Chantelle Nicholson is chef-owner of Tredwells restaurant, winner of AA London’s Restaurant of the Year, offering contemporary British cooking at Seven Dials in the heart of London’s West End. Most recently, Chantelle has just opened All’s Well, a new shop and takeaway in Hackney, serving hyper-seasonal, sustainable cooking and celebrating British produce, organic wines and zero-waste cooking. She brought all this together with her team against the backdrop of the pandemic and the second national lockdown in England.
“There is no doubt that things are very challenging at the moment across the board, and COVID-19 has affected so much of what we knew as the norm before it. Thinking outside the box is pretty key right now, as is not overthinking things. What will be, will be, and you can only do your best. But if you act with kindness and consciousness then that will always stand you in good stead.”
My new pop-up restaurant
As I said when we last spoke, in late 2017 I took over the ownership of Tredwells, a restaurant in London’s West End. Besides that, so much has changed since then… 2020, well, what a year! I am now an independent operator, and recently opened a pop-up restaurant, All’s Well, in Hackney.
When jobs and thus livelihoods were at risk, I decided to do something proactive and the idea of the pop-up restaurant took shape after a suggestion from one of my key team members. We had the resources, so why not put it to good use? It provided us with a focus at a time when things were pretty unstable. It is temporary, so the risk is not huge, and it felt that the risk of not doing anything was far worse.
It was a bit of a lifeline in a time of not much positivity and I am looking forward to it reopening post-lockdown, but for now, we have ‘pivoted’ to a shop and takeaway for Tier 4.
One person, several roles
I guess any business owner’s role is varied, but I wear numerous hats in terms of chef, owner, founder, director and sometimes kitchen porter!
A typical day doesn’t really exist but, at present, I am in the kitchen cooking when the shop is open, and then anytime outside of that is spent following up on other work (operations, financial, marketing, consultancies and general day-to-day business running tasks).
Coping with the ever-changing restrictions
I just have an open mind about this and a ‘can do’ attitude. A lot of my time in my career has been about problem-solving so, for me, that is the approach I take: How can I find a solution? I also take the approach that we shouldn’t overthink things, it doesn’t bring anything to the table most of the time.
There is no doubt that things are very challenging at the moment across the board, and COVID-19 has affected so much of what we knew as the norm before it. Thinking outside the box is pretty key right now, as is not overthinking things. What will be, will be, and you can only do your best. But if you act with kindness and consciousness then that will always stand you in good stead.
The advantages of a plant-based diet
I love veggies! I think the notion of a plant-based diet has gained traction over the years and we now see a lot of the phrase everywhere. There has been a huge amount of innovation and it does not seem to be slowing down. It will be interesting to see where the space is in a few years’ time.
Veggies are not expensive, as most people think. They are a lot more affordable than meat so if you increase your vegetable intake and decrease your meat intake, you should see a saving. Try to support local businesses, and farmers’ markets or veggie box schemes, if it works for you. Try and minimise any single-use plastic and think carefully about your purchasing, to reduce and hopefully eliminate any waste.
Thankful for the present
I have no idea where things will be in three months’ time, but I intend to make the most of it all.
I am enjoying being back in a small kitchen, cooking. I am also enjoying being in a new neighbourhood and meeting some great people who are passionate about what they do. So, I feel pretty thankful for all that right now.