Blake Woman - Nina Parker
Tell us a bit about yourself, and your life so far…
I am a chef and cookbook author of NINA St Tropez and NINA Capri. I trained in London restaurants and then started my own food company in 2012. In the summer I have a 1970’s Citroen H van which I sell my homemade ice cream and cake from and the other side of my business is the books and catering for events. I write recipes for various blogs and websites and do some popups around London with also dinner parties for private clients. My days are varied because of the different sides to the business but my favourite side is the books. I love diving into another culture and uncovering secret recipes and ingredients. You can never get bored of this and there is a lot of world to cover!
When did your interest for food and cooking start?
I have always been interested in food. I was particularly good at making pancakes when I was 6 at pancake day and even better at eating them. I think the love just slowly developed but at school I was probably more obsessed with learning languages and art. I studied French and Spanish at Leeds University and after this I then decided I wanted to work in a restaurant/food. I was convinced that I wanted to have my own business and wanted to bring the two together. After uni I went to work and train at L’Anima in Liverpool Street and the chef told me if you had a passion for food then they could teach you everything else. I fell in love with their style of food which was fresh Italian ingredients with a rustic Calabrian touch. It was a high-powered atmosphere but at the same time it was extremely creative. I knew I was onto a good thing.
What inspired you to turn hobby into career?
It wasn’t quite as straight forward as that as I only really got into cooking in a big way when I joined the team at L’Anima. I was an amateur cook when I first walked in but I was pretty open minded to trying anything so I think that always helps. I think you should try and do something that you love and then you will naturally think of a way to make it your career. I didn’t know when I was in the kitchen working long hours that I would get a book deal 3 years later but I knew that it would steer me in the right direction simply because I enjoyed it.
Is using organic/local/sustainable products important to you?
I don’t always use organic products but I do always used free-range and sustainably caught fish. I can’t afford to use organic all the time but I do when I can. Quality is important to me as if effects flavour in a big way which is essential. In the summer if I am doing a dinner party for a client or a popup then I will try and pick my own veg from local farms as the flavour is a different ball game. So completely worth it!
Who is your typical client?
I suppose it varies from who buys my cookbooks to who employs me for a dinner. Dinner clients tend to be London based in the Chelsea Kensington area and the book buyers can be anyone from 15-60 years old. Maybe more women than men.
What are you currently working on?
Right now I am working on my showreel and working on a new collection of healthy recipes that will be launching soon online. Both projects are quite exciting!
Talk us through your daily routine.
It usually begins with a smoothie with whatever I have in the fridge. Usually frozen raspberries, banana, cinnamon, almond milk, oats and a splash of maple syrup. Then I do emails or go to the supermarket to pick up one or two bits for recipe shooting. The light is so dark at the moment that I have to get this done and dusted by 3pm otherwise the photos have a slight dark shadow beginning to show. Then I write the recipes up and probably prep or plan a menu for a dinner party. I will probably post something on Instagram with either a quick recipe or restaurant recommendation at some point during the day. I almost always eat whenever I make for lunch or take it round to my sister’s house and we share it. I can’t get through the day without a nice crumpet at teatime and cup of tea. I have just moved into a new flat so I am enjoying having people round quite a bit otherwise I love trying out new popups and seeing what else is out there. I hit the hay at 11.30-12 with either Planet Earth or my Nadal biography.
Best advice for someone looking to do the same.
Get experience working in a commercial kitchen as it not only trains you in food but it also trains you in discipline which is essential to know with the ins and outs of a kitchen. It may be the hardest part of what I do but I think there is something extremely grounding to it as well as being tough. As a person I need the long hours, hard side as it balances things for me when I do a shoot in Capri for example. I think its healthy to have both!
With all the success so far, what is the long term goal?
I’m not sure how much success but thanks! I would love to do another book next year and I want to cook on telly. I have a dream to cook on Saturday Kitchen. Also perhaps one day I will open a restaurant, I have many ideas so who knows…!