food:Bigger than The Plate. Most recently, Santiago won the coveted chef category at the Young British Foodies awards in 2019.
Santiago’s breadth of international experience gradually inspired him to conceptualise a restaurant of his own, titled KOL, and with a long-standing dream to open in central London. His reason for choosing the city is due to London’s multicultural influences, its air of creativity and innovation and the breadth of quality produce available in the British Isles. After identifying the perfect site,9 Seymour Street in Marylebone, Santiago has spent the months leading up to the restaurant opening creating and developing his dishes at his very own test kitchen in West London.
KOL, taken from the word ‘Col’, means cabbage in Mexican Spanish and represents Santiago’s belief that the simplest things can be made extraordinary if you believe in them. KOL is set to open in March 2020.