We spoke to Emeka and Ifeyinwa Frederick of Chuku's, a London-based Nigerian pop-up restaurant putting a spin on some much-loved classics.
"Growing up we were always in the kitchen, I remember one of the first dishes we ever made together when we were 5 or 6," Emeka Frederick, Head Chef and Co-Founder of Chuku's tells us, "We were always growing up watching our mum, aunties, and grandma cook, and that's really what we kind of put together."
Tapas may not be the first word you'd associate with Nigerian cuisine, but one dynamic duo is starting to change all that. Meet brother and sister team Emeka and Ifeyinwa Frederick from London. The two siblings - "not twins" they point out, Emeka is two years older - founded Chuku's, what they describe as London's first and only Nigerian tapas restaurant.
Chuku's has attracted rave reviews from publications such as Time Out, Vice, and Elle, and a glowing recommendation from Hackney's own Diane Abbot MP, Shadow Home Secretary and the first black woman to be elected to parliament in the UK.
We meet them in their pop-up restaurant at Nest in Hackney, east of the city, where they take us back to the beginning and tell and how the idea for Chuku's was many, many years in the making.
"We always wanted to share Nigerian cuisine and culture with our friends as we were growing up," Emeka says, "When we got into our 20's we decided that it was high time we stopped talking about it and actually went out and did something, so we decided to go and open our restaurant."
So, where does the tapas concept come into it?
"The specific idea of Nigerian tapas came when we were trying to work out what would be the best way for us to be able to introduce the UK to Nigerian cuisine," Ifeyinwa, Chuku's General Manager and Co-Founder explains, "We decided going for sharing plates, where people could try a variety of Nigerian flavors and really get a feel for the cuisine would probably be one of the best ways."
The concept of 'social dining' is one that really drove the idea behind Chuku's, Iyefinwa says, "That really goes back to the heart of Nigerians' food culture." Setting up their restaurant, the co-founders coined the phrase 'chop, chat, chill' to describe the easy-going, social, and relaxed pace dining they wanted Chuku's to embody.
Ifeyinwa levels with us. She's not afraid to get real about the challenges of running your own business and starting a new, and unique restaurant concept amid the highly competitive culinary scene in London today. It's a love of Nigerian food and wanting to take their heritage to the masses that keeps them pushing forward with their dream.
"It is really hard being in the restaurant industry. It can sometimes feel like your life isn't progressing at the same speed as your peers'," she says, "But actually being attached to your heritage and being really proud of where you come from is what keeps driving you and why you get back up in the morning and think 'I'm gonna keep going, and I'm not giving up on this because actually I want to see my culture being celebrated'."
Through Chuku's, Emeka and Ifeyinwa want Nigerian food to be as much a part of London's rich culinary culture as any other.
"I want to see people enjoying Nigerian food. I want to hear people go 'Oh, shall we get some jollof tonight? Yeah, let's go for that. And some double plantain' ," Ifeyinwa explains, "That's what I want, and so beyond having just a general idea, it constantly keeps us going".
Chuku’s will be at Nest, 177 Morning Lane, Hackney, E9 6LH every Thursday to Sunday from Thursday 9th August to Thursday 9th September
For further details, go to their website: http://www.chukuslond
Check out our full interview with Chuku's below on our YouTube channel.