Chuku's - The Nigerian Tapas
As our culture grows increasingly more instantaneous, opportunities to slow things down in a busy city can often be hard to come by. We chatted with Emeka and Ifeyinwa of Chuku’s, London’s first and only Nigerian Tapas Restaurant about how creating a chop chat chill environment for Londoners and tourists alike enables them to experience authentic Nigerian culture in a home away from home..
iON: What inspired the name ‘Chuku’s’?
Ifeyinwa: Chuku's comes from Emeka’s full name, which is Chukwuemeka which means 'God has done well'. We put the apostrophe S in the name because we wanted it to sound like a place, like you were going to your best mates house. We want people to feel just as relaxed when they come to Chuku’s; it’s a home environment.
iON: Stereotypically, Nigerian food is quite heavy, so it’s a genius idea to condense it down into smaller plates. How did you come up with the menu?
Emeka: Nigerian food is hugely diverse. We had a bit of a play with the dishes we already knew partnered with our travel experiences, growing up in the UK and staying abreast of the culinary trends. Creating Nigerian food as tapas essentially allows us to be an entry point for people and the culture.
Ifeyinwa: When people wonder how we decided to do what we've done with Nigerian food, I think the question is what is Nigerian food? No one said that Nigerian food was simply Jollof rice and Eba. As long as we are using foods that are rooted in Nigerian tradition and the flavours came from Nigeria, then it’s still Nigerian cuisine.
iON: As a brother/sister duo, what do you most enjoy about working with eachother?
Ifeyinwa: Obviously people know that we’re brother and sister but they might not realise that we’re actually good friends. Yes, there are challenging times but it is a lot of fun! As my brother, I care deeply for him and I want to see him be successful so when I see us win, I know what that means for him. Also, I don’t want to say this but, Emeka is actually really funny.
Emeka: I have whatsapp evidence of her denying my humour but I am really glad that she finally admitted that I’m funny!* But in all seriousness, although we grew up together, we spent large sways of our teenage years travelling separately. That aside, we are ridiculously similar but also very balanced. Having someone there who has your absolute back means that you never really feel alone.
iON: What would you like diners to take away from their Chuku’s experience?
Emeka: I love friends messaging me and showing me pictures of them making jollof quinoa or jollof rice. Makes me proud that we've inspired them to take our Nigerian cuisine and culture into their own homes.*
Ifeyinwa: I love to see people in deep conversation or when strangers strike up a conversation. I encourage the front of house team to chat to guests and find out who they are. We are trying to build a community and sociable environment, and when I see that happening, it reassures me that we are moving in the right direction.
iON: What tips would you share with those wanting to enter the restaurant/culinary business?
Emeka: Be prepared to roll your selves up. Yes, there’s a lot of chatting to customers but that’s the show, there’s also a lot of washing plates and emptying bins.
Ifeyinwa: Know why you’re doing it, as you’ll need to remember that as time goes on. There’ll be times when you head is in the toilet with a toilet brush and it’s not your personal toilet! Lastly, don’t overthink and just get started. We didn’t come from a culinary background but it’s just about committing to the idea and all the questions you have, in time, the answers will come.
Socialise with Chuku's
Instagram: @Chukusldn | Twitter: @Chukusldn | Facebook: Chukus LDN
Create your iON
Changes from original transcript -
* I am really confident that I'm funny!
* Emeka: I love it when people come away having learnt something about Nigeria. I was talking to a guy about the soya prawns and it was Hausa tribe, and he shouted “Hausa!” and he pointed to one of our Hausa proverb posters on the wall. For me, that’s true takeaway and it's an amazing feeling.