Gardening Notes with Chantelle Nicholson
This month, we met with Chantelle Nicholson, multi-award winning Chef Patron at Tredwells, in the West End’s Seven Dials. As one of the UK’s leading female names in the hospitality industry, Chantelle’s impressive ascent on the culinary career ladder and achievements to date set her apart as a remarkable talent and a source of inspiration to hospitality professionals across the UK and abroad.
To find out more about Chantelle's sustainability tips, current green recommendations and how she likes her Sapling, read on.
1. Tell us a bit about you and your green journey, how did you get into sustainability?
Growing up in NZ, I was surrounded by things that were good for the environment, namely in relation to food and eating seasonally and locally, with loads of fresh fruit and vege. Things like water conservation, recycling and repairing were all part and parcel of growing up in a small, somewhat isolated country. When I took over the running of Tredwells, it was a natural path to start the journey to sustainability, so that has been the path for the past 4 years. I also joined ReLondon (formerly the London Waste and Recycling Board) as an independent board member last August.
2. We're now in June – what's keeping you busy in your kitchen, what are you eating now and what should budding chefs be planning to cook and eat during the next month if they want to focus on seasonality?
Lots to keep me busy! The green journey is one that takes a little more time, researching the best suppliers across the board can be quite time consuming. What are we eating; making the most of the asparagus season which won't be going for too much longer. I have also been doing quite a bit of foraging - I walk to All's Well along the canal so gather up nasturtium leaves and flowers, mugwort, cow parsley, sticky weed, white dead nettle, elderflower and fig leaves along the way. This super warm weather of late has pushed things along which is great, as the dryness of April managed to stunt quite a bit of growth. June and July are all about the summer spoils; peas, broad beans, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, aubergine, cauliflower plus much more.
3. There's nothing more satisfying than growing what you eat. What's your favourite bounty from the garden and how do you serve it?
I couldn't agree more although my small roof terrace doesn't make for much growing! But as a child I used to love popping out to the vege patch to grab fresh vege for dinner; carrots, lots of different lettuces, lemongrass, parsley, mint & whatever else managed to grow. I love it when produce is super fresh, and hasn't even been in the fridge. Freshly dug potatoes, with lashings of salted butter and chilli oil is pretty hard to beat.
4. What do you find most rewarding about your cooking?
I like the challenge of pushing myself and the team to be more creative about how we do things, and what we create. Thinking of ways to use things that traditionally are seen as waste, or championing small producers and farmers excites me.
5. Who is your biggest chef inspiration and why?
There are many! I love what Dan Barber does at Bluehill farm in Upstate New York but closer to home there are many chefs that are inspiring in creating delicious food and taking care of their teams - Elizabeth Haigh, Selin Kazim, Mandy Yin, Jane Alty, Cyrus Todiwala, the Native crew (Imogen & Ivan), Doug McMaster to name but a few.
6. Kitchen tool you couldn't live without?
A stick blender.
7. Sustainability is at the heart of what we do at Sapling. What's your approach and do you have any top tips?
Any small step is a step forward. It can seem super daunting at times when the mountain seems too big to climb, so just approach it one step at a time and you will move forward. Nothing is too small, and every decision has an impact. Just being conscious of wanting to do more is a big step too.
8. What's your biggest kitchen bugbear?
Oh, I have many (!). I am a little OCD, so small things can irritate me (tape being ripped, not cut with scissors, ha) but the big things are not seasoning food (and tasting it) then also food waste - the bin should be the last resort and should only be when things are inedible.
9. How do you like your Sapling?
In a dry martini, with a side of salt and vinegar crisps.