This is the first issue of “Day in the company of” — a new photo essay and diary series in which Eater spends the day in a given London locale with a chef, restaurateur, server, or producer.
First up is the head chef and owner of Eater London’s restaurant of the year, Joké Bakare at Chishuru in Brixton.
Adejoké – Joké – Bakare opened her debut restaurant in Brixton a mere six weeks before lockdown forced her to close. That was in September 2020 at a time when restrictions had begun to ease, the autumn after Londoners had spent their summer “eating out to help out”.
Chishuru’s first spell open would be cut short sooner than anyone would have imagined — with hindsight, an inopportune moment to open a restaurant. And yet, Bakare carried on as best as she and her small team could at the space in Brixton Market: Swiftly moving into the meal kit business to sustain an income, and remaining in touch with her customers, cooking and collaborating with others in the city before finally reopening Chishuru’s dining room in May 2021. Dishes like pork belly asun with charcoal-grilled peppers and onions, jollof rice, kale salad; bavette with ghee and yaji; cassava fritters; and degue with pear exhibit the chef’s talent for executing dishes which integrate Nigerian ingredients and the singular flavour profiles of West African culinary traditions with Joké’s innovations in London in 2022.
Earlier this year, Eater spent the day with Bakare as she arrived at the restaurant, shopped locally for ingredients, prepared for service, and then opened for customers.
Shopping, prepping, admin, look at the bookings for the day, orders food from suppliers, makes phone calls.
Bakare gets plantain from the Afghans who own Azziz in Brixton market. She refers to the “Chinese guy” from whom she gets panko and just odds and ends from. “I’ve been adopted,” she says. “I’m learning Cantonese now. One word at a time.”
“One thing I’m gonna miss when I leave Brixton... it’s such a vibrant place and everyone is so friendly,” she says. The plan is to eventually move out of the Brixton location. “This place is so small, a 20-seater. We want to grow and do more things.”
Currently, Bakare uses the market for much of what she uses in the restaurant. But “speciality things like cassava flour, rice ...” are ordered in, she says. “I still get yaji from Nigeria because I still don’t trust anyone [here, in the U.K.]”
However, recently there have been problems with Nigerian suppliers in the north of the country — where Bakare grew up — because of sectarianism. Fonio, a staple grass grain, is now particularly difficult to get, Bakare explains. Ordinarily it would have been sourced from a women’s cooperative but they can’t get to the farm.
Bakare makes ice cream daily; at the same time, fresh fish arrives from Celtic fish supplier in Devon and Cornwall; so too does meat from H.G. Walter, including duck hearts and bavette steaks, the latter to be dusted with that yaji.
From 11 a.m.
Prepping, slicing vegetables, roasting / burning the peppers, onions for omoebe, a black soup from the Edo state of Nigeria. All that work is done on the charcoal grill.
Bakare continues prepping and doing last minute shopping for the service that evening.
12 / 1 p.m.
Floor staff lay the tables.
(One hour before opening) staff have late lunch/dinner, either a takeaway or when she has capacity, Bakare cooks staff food. On this occasion, McDonald’s was the order of the day, the staff’s choice.
“When I [buy McDonald’s], the GM says I’m spending money and spoiling the staff,” Bakare concedes.
From 6 p.m.
Customers arrive and service starts.
Bakare and the staff expect last customers to leave.
After the clean down, the team is done.
“It’s a long day,” Bakare says. “Maybe it hasn’t hit yet but i enjoy it. It’s such a privilege — I love cooking for people and seeing them enjoy the food. I honestly enjoy feeding people.”