Hello Nina, thanks so much for your time today. We have been following your Instagram posts and devoured your recipes books. Tell us about your journey as chef and public figure so far.
Hi Gaby! Thank you for asking me! So happy you like the recipes and Insta! I love curating it so it’s amazing to get feedback on the work.
I started work at L’Anima restaurant in Liverpool and then worked in various restaurants in the city for three years before launching my business in 2012 (Nina A Food Company) It’s a catering business where I cook private dinners and do events. The cookbooks came about when I first launched the business with a vintage ice cream and cake Citroen van. Today I still do all the same work except last year I added in travel/food writing for Tatler magazine.
In your busy chef’s life how do you ensure you follow and keep in touch with your mentors. Do you ever think of working with them again if the opportunity arises?
I’m still in touch with some of the chefs from the L’Anima days including Lello Favuzzi and Francesco Mazzei. Mazzei gave me my first job in a kitchen and I am forever grateful for him giving me a chance when I was fresh out of uni. I sometimes do work with him on supper club nights, most recently, I did an event at his Islington restaurant, Radici.
Your supper club with chef Francesco Mazzei at Radici in June was a great success. What memories you cherish the most about that night?
It’s always so great being in the kitchen with Francesco. I still get nervous when I work with him as it reminds me of the days when I first started in the kitchen. He’s great though, and a master at what he does. I’m always impressed with his imagination and creativity with food. I still learn a lot from him, especially his work ethic.
What’s your take on supper clubs and, in your opinion, how do you see these intimate events shaping the current dining scene?
I think they are amazing and make some incredible food accessible to people. The London food scene has really changed over the last ten years. Michelin starred restaurant are not the only place to find good quality food. I love how it’s more about quality at affordable prices and forgetting about foams and fussiness!
Your cookbooks ‘St Tropez’ and ‘Capri’ revoke memories of glamorous holidays in two of the most enchanting places in the world. Where do you take the inspiration from and how do you ensure and test the quality of your ingredients?
I have been lucky to grow up going to the south of France and this inspired my first cookbook, St Tropez. Capri felt like the natural second location because I had trained in Italian restaurants. Both areas are glamorous but at the same time I have tried to show a classic, laid-back side to them through the location shots and recipes. I am constantly inspired by travel and eating out on holiday. It’s the best way to pick up ideas and learn about the local ingredients and flavour combinations. It’s all about speaking to the locals and trying to find out the stories behind the recipes. There is nothing better than discovering a new dish with an interesting background to go with it!
What do you do to stay educated about new trends?
Instagram helps me, I read as much as I can and watch cooking shows on Netflix. I recently came back from a Mexico trip where I went to learn about the cuisine. It’s so important to keep pushing yourself and learning. I think that is part the reason I love cooking because I am always discovering something new.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Get work experience in a commercial kitchen. It’s essential for giving you a backbone in the industry, discipline and teaches you about hard work!
Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
What are you most excited about right now in the food scene?
I’m always fascinated about the plant based movement. There is still so much scope to make new recipes and it’s sometimes a real challenge.
Where would you take your out of town guests for a memorable dinner?
Westerns Laundry in Islington! It ticks all the boxes!
Tell us one funny moment that has happened during one of your events.
I mixed the coffee and liquorice gelato together and served it as a flavour in one of the restaurants I worked in. I didn’t realise until after the service! Luckily nobody noticed and I quickly threw it away before anyone saw. I was so nervous at the time. I could have got into so much trouble! There have been many other blunders which will remain secret!
What would you say your favourite 5 minutes recipe is?
I always make a smoothie in the morning and I look forward to it when I wake up. The fruit changes with the seasons but I always add in frozen banana, almond milk, cinnamon, chia seeds, nuts, flaxseed powder, keffir and oats. They are so refreshing!
Fill in the blank: if I’d weren’t a chef I’d be….
Maybe a writer? In my dreams…a professional tennis player!
We feel like we know you a little be more now Nina. One more questions before you go: what does the future hold for you as a chef?
Hopefully a third book! Fingers crossed!
Thanks so much Nina. Looking forward to catching up with you again at your next supper club at Radici on 16th July!