Last Friday I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Peter Gordon (executive chef), Selin Kiazim (head chef), Michael McGrath and Adam Wills of Kopapa, seven dials, covent garden and couldn’t have been made me more welcome. These men and woman are extremely passionate hard working people who love food, to relax and to laugh and share that generous and passionate spirit with their customers. Maybe thats why so many people find it so easy to come into this cafe/restaurant/bar whose ingredient list is vast to say the least yet the relaxed approach and bountiful smiles encourages one to step into the unknown, and believe me it’s worth while.
Peter, Michael, Adam and Selin all joined us last year at the Soho Food Feast including a providing us with a fabulous demonstration. Peter described the Soho Food Feast as small, friendly and lots of fun and also a great opportunity for the chefs to nose at other restaurants food with an air of friendly competition. Adam also pointed out that most of us don’t get to eat out as often as they like to for various reasons and the Soho Food Feast gives everyone the opportunity to get a snap shot of so many fantastic restaurants. Last year they knew everyone and could hang out, eat, drink and have fun without the usual commercial pressures. Peter commented that he really impressed with the marquee and thought it was well run. They also all loved that each portion they sold made more money for the school, last year they even changed their portion sizes to match other chefs portions and consequently make even more money for Soho Parish School. It is to be remembered that every restaurant at the Soho Food Feast donates all food, and all their time, their generosity is incredible! Thank you all in advance.
When I asked what they were cooking for us this year the reply was first lots of smiles and laughter, and then, it’s TOP SECRET. Peter felt able to reveal that Kopapa will be cooking: One hot dish, One cold dish, one vegetarian, and the other with some sort of protein, meat or fish to which we all laughed. A gorgeous risotto is a possibility but whatever it is it will made by chefs who love to laugh, and enjoy a more relaxed approach to life and I’m sure that will make the food taste great and make us feel fantastic when we eat it. Peter is so keen to try the food made by this years list of restaurants that he also asked if I could make it possible for all the chefs to buy food tokens early this year as they would like to taste as much of the food as possible.
When I went on to ask Peter and Selin about their influences as a chefs they both gave very different responses but both are real foodies who share a real passion for researching.
Peter who has been a highly acclaimed chef for 25 years and is internationally highly regarded (he and Michael also have The Providores and Tapa Room in Marylebone) recounted a story not about himself but instead about Soho Food Feast organiser, Margot Henderson with whom Peter worked (initially for free) for in the late 1980’s on the first floor of the French House. He remembers Margot would tell him of that when she went home she’d read cook books in bed at night, because she was so excited about food histories stories and cultures. At the time Peter would tease Margot and Fergus that he was going to put coriander or yogurt in their food, more laughter! Reading and researching continue to be an important part of Peter’s own work with some his favourite food writers being Claudia Roden and Elizabeth Romer.
Selin who comes from an English / Turkish Cypriot background has worked with Peter for the last 10 years and firstly spoke of how she has learnt an enormous amount from Peter working at The Providores and Tapa Room, in Marylebone and then Kopapa. Selin then went on to tell the story of her moment of inspiration when as a 10 year old she was waiting for her favourite kids tv show to come on she saw Ready Steady Cook. She watched it everyday after that, then moved onto to watching all the cooking programmes she could on tv and also to read cookery books. Selin then began experimenting in her Mum’s kitchen teaching herself knife skills that she had seen on tv. By the time she went to catering college she was had already aquired many of the necessary food preparation skills. Peter also made the point that Selin often goes to other restaurants on her days off and is a keen researcher who has her own way of doing things and is a real foodie!
Michael added that food does not belong to one country and although you can restrict yourself to one country the whole world is out there to explore. Adam then went on to say that people from NZ are often great travellers who have an openness to new cultures and cuisines. Kopapa stems from that openness to cultures and cuisines and is cafe, restaurant and lets not forget bar that offers all day dining in a relaxed yet quietly stimulating environment. There is unrushed atmosphere in Kopapa, I think this is due to the Antipidean approach of Peter, Michael and Adam all whom are from New Zealand. They offer all day dining, where one is free to just come along anytime of day without needing to make a reservation.
Right now Kopapa has a great lunch offer: Summer of Salads with two courses and wine from £19.95. Maybe it’s time more us got away from our desks at lunchtime and enjoyed what our local restaurants provide. It does not necessarily have to be an expensive or formal occasion. I think we all need to find time to relax, have fun and eat great food and in Kopapa you can do all three.
PS I highly recommend a glass or two of their Bloody Mary (with a wasabi kick), unutterably delicious!