Natalie Chassay | Our Winter Chef

Natalie Chassay has had an enviable career, kicking off life as a food writer, moving into restaurants and events, before starting cooking classes and recipe development. A passionate hospitality professional and amazing chef, Nat has food running through her veins. Inspired by colourful flavours and seasonal ingredients, Nat spends her days sharing her meals with people around the world.

Tom caught up with Nat, our chef for this Winter's seasonal subscription case, to hear about her story so far, what drew her to food, and what get's her excited about the industry today! 

Fact File:

Name: Natalie Chassay
Place of work: Development Chef & Food Entrepreneur
Location: London 

 

Nat cooking

Chef Nat has designed two warming recipes especially for our Winter Case.

Tom: Nat, I would love to hear about your story - how did you end up where you are today and how did you get into food?

Nat: My whole life, mother and grandma have always been really passionate about cooking. I don’t know how much I actually learnt from them in a technical sense, but they definitely instilled the passion for cooking and hosting, dinner parties were a huge part of my family growing up. I never trained as a chef, working in a restaurant, or opening my own place was never really a goal for me. My first job in the industry was working for a publication called the Australian Gourmet traveller, it’s sort of like Condé Nast traveller over in Aus. I loved the editorial side of restaurants and writing about food and it was a brilliant intro to the industry.

After a stint studying in Milan, I moved to London and was sure I wanted to stay in Europe and above all in London. Editorial food writing was really what I wanted to do, but it was so hard to find a job without loads of experience, so I ended up in the restaurant team for Quintessentially, a luxury concierge service (effectively fixers for HNW individuals). Eventually, I worked my way up to be head of restaurants, in charge of the relationships between the company, our clients, and restaurants around the world. I was very much out and about in the restaurant scene and I loved it!

Through this role at Quintessentially I was able to get my Editorial hat back on too, and I started writing restaurant reviews for the Telegraph Luxury section. I had a great time with this but ultimately, I decided I wanted to leave Quintessentially and build something of my own. A friend and I set up a recruitment app for the hospitality industry which was a brilliant challenge but, in the end, not where my passions lay – the tech world is not for me!

 

 

Salmond and Zhoug


Tom: So you spent a lot of time working in some of the many amazing jobs behind the scenes in the hospitality industry, and you're obviously incredibly passionate about hospitality, so what made you get behind the stoves and in front of an audience? 

Nat:  Just before the first lockdown, I launched a new business creating bespoke events but obviously events was not the place to be in March 2020. For years, my friends had told me to share my recipes and cooking on social media, but I had never really listened. When the pandemic hit, I remember there was so much stock piling going on, and people panicking about not being able to get the right food. When I was out and about though, I was coming across good food, and lots of it, it just seemed like people needed some inspiration to cook with ingredients outside their usual remit.

So, in walks fennel, the fabled allium that’s so often on restaurant lists but so few people know what to do with, and there was so much of it about. I went on a journey to convince people that they would like fennel and that they could cook with it. I started filming fennel recipes and people loved them. From there, I just started sharing more of what I love, lots of seasonal and veggie things, and it just started growing.

Soon after, brands started reaching out to collaborate and I guess my following grew a bit and people wanted were enjoying cooking my food, which was amazing!

Tom: What a unique journey! I’m so glad you shone a light on fennel which is such an underrated food (and also particularly fun to pair wine wine!). So how did you go from Instagram cooking to your cooking classes, which are now what a lot of people know you for?

Nat: It actually started as a team-building thing for corporate groups, I had some companies reach out to me to ask if I could host a virtual cook-along for them and the first couple were super-enjoyable. Then a group asked me if I could also provide ingredients and I thought…hmm, I guess I could. It made me think more seriously about setting up relationships with some of the industry suppliers. It was my husband that really pushed me to start putting together some great ingredient boxes to accompany the classes and I hit a formula that worked!

And it worked for as long as the lockdown lasted but like with so many businesses that were born out of lockdown, I had to think of something evergreen that would outlive the pandemic. I realised that I had never offered a cooking class to my community, to the people that had started engaging with my content for the year I’d been posting. So, I shared the idea of doing an online cooking class and uptake for the first one was great – fast-forward 10 months and I’ve done 150! It’s so humbling and just amazing that people are so engaged with the food I cook and the flavours I love.

It was also such a brilliant time for me because it made me stay innovative, I had to keep coming up with new recipes, using new ingredients and it’s made me a better chef for sure!

 

Nat and the Sociovino team

Laughs after enjoying Nat's delicious food

 

Tom: And so, what takes up your time today? Are you still doing the online cooking classes, or have you branched out again?

Nat: I’m still doing my online classes, I’m doing a bit of recipe development for some clients now too, and I’m about to launch a subscription for my online cooking classes whilst bulking out my on-demand platform which is very exciting! Interactive content is the key for me, lots of sensory explanations to really help people get the most out of the dish!

I also spend a bit of time as a coach for Weight Watchers – a brand with a really great mission and with them, I’m able to combine two of my passions, food and fitness, to help with performance coaching and recipe development.

 

Tom: Amazing, it’s sounds like there’s some great projects keeping you busy at the moment! I’d love to hear a bit more about your other passions, what makes you tick outside of food?

Nat: Fitness is a big one for me, I was a spin instructor at Psycle for many years, that’s actually how I met Sociovino’s Clem! Also travel – my family are very much spread around the world. My parents are in Sydney, my sister is in Zurich, my husband is from New York so I do like to travel mostly to see them, but also to get inspiration for my food…before we have kids!

 

Tom: So what gives you inspiration for your cooking? Is it mainly your travels or is there anything else?

Nat: I’m definitely inspired by Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours the most, it’s the colours and aromas that just get me every time. I also take a lot of inspiration from conscious meat cooking, I love meat, I was born in South Africa and so meat was a huge part of my diet growing up and when sourced properly it’s up there for me. I’m really drawn to people and dishes that do interesting things with vegetables, I love the different colours and textures – there is such an incredible variety with veggies.

I would say that I’m not at all into fussy cooking and fancy plating. I love sharing style, honest cooking, and big flavours. Foods put together in an interesting way but definitely in a casual way. The energy and pleasure that a group of people can get from sharing a plate of food has to be what inspires me the most!

Tom: So what’s next for Nat? What you do want to be doing in the next 2-4 years?

Nat: I wanna be on TV! I mean I’m not actively doing anything right now to get there, it’s a dream as I discovering that I love love love presenting, and sharing my food with an audience, helping people cook great food at home. I also really want to make this subscription product I’m building a success. I’ve got a database of people all over the world cooking with me so it’s about making something that’s right for everyone. I’d also love to get back to sharing a lot of content publicly, it was something I took great pleasure from in lockdown and now I’ve moved away from it a bit, so I’d like to get back to that side of things too. Not just pretty videos though, food that people actually want to make!

 

Tom: Nat, I’d love to hear about your relationship with wine – have you got a wine memory you can share? Or can you give us a feel for how you like to drink and work with wine?

Nat: I. Love. Wine! Sometimes I get really upset that wine is an afterthought for some restaurants and food professionals, and that wine is so high in calories (shhh don’t tell anyone). If you stick to the lower intervention wines, though, you’re certainly gonna do a lot better to your body than a lot of the sugary, syrupy, commercially made wines you can pick up.

Recently I have been loving natural wine, the cloudier, the funkier the better! I remember the first time I tried a wine it was a Radikon bottle, at Noble Rot with my then-boyfriend now-husband. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I do know what I like and don’t like. The more flavour in the glass for me, the better, which is why I think I’m drawn to natural wines – I don’t even mind the egginess!

I’m a big fan of Austrian and Swiss wines (us too!) too – amazing quality and just delicious wines.

 

Finishing touches

Nat's Salmon and Zhoug recipe is finished with tasted hazelnuts and feta.

Tom: And what about a wine memory? Does anything jump out?

Nat: In 2018, I was in Paris with my best friend Micaela who is natural wine obsessed. The whole trip we’d been talking about going to Yard, one of Paris’s best wine bars and anyway we were catching up with another friend Mathilde who’s from Paris but was in New York at the time, who told us that her mum had just sold her restaurant and that we should go by and have a drink. Off we go to Mathilde’s mum’s newly sold bar and it’s none other than Yard! She’d sold it to Clovis who now famously runs the place! We pitched up on a table outside, it was a beautiful summer’s day…I think we sat down around 5pm and we were still there, in the same spot, at 4am. We’d been joined by so many different people, tried so many delicious wines and time had just flown by. It was a special day. I think my highlight wine from the day was Love and Piff, from Yann Durieux in Burgundy, just mouth-wateringly delicious. Lamiddia and bottles from Daniel Sage are also etched in my mind from that day.

 

Tom: There is just something about wine bars in Paris isn’t there….so Nat, bringing it back to London, where have you eaten recently that you’ve loved? And where are some of your all-time favourites?

Nat: All time favourite is easy, I love Kiln. Timeless and it’s brilliant every single trip. I must say I’m nowhere near as up to date with all the new openings as I used to be, but I love exploring long-standing restaurants that are passionate about their cuisine and just doing what they do really well. My husband and I will sometimes shape a Saturday or Sunday around going to try one of these kinds of places. Some great spots recently have been Colbeh, a family-run Persian restaurant just off the Edgware Road – such good flavours. Also, Murger Han on Sackville Street in Piccadilly – they do these pulled spinach noodles in a chilli vinegar oil and oh my, they are mind-blowing. Otherwise, you gotta try The Bombay Palace in W2 which looks kind of corporate Indian but don’t knock it because the food is delicious. Oh also, for more classic, Trishna – another one of my favs.

 

Well Nat, thanks so much – it has been a pleasure chatting and I can’t wait to share all the amazing food you’ve been cooking for us, and for our subscribers to taste your dishes! 

We're excited to partner with Natalie for the second instalment of our Seasonal Wine Subscription - a innovative and health-conscious chef, we're excited for you to try her food

You can order our Seasonal Wine Subscription from now, and sample Nat's cooking via the two recipes in the box. Each recipe is paired with a wine in the case.

 

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