CREATED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE OUTNET
Chances are you’ve stumbled across Nina Parker on Instagram, rubbing shoulders with your favourite top chefs and celebrities alike. The face behind two celebrated cook books, St Tropez and Capri, when she’s not running supper clubs, she’s contributing to ES Magazine and Tatler, putting a simple spin on delicious, Italian-inspired cooking. Here she tells us her style rules, how she got her big break, and her tips for getting to the top…
I Quickly Fell In Love With The Food World
When I left university, I decided I wanted to work with food in some capacity. I thought I would just become someone’s sous-chef – I had no idea about the food industry and the hierarchy of a kitchen. I got a job working in L'Anima on Liverpool street which actually closed last year, but it was this amazing Southern Italian style restaurant. I just loved the atmosphere of the kitchen; the creativity that goes into all the dishes, Italian produce coming in on the morning, the Gelato – everything!
It Took Me A While To Find My Passion
I tried a lot of different work experiences; I worked for a magazine, tried events and spent some time at Bloomberg, so really did explore lots of different avenues. My family really pushed me to try out different fields, which was great because it gave me a clear overview of what I did and didn’t like.
Anyone Can Be Good At Cooking
But you have to really work at it. As with a lot of things, it comes down to practice. If you tried ten different recipes from ten different chefs, you’d become much more knowledgeable about flavour combinations. It’s that experience that helps you build confidence.
Food Is, Of Course, A Huge Part Of My Life
If I'm having my mates round for dinner then I like to do something easy that I can throw in the oven like a large parmigiana with a seasonal salad. Dessert is always homemade vanilla ice cream with hot dark chocolate sauce with toasted almond flakes. I love a welcome margarita too! Time and time again I go back to the pear dark chocolate spelt tart from my book - it's greater than the sum of its parts.
I Try To Strike A Balance With Food
I'm pretty much plant based during the week and I love making raw salads with punchy dressings. As long as you have a mandolin you can slice the veg up quickly and super fine. My go-to dressing this week has been toasted sesame oil with lime juice, soya sauce, rice vinegar, a little ginger and pinch of sugar.
My Book Was My First Big Break
I happened to meet a literary agent back in 2013, and she asked if I’d be interested in doing a cook book. I had just left my job at Gelupo, the gelatier in Soho, to start my own business – I’d bought this ice cream van with the intention of pursuing the gelato thing. But I think when someone asks you to do something like that you have to just say yes. I spent about six months writing a book proposal, and then got picked up by Orion Publishing. It was one of those amazing moments, you feel like you’ve won the lottery. I remember my dad saying, “surely this is supposed to be hard?” – but it’s funny, from that point onwards everything has been a lot more work. I think it was a fluke – a bit of luck.
My Everyday Style Is Very Laid-Back
I wear a lot of trainers and converse. I like to look as effortless as possible. I’m in the kitchen most of the time, so a t-shirt and jeans are my default, but if I have a meeting to go to, I’ll always add boots or wedges. I want to look stylish, but I still have to be practical, so a denim skirt and leather jacket become an easy go-to in spring/summer.
Dressing The Part Gives You Confidence
I’m not one for really dressing up or wearing a lot of make-up, but making a real effort to look good gets me in the right frame of mind for a big meeting or event. That, and straight hair! When I was first meeting publishers, I found a formula and stuck with it every time – I was so convinced if one meeting went well I had to do exactly the same for the others. Now my approach is a little more relaxed.
It’s Hard To Be A Glamorous Chef
In the cooking industry it’s all about scraped back hair, no make-up and never wearing nail varnish. But if you’re an Instagram chef, it’s a whole different world – you have to find that balance.
I Loved Trying Something A Bit Different
I wouldn’t normally wear a dress and blazer, but it’s so refreshing to try something you wouldn’t necessarily pick out yourself. I’m covering the polo at Hurlingham, so a dress will be perfect for that, and a blazer is super versatile – I’ll wear with a pencil skirt to meetings in the next few weeks.
I’m Trying To Shop More Sustainably
For me, that means buying investment pieces, and also pre-loved items. There’s a second-hand shop called Sign Of The Times in Elystan Street where I’ve found some of my favourite pieces. I always look out for Acne for a special occasion.
Instagram Has Changed How People Become Successful
These days, Instagram is a huge tool for publishers – before giving someone a book deal, they’re looking at their following, their response rate etc. In the past, you were given work based on where you’d worked, the quality of your cooking, the merits you’d earned, but now it’s often just based on numbers.
I’m Not Afraid Of Hard Work
That’s how I got to where I am. I also stay very positive and always say yes to everything – that’s something I work hard at too. I don’t just wake up and stumble out of bed. I do meditation and take cold showers – anything that gives me a buzz really helps. When you’re running your own business, you have a lot of setbacks. You’ve got to trust in the system; you’ll have a lot of downs and a lot of nos, then suddenly an amazing yes! So when you’re working for yourself, you really have to work on that motivation.
Instagram Isn’t All Bad
It makes you more aware of the other people and what they are doing, so it’s a vehicle for comparison. But I actually have a lot of positive stuff to say about it too. It’s a great creative tool – I really love curating recipes through it, and it’s taught me a lot about photography. You just have to resist being sucked into the negative side – for me, having a purpose behind each post really helps that. Everything I post has to be in line with my work and my brand.
I’ve Changed How I Approach People I Want To Work With
I used to think if you emailed someone and it came from a PR company or an agent, then it would look fancier, and would make you seem like a bigger deal than you are. But now I actually think it says a lot more if it comes directly from you. Instagram has helped break down those walls, and people want to hear from the personality behind it.
I Get Inspired By All Different People
Roger Federer is my biggest inspiration. I’m a big tennis fan, but I also feel that he represents determination, never giving up, and pushing right until the bitter end. You can relate a lot of tennis to real life.
Never Accept No For An Answer
That’s the best advice I’ve ever received. There are times when I have emailed people four times and had no response, but then maybe it’s the 5th time and they suddenly have the time to come back to you. This has happened to me time and time again. You just have to learn not to take their silence personally. You have to throw your ego out, not be too proud, and just keep going.
My Top Tip Is To Keep Learning
I’m a big advocate for reading a ton of books about starting your own business. Setting up on your own can be quite lonely, so you need extra tools to help you along the way. I still read them now – you should never stop learning! I think it’s so important to learn from people who have done it – podcasts are great for that too. There are so many great business podcasts out there that can provide you with those extra nuggets of information and you never know what they may lead to.
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