Anyone who has paid our neighbourhood store in Crystal Palace a visit lately, would have spotted a new book on our shelves. Inside its inviting cover, is London-based chef Nina Parker's latest culinary publication, Saucy. And having flipped through its pages, lusting after the delectable choices to cook at home, we realised we wanted to know more.
Nina had tried lots of different work avenues over the years, from fashion to law, and food had been just another to try. After managing to get some work experience with Calabrian chef, Francesco Mazzei, who ran L’Anima in Liverpool street, she fell in love with the vibrancy and creativity of the kitchen. It must have shown, as Nina was offered a full-time position only after two months. "[I] thought maybe I would stay there for a bit. It turns out it’s developed into a great life passion, and a continuation of learning which is very important to me."
Having gone on to cater for people like Donatella Versace and Stormzy, it's safe to say Nina chose the right path. But what's it like working in the culinary world? Is it the yummiest? We had to know. So we asked...
I love the learning aspect of it, and that there is still so much to explore with different food cultures. I love that it pushes me everyday and it’s a form of creativity for me. When you create plates of food, you have to think about colours, textures as well as flavours and this isn't much different from painting a picture. My mum is an artist and my sister is an interior designer, and this was my route into another arty medium.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Rustic, modern with strong flavours. Obviously a little bit saucy too!
What’s it like catering for the likes of Donatella Versace and Stormzy?
Both such different people with their own quirks. It’s always so interesting working for an individual and learning about what they like. The pressure is on when you are only cooking for one though and I would sometimes feel that. When you’re cooking for someone day to day, you often don’t have much time to prepare the meal and you have to think on your feet. They were both amazing experiences and completely different. Let’s just say one knew what they wanted far more than the other!
As this is your third book, what inspired Saucy?
I changed to a predominately veggie diet a few years back and I was looking to make that type of food exciting and flavourful. I found that the key to quick, delicious veggie food is often found with a great dressing or marinade. Chilli oils, miso and tahini became my best friends and this is really how Saucy was born. I think there was a chilli sambal that I used to buy from a deli and I would put it on everything. It’s that concept of having good sauces up your sleeve, although not just any sauces, healthy sauces.
What’s your favourite summer dish?
Something with aubergine and tomatoes probably. You can throw them into caponata, ratatouille, pasta sauces or simply grilled with a good salsa verde or tahini. Can’t beat it at the moment especially.
And if you had to pick one favourite dish from Saucy, which would it be?
Probably one of the noodle dishes. I love the La Latina noodles with tuna and kimchi mayonnaise. It reminds me of another amazing restaurant where I had some very similar noodles with some good friends.
Buy Saucy here.
Get the recipe for Nina's La Latina Noodles here.