The Igbo people, an ethnic group native to Nigeria, believe that all things come from Chuku, also known as Chukwu, the supreme being, who brings the rains necessary for plants to grow and controls everything on Earth and the spiritual world. I realised as soon as I had left that I had forgotten to ask her what was of the meaning of the name she had chosen to call her pop-up restaurant in Morning Lane, Hackney. I was there to photograph Ifeyinwa Frederick, who was listed in The Forbes top 100 Women Founders in Europe as co-founder of Chukus, ‘London’s first and only restaurant serving Nigerian Tapas’, which she set up with her brother Emeka.
When I first saw her picture with her big smile and accompanying CV of achievements so far, it was clear she is someone with lots of energy who hasn’t stopped since the age of 16, when she started her own dance school. Following that she went on to gain a BA Honours Degree in classics at Cambridge University, then later taught herself French, before living in Martinique then moving to France. She returned to the UK on a mission to share her love of Nigerian culture and food with the people of London. Influenced by her brother’s love of the social eating atmosphere of the cosy tapas bars he had experienced during his travels in Spain, they set about creating Chukus. Fusing traditional Nigerian flavours and ingredients with those commonly used here in London, they created exciting and unique dishes like ‘Jollof Quinoa’ and ‘Sweet Plaintain Waffles’. The place definitely had a cosy, homely tapas bar feel, that I remember fondly from my own time spent in Spain, but a quick look around the room, with the Nigerian food produce, plantains and Star Beer on the shelves, photos of a bustling Lagos city centre on the walls, and even a Lagos edition of the board game Monopoly, this was definitely somewhere a little different and very unique. Combine all these elements with their catchy trademark tagline ‘Chop, Chat, Chill’ and it is no wonder that they always had a full house and that Chukus was frequented by a host of high profile diners from MP Diane Abbott to Olympic champions Christine Ohuruogu and boxer Anthony Joshua MBE. My only regret on photographing Ifeyinwa was that we hadn’t met earlier, because by the time of the shoot Chukka’s temporary pop-up home in Hackney was just coming to an end and closing it’s doors, so I never got the chance to sample any of their unique, tasty Nigerian tapas, but you can be sure that when the location is announced for Chukka’s next home in the capital, I will definitely be there, front of the queue.