Class of 2022

Santiago Lastra

Hospitality Pioneers

32 / London, UK

The Mexican chef inspiring a new generation of cooks, artisans and producers

Opening a restaurant is no easy feat, but launching one during a series of enforced lockdowns and ever-changing regulations in the middle of a global pandemic is another thing entirely. If anyone could make it work, it was Santiago Lastra, who did just that with the opening of Kol and its downstairs mezcal bar in London’s Marylebone in late 2020.

With experience as chef René Redzepi’s right-hand man at Noma Mexico and stints at Mugaritz and Bror on his resumé, Santiago is not only a talented chef but an astute and creative businessman who developed the concept of Kol from start to finish with maximum attention to detail. Bringing a taste of Mexico to the UK without the air miles and carbon footprint, he has created a restaurant that explores Mexican flavours in seasonal ingredients from all over the UK – think tangy sea buckthorn to replace lime, seaweed instead of cactus and local grains for sourdough tortillas. The restaurant was an instant hit in London, shooting into the UK’s National Restaurant Awards within four months of opening and bagging a series of other accolades.

But Santiago’s mission isn’t solely to operate an award-winning restaurant. He also wants to build and strengthen a community, supporting and uplifting staff with a progressive working environment. He pays the utmost respect for Mexico’s culture and heritage, supporting indigenous communities who supply corn, chocolate and chilli – the only products he buys from Mexico. In the UK, he works directly with craft makers, foragers and small farmers, ensuring traceability while supporting local communities. In Kol, he has created a fine dining restaurant that conveys the essence of Mexico in the heart of the UK capital, while simultaneously empowering and inspiring a new generation of cooks, producers and artisans.

“I want to be part of a new generation of restaurants that work in a better way with their staff, giving them a great work environment, without compromising the quality of what we do.” – Santiago Lastra

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