Sous Chef – A website for hard to find ingredients

Sous Chef - A website for hard to find ingredients

by Azélia on 21/08/2012

in Ingredient List,Uncategorized

I met Nicola through twitter earlier this year and not long after knowing her I discovered she and husband Nick were in the middle of creating Sous Chef, a gorgeous looking website for lots of hard to find ingredients, which has been launched this month.  Over the months I’ve known and become friends with Nicola I’ve witnessed the hard work and dedication that’s gone into this start-up business.  Anyone who’s self-employed starting their own business knows what I’m talking about, other than having children nothing quite consumes you in that 24-hours-7-days-a-week kind of way.  All the hard work has paid off because not only is the site a pleasure to surf and you find yourself seeing things you didn’t realise you wanted, the site is already a hit.

Nicola and Nick’s story of changing their working lives is an inspirational one, and with changing their personal lives I have nothing but hard-earned admiration for them since working together as a husband and wife team can be a challenge to master.

It was only very recently I discovered Nicola had a degree in engineering which came as a bit of a surprise to me, I couldn’t think of anyone less likely to come from what I imagine to be a structured-mathematical-functional background to be so creative as she is, she photographs for the site, had the major input into how it’s been designed as well as cooking all the food.

Nicola’s story goes something like this:  left Cambridge university with an engineering degree, worked for a consultancy firm and then for a venture capital firm where she nurtured young companies, some of them in the food and drinks manufacturing area, and it was here she says, she found her encouragement to go it alone to form and nurture her own business.

Nick went to Oxford university, qualified as an account and worked in investment banking.  It was through a friend of Nick’s working at the same company as Nicola who’s responsible for bringing them together.  Collectively they bring their multiple skill set to this entrepreneurial idea.

Maybe this is where the logical side of Nicola’s degree comes in, because she didn’t simply wake up one one morning decided she wanted to start her own business and say, ‘right I’m now starting a website around a subject I love, food, and because I love it it’s going to be great’.

That’s not how Nicola talks by the way, nor what she said, I have no idea what she said really, that’s just me picture her one day.

What I do know is that she took her time.  She investigated a couple of other ideas, rejected those after research and eventually set the idea around her beloved subject of  food, and took the methodical decision to find out more about it.  She knocked on the door of London restaurants and found herself working for a while as a chef in a michelin starred French restaurant.  During this internship being surrounded by ingredients that she knew the home cook could not get their hands on easily, things started to fall into place for Nicola and the idea of Sous Chef began to take form.

When you look at the inpour of aspiring restaurant cookbooks, Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal and alike, I can see what a solid idea this is.

Every time I visit Nicola’s home I do that thing I like to do, you know, to look through someone’s ingredient cupboard and seeing what they use.  Can you imagine what heaven it is for me to be in her kitchen? 

Above I have white and black dried limes from Syria, normally used in savoury dishes but I can’t help thinking of using them in a dessert.  Next to them I have vanilla pods from three different countries, the cheaper ones from Uganda, the more commonly known bourbon ones from Madagascar and the rarer to be seen Tahitian ones.  This is the kind of taste test excuse I don’t need to get out pots of double cream and experiment.

It was easy to fall in love with Nicola…you can see that right?  Not only does she obsess about ingredients – that would suffice – but she also loves Japanese food like I do.  Well now, that’s a clincher!

Poor Nicola.  I have enforced a pact with her; who ever wins the lottery first will take the other to Japan to eat at Jiro Ono’s famous tiny underground sushi bar.

Nicola and Nick’s dog Toro, he’s so friendly and cute and if you pay him attention he’ll go and get his favourite toy for you to play with him.  Not for sale.

If you meet this couple they’re a lovely, friendly, easy to talk to, relaxing funny company.  I have nothing but admiration for someone putting all their hard work into making their dream come true and it’s the kind of story I find inspiring which is why I’m sharing it.  Well…ahem…that and the fact that if Nicola does indeed win the lottery she owes me Siro’s sushi.  Are you paying attention Nicola?!

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