Nicola is the former Head Chef at Darsham Nurseries Café in Suffolk, Nicola’s vegetable-led, Mediterranean inspired menus were designed daily around the Nursery’s own produce and by using a carefully selected pool of local suppliers who shared the same ethos for sustainably sourced, local and seasonal ingredients. The café was a critical success and was included in a number of publications including The Good Food Guide, The Michelin Guide, and was a finalist in The Caterer Magazine’s Menu of the Year for 2020. During her time at Darsham Nicola undertook a number of dining events at The Merchants Table continuing the theme of a local and seasonal table. A Ballymaloe Cookery School alumnus and former chef at Jeremy Lee’s Quo Vadis in London, Nicola was also chosen as an Observer Food Monthly rising star and included in their 50 best for 2019.
Sadly, Darsham Nurseries was forced to permanently close its doors in April 2020. This change in circumstances gave Nicola the opportunity to think about new ways in which she could continue to use her skills and develop her career and love for working in the food business.
In late spring Nicola joined Julie Cheyney and Blake Bowden at St Jude Cheese learning the craft of handmade, small batch cheesemaking using raw milk from the Montbeliarde herd at Fen Farm in Bungay. She also had the good fortune to meet Ben McKinnon of Fellows Farm in Gosbeck, founder of E5 Bakehouse in Hackney, and together they set up the Fellows Farm Field Kitchen running a series of successful outdoor dining events using ingredients grown or sourced from and around the organic Farm and cooked on open fire. Ben and Nicola continue to work together on a number of projects and are baking weekly at Fellows Farm using a wood fired oven to bake bread and pastries, supplying customers in the nearby area. Flour is sourced from heritage grains grown and milled by Ben and all dairy produce used is from the raw milk Montbeliarde herd at Fen Farm. Fruit and vegetables are sourced from Fellows Farm market garden when the season permits. In a relatively short time this unique business has developed quite a following and Nicola is delighted to be working again with The Merchant’s Table.
Nicola continues to work with Julie and Blake at St Jude, developing her cheesemaking skills. She is learning as much as she can about sustainable farming practices in East Anglia and across the UK as well as cultivating her own 3-acre plot using biodynamic and organic principles and drawing up plans for a forest garden. She is also helping the SouthGen project, a new community development ‘The Old Hospital Hub’ in Southwold, to set up a farm-to-fork, zero-waste café and restaurant.
We are very proud to have collaborated with Nicola by holding a number of seasonal suppers at The Merchant’s Table. These were memorable events and each course was paired with wines by Smashing Wines. Nicola is now back at our table again, with Ben of Fellows Farm, supplying bread and pastries which you can order through Fellows Farm and collect from our shop on Fridays, between 11am - 1pm. Please see more details on our Events section and sign up to our newsletter to ensure you hear about any future projects first!