Ifeyinwa shares some of her favourite memories from June's residency and the significance of the month to her.
As I turned the keys and watched the shutter come down for the final time, I felt the familiar butterflies. Locking up was a simple enough task but it was one that had brought me immense pleasure throughout the residency. In my head it wasn’t The Canvas Cafe in front of me; instead I was picturing myself bringing down the shutter of the first Chuku’s lounge. Being entrusted with the keys five weeks earlier, had only encouraged the dreamer in me. I could visualise so clearly our permanent spot on the high street.
After a series of one-day pop-ups, June’s month-long residency was the closest Emeka and I had come to-date of experiencing what it might be like to have our own place. And I relished every moment of it.
Featuring in the Metro and having Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu dine with us were two definite highlights.
But there were also so many smaller moments along the way that I treasure: the guest from LA who was only in London for a week who had been told by her Nigerian partner that she must try our food; the chop-chat-chillers that came back twice (and thrice); my family’s proud faces when they came for dinner; seeing one of our youngest guests proudly read her Nigerian table name and its meaning to her brother; the chop-chat-chiller whose only complaint was that we’re not permanent; and the unforgettable behind-the-scenes laughter with our first Chuku’s team who week-in-week-out only made the experience more enjoyable.
The same week the residency ended, Facebook reminded me that it had been two years since I’d graduated. When I left university, I had a three-year plan: a year out in Martinique, then complete the graduate scheme I’d been offered. At no point did I envision I’d be doing what I do now. But two years later, here I am and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’d be lying if I said June’s residency wasn’t a lot of hard work but it only made my conviction stronger.
So, what’s next? This month we’re embracing the chill. I’ve missed speaking French too much, so I’m heading off to Paris and Emeka, tired of waiting for summer to arrive, is returning to sunny Spain. And in August we’ll be back with another pop-up to mark a special occasion, our first birthday. I love birthdays and can’t wait for ours. It’s making me feel a bit like the queen getting two birthdays in one year. Full details of the celebratory chop, chat, chill will be coming soon, so keep an eye out!