Nicola Lando talks about Sous Chef, her newly launched site for adventurous home cooks.

Newly launched online store, Sous Chef is the brainchild of husband and wife team, Nicola Lando and Nick Carter. Aimed at the adventurous home cook, it sells hard-to-find professional and international ingredients alongside specialist cookware, cookbooks and equipment. We caught up with Nicola to find out more.

The idea for Sous Chef came about… after spending years as a home cook frustrated that I couldn’t find equipment or ingredients mentioned in my favourite cookbooks. More recently, I was lucky enough to work as a chef in a Michelin starred French restaurant. This opened my eyes to the huge range of products that are available to professionals, though most often only in enormous catering sizes. I wanted to make these amazing products available to everyone, and Sous Chef was born.

Sous Chef is based in North London… There are currently three of us working on the site, including my husband Nick, Rachel – our writer – plus Toro, a naughty spaniel. All our products are kept in a separate warehouse, although we do frequent trips back and forth as we are cooking, developing recipes and trying new ingredients almost every day.

Before starting Sous Chef… I worked in venture capital helping small companies grow. One of the better known companies I worked with was Streetcar. I also worked with Almondy, a Scandinavian cake business, and SUSO, a healthy fizzy drink. The guys there were a big inspiration in going it alone and starting something from scratch. Nick is a chartered accountant by training, which has proven very useful. He spent the last seven years or so in investment banking, most recently at Nomura.

The biggest challenge in setting up the site has been… sourcing the ingredients. I’ve travelled to huge European trade fairs, visited big food markets in the middle of the night, and spent a lot of time with leading chefs to find where to source the best ingredients.

As a result… we have almost as many suppliers as we do products. We’ve also spent a lot of time writing about the products to help our customers understand how to get the most out of them.

Since starting Sous Chef… I’m working much longer hours – I’m sure all entrepreneurs say the same, but it’s incredibly difficult to switch off when you’re working for yourself. Particularly as it’s in something I love! Other than that, it’s great to have meetings walking on the Heath, and incorporate cooking into my daily life - I can make bread whilst at work, which is wonderful!

At the moment, I’m cooking a lot from… the Pier cookbook, which features recipes from a Sydney seafood restaurant of the same name. It’s not especially well-known in the UK, but the photography is amazing and the recipes delicious. It does call for some hard to find ingredients, but Sous Chef has solved that problem, so I’m enjoying creating some dishes I wasn’t able to make before.

The kitchen gadget I couldn’t live without is… my thermometer. Whether I’m cooking meat, fish, caramels, or custards for ice-creams, this really is the one thing I couldn’t be without.

My favourite world cuisine is… Japanese. I love how carefully the chefs pay attention to every individual ingredient, and how it is presented. There’s a pretty broad range of Japanese tableware on the site – it’s one of my guilty pleasures!

My favourite restaurant is… the Hunanese restaurant, Yipin China in Islington. Go with a big group of people and order everything. Black fungus and Jellyfish is a must – tastes about a thousand times better than it sounds!

My favourite blog is… Azelias Kitchen. I can make incredible sourdough thanks to her brilliant introductions – frequently delighting my neighbours with surprise gifts on the doorstep. Her photography is beautiful, and she is wonderfully observant: rigorously recording and analysing everything she does, with tireless attention to sourcing and ingredients. Every so often I’ll get a message on Twitter from her out of the blue to say ‘you must stock this’ – and when a tip comes from her I know it’ll be a good one.

As far as food apps go… I like Platter and the Great British Chefs apps, but I’m actually quite low tech when it comes to recipes. I find cookbooks such lovely things that I prefer to work from them – as the splashed and tatty condition of some of my favourites will attest!

When eating at home… I do the cooking and Nick does the critiquing. He seems to think that’s a reasonable division of labour!

My dying dinner would be… Japanese sashimi. I don’t know which chef would cook it, but I’d certainly enjoy discussing the options with Tsuji, who wrote “Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art” – an incredible overview of Japanese cuisine.

I’d love Sous Chef to become… the favourite shop of everybody who really loves cooking. We want sell amazing products but also share knowledge and help our customers become the best cooks they can.

August 2012

Interview by Emily Jenkinson