News, People, The Last Word

The Last Word: Maya Berthou, Head Chef at Babette

Maya is the Head Chef at Babette in Nunhead, SE15.

How long have you lived in the area?
I moved to South London from Brittany 15 years ago.  Since then I have lived in Herne Hill, Brixton, East Dulwich and now just near Peckham Rye Park.

What brought you here?
I moved to London to learn English at first, then I just loved the city and stayed.
When I arrived in East Dulwich I was hoping to be a full time artist, so I looked for part-time work. Six months later I got an opportunity to open a pop-up restaurant on North Cross Road (Pretty Tapas).  After two months our chef burnt his hand badly so I stepped in and found I loved cooking.  After working at House of Tippler with Tim Oakley, I applied for Head Chef at Babette.

What do you most value about the area/street you live in?
Well, I live on East Dulwich Road by a 24/7, knowing by job title you will understand why this shop is the most valuable to me!

What’s the one thing you couldn’t do without?
We can always find replacements to places that disappear. At first I was going to say the Gowlett but then, when it closed for refurbishing couple of months ago, we all managed to get together somewhere else!

The most famous person you’ve seen or met?
Ed Sheeran! He came to Babette for brunch. James Nesbitt has been too. When I first moved to London, I used to work in town at Roka on Charlotte Street, there I met Donald Sutherland – such a big heart.

Describe your perfect weekend
Well, a perfect weekend would be when I get it off work, which rarely happens, obviously. So if I were off I think I would go out of London. Recently, I went to Hastings – it was sunny and hot, basically perfect!

What’s your favourite place for a night out?
I’ll start at La Cave Bruno for a nice glass of wine and a catch up with their usual guests, then I’ll go for something to eat.  We used to go to The Palmerston with my London “Mum & Dad” (a couple that took me under their wings when I moved to ED – it’s lovely). Last time we met we went to Maria Tortilla, then I’ll pop by House of Tippler to greet the old team and then head to the Gowlett.

Where are you likely to be found on Saturday?
In my kitchen at Babettes and after 11pm, at the Gowlett.

What is your favourite place to eat?
I very much like the Begging Bowl in Bellenden Road; a mixture of fantastic flavour keeps running hours after the meal. I love it!

Coffee or tea? Coffee! black, long and strong.
Where? At work usually although I do like the coffee and brunch at the Brickhouse Bakery.

The best meal I’ve ever had?
I have only been once and to keep it local, I’d say Peckham Bazard.

What’s your favourite place to go for a drink?
House of Tippler after hours. Otherwise I like going to The Old Nun’s Head for my break when I am on a split shift.

What is your favourite shop?
Alkemi; a clothing shop on Nunhead Lane. It is very spacious and relaxing to browse through. A nice range of simple clothing.

My secret ambition…
To have my own place/restaurant/cafe back home. a place where people, friends, old and new one will come to spend a good moment.

www.babettenunhead.com