Our dedicated team at L'Ortolan

description-alt-29TOM CLARKE - Head Chef

Tom Clarke, head chef at Michelin-starred L’Ortolan restaurant, grew up in Essex where he was heavily influenced by his grandmother who was a great home cook and taught him basic kitchen skills from a young age. At the age of 13 he found his first job working as a kitchen porter in a local restaurant, watching and learning from the chefs as his interest in cooking grew.

Wanting to gain a more formal education in cooking, Tom attended the Colchester Institute to attain his NVQ Level 3 in Professional Cookery in order to pursue a career as a chef. During the course, he was lucky enough to gain work experience opportunities in prestigious kitchens such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, where the royal standards left a lasting impression on Tom.

After finishing his studies in 2005, Tom started working at 1 Lombard Street in the City of London. Feeling the challenge of the commute on top of the long kitchen hours, after six months he found a role closer to home and returned to Essex to work in local fine dining restaurant Le Talbooth. Here, Tom progressed over three years, leaving with the title of Junior Sous Chef.

In 2008 Tom moved to Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Raymond Blanc’s flagship two Michelin star restaurant. Tom was able to work in many different sections of the kitchen, expanding his culinary knowledge and improving his skills and techniques over the two years he was there.

In 2010, Tom moved to Reading’s Michelin starred L’Ortolan as Chef de Partie, where he stayed for a year, before deciding he’d like to develop his knowledge of French cuisine and cook in France. He spent 1 year in France, working at the two Michelin starred Le Strato hotel in Courchevel and the legendary L’Oustau de Baumanière in Provence.

Upon his return to England in 2012 he was asked by L’Ortolan’s Head Chef Alan Murchinson to return to the restaurant and Tom gladly accepted. Alan left L’Ortolan in 2015 and Tom stepped up as Head Chef, retaining their Michelin star every year since, keeping hold of 3 AA rosettes and also placing the restaurant in the top 20 of Sunday Times top 100 best restaurants in his first year in the role. Along with these accolades, Tom was also nominated for Berkshire Chef of the Year in 2015 and won the Thames Valley Chef of the Year award in 2018.

At L’Ortolan Tom has been able to exercise his creative culinary style where he imparts a modern take on classic French cuisine. Tom takes advantage of the Berkshire setting by foraging for seasonal ingredients as well as sourcing from local producers and foraging locally himself. Be it picking elderflower, elderberries, greengages, Mirabelle plums or even the local wood pigeon, Tom likes his ingredients fresh and seasonal.

L’Ortolan has now held a Michelin star for 17 years and Tom continues to push the boundaries of French fine dining introducing modern techniques and exotic flavours onto the plate.

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 Tom Clarke, 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.