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Joké Bakare shops for ingredients in Brixton market, where her debut restaurant Chishuru is located
Joké Bakare shops for ingredients in Brixton market, where her debut restaurant Chishuru is located
Michaël Protin

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Morning, Noon, and Night With Joké Bakare at Chishuru in Brixton

A photo essay documenting a day at the market, in the prep kitchen and through service with chef-owner of Eater London’s restaurant of the year 2021

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.

Chef-owner Joké Bakare holds the Eater London tomato can award.
Chef-owner Joké Bakare holds the Eater London tomato can award.

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.

8:30 a.m.

The exterior of Chishuru restaurant in Brixton Market, shutters halfway up. The name is written above in black, on a beige background
At 8:30 a.m. up come the shutters at Chishuru.

9 a.m.

Adejoké Bakare stands in a Tunisian coffee shop, talking to the owner — a man in a beanie hat and scarf.
Bakare gets coffee from the French Tusinian Momo in the market.
Bakare in the door of her restaurant Chishuru with her coffee, contemplating the day ahead.
Bakare with her coffee, contemplating the day ahead.

9:30 a.m.

Shopping, prepping, admin, look at the bookings for the day, orders food from suppliers, makes phone calls.

Chef Bakare out shopping in Brixton market at the start of the day, next to some pallets of eggs.
Chef Bakare out shopping in Brixton market at the start of the day.
Bakare leaves a Chinese supermarket holding a blue package
Bakare emerges from the Chinese supermarket inside Brixton market.
Bakare peruses some vegetables in a cardboard box, with a shelf lined with spices next to her
Shopping for ingredients in Brixton Market.
Joké Bakare purchases spices in Brixton Market, from a woman sitting in front of an array of bagged spices, hung from lines with pegs.
Joké Bakare purchases spices from inside Brixton Market.
Bakare buys from the owner of Azziz, who stands in front of shelves lined with tins of vegetables and bags of spices
The Aghan-owned local supermarket Azziz is used regularly for staples, such as plantain.

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.”

Dry store containers at Chishuru, on the shelf in Brixton
Bakare’s dry store spices and seasonings.

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.

10 a.m.

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.

Bakare, with milk, eggs, and a churner, prepares to make ice cream.
Bakare prepares to make ice cream.
Milk is churned
Let the churn churn.
Breadfruit on a stainless steel counter top.
Breadfruit for ice cream.

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.

3 Mackerel in a tub.
Mackerel are prepped. Later, they will do some time on the grill.
A gastro tray full of charred peppers, very blackened, next to a grill
Vegetables are charred on the grill for the Chishuru’s black soup.
Red peppers and onions, deeply charred, sit on a grill rack
Red peppers and red onions doing overtime on the grill, ready for the black soup.

Bakare continues prepping and doing last minute shopping for the service that evening.

Bakare chopping shallots finely on a green chopping board
Bakare chops the shallots.
Chef Joké Bakare at the stove, standing over a well-used stockpot
Bakare at the stove.
Four prawns, mid-cook so turning a gentle orange, sit over coals on the grill
Tiger prawns on the grill.
Preparing fruit for Chapman, a fruit punch with a sweetshop flavour profile.
Preparing fruit for Chapman, a fruit punch with a sweetshop flavour profile.

12 / 1 p.m.

Floor staff lay the tables.

A waiter scrubs crockery ready for service.
Staff ready the dining room for service.
Plates are laid on the table.
Places settings.

5 p.m.

(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.

A staff member eats their pre-service meal
Staff food on the pass.
Joké Bakare stands on a step-ladder to reach plastic boxes of ingredients.
Last-minute prep.
A pair of tongs held over a piece of beef on a grill, flames licking up
The live fire grill in action, for Bakare’s bavette with yaji and pickled mushroom.
A staff member forks pickled onions, bright pink, into a small serving dish
Three staff members get ready for service at the pass; one holds an Ipad.
The staff get ready for service.

From 6 p.m.

Customers arrive and service starts.

Three checks, on which food orders are written for the kitchen, hang on the pass attached by magnets.
Checks hang above the kitchen pass.
Two wooden plates with two portions each of ekuru with pumpkin seed pesto and scotch bonnet sauce, the sauce vivid orange and to the side of the slice of ekuru, and the pesto, dark green, on top.
Ekuru with pumpkin seed pesto and scotch bonnet sauce.
Two plates of food, one a grilled chicken thigh with pickled onions; the other a fermented rice cake with carrots on top
Top: Sinasir — a crisp and chewy brown rice pancake, served with tangerine, and fermented carrots. Bottom: Kazan ridi, a grilled chicken thigh with black sesame sauce, and pink onions.
Finished dishes served at Chishuru in beige and brown crockery on wooden tables, with a pop of colour from pickled onions
Dishes arrive at the table.
A staff member with pink sleeves picks up a dish of hake in black sauce and a plate of pickles from a tray
Dishes are placed on a tray before being taken out into the dining room.

10:30 p.m.

Bakare and the staff expect last customers to leave.

Two fried fermented brown rice cakes with carrots.
More sinasir: the fried, fermented brown rice cakes with carrots and tangerine, and a touch of dill.
In the foreground: Goat ayamase, a stew with green peppers, garnished with pickled red onions. Plantain behind.
In the foreground: Goat ayamase, a stew with green peppers, garnished with pickled red onions. Plantain behind.
Bakare uses bitter leaves to garnish ebiripo, a sweetcorn pudding served with celeriac, mushroom shitto, and pickled oyster mushroom
Ebiripo with celeriac, mushroom shitto, bitter leaves, and pickled oyster mushroom.
Two dishes in the central foreground: an Attasi rice flecked with cabbage, and a dish of hake in a black sauce, made from grilled vegetables.
Dishes on the table, including kekefia, hake served with black sauce made from those charred vegetables; atassi rice with spicy and sour cabbage; and plantain.

11:30 p.m.

After the clean down, the team is done.

Chef Joké Bakare wears a headscarf as she stands behind the pass, fire charring on the grill in the background.
Bakare behind the pass.
Michaël Protin

“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.”

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