It might be a stretch for Cuisine to claim a part of Chantelle Nicholson’s success, but back in 2004 the magazine had a tiny role to play in setting her on the path that today sees her as the internationally lauded chef/owner of London restaurant Apricity and recipient of a coveted Michelin Green Star.

A newly graduated law student, Chantelle was working at an office job in Wellington when she picked up her Cuisine magazine and read about Chef Search, an amateur cooking competition run by Gordon Ramsay. She entered, made it to the final six and so impressed judge Josh Emett, then head chef at London’s Savoy Grill, that he made her an offer, “Whenever you want a job, there’s one for you in London.” Next day she resigned from the office and booked her ticket.

“I had no perception of what a chef was,” Chantelle says. “Thankfully I was completely naive about what I was getting myself into. Now I’m glad of that naivety because if I’d known of the intensity of that kitchen, the fact that it had a Michelin star – I didn’t even know what those were – and knowing everything that I know now, I would never have done it.”


The following decades have seen her follow “a very wonky route” through roles in and out of the kitchen, broadening her experience in restaurant operations, recipe writing and a burgeoning presence on UK TV. Throughout, she nurtured a growing feeling that there had to be a way of bringing sustainability and a gentler approach to the restaurant industry, sometimes known for excess, wastefulness and tough conditions.

Well, she certainly knows what a Michelin star is now, having earned two of them, one for her previous restaurant Tredwells in 2021 and now for Apricity. This latest accolade carries extra weight as the newly established Michelin Green Star requires all the demands of Michelin-quality excellence with an added outstanding approach to sustainability.

At Apricity Chantelle set out to run a circular restaurant system, where as little as possible leaves the loop by way of waste. “I wanted to do something with purpose. If you really value things – whether that’s equipment, ingredients and especially people – respect them and treat them with care so they have longevity, that minimises unnecessary waste.”

When it comes to food that means using absolutely everything, including all the bits that would normally go in the bin, hyper-seasonality and elevating vegetable-centric dishes. “If you choose local and seasonal food, raised or picked by someone who cares about it, picked when it’s ripe and it doesn’t spend hours in a truck, then it is just going to taste better.” Take for example a plant-based pear dessert from the Apricity menu. Instead of throwing away the pear peel and cores, they are infused to make a poaching liquor for the fruit. Once the pears are poached, the liquor is made into a granita. The peel is dehydrated to make crispy pear sprinkles. Served with cashew nut cream, toasted walnuts and a touch of rosemary for savouriness, it’s a creamy, icy delight. Though New Zealand ingredients don’t fit the local ethos, Chantelle sneaks in a touch of home with a golden comb “sort of like hokey pokey.”

The sustainable approach stretches right from fitting out the restaurant premises where upcycling and recycled materials were prioritised, through to how Chantelle organises working life for her team, opening the restaurant only five days a week to ensure staff have the same two days off each week.

“I had to do a lot of unlearning. Most of what I was taught [about hospitality] was how to make a lot of money. But let’s make just enough money, and see what we can change so that running a business is not all about the bottom line. Yes, we could make more money if we operated seven days, but for me those two days off are priceless.” And clearly it’s a happy and motivated team with little turnover as Chantelle frequently has to turn away hopeful recruits, a rarity in this time of chronic staff shortages.

As a passionate advocate of waste-free and sustainable systems, Chantelle was a perfect fit to appear in Food Rescue Kitchen, a new New Zealand TV food show based around top chefs transforming rescued food waste into a 3-course meal for up to 60 people, using perfectly good food that was destined for the rubbish dump.

“Restaurants are all about the people within them – the team, the guests and all the people behind that. Someone has put a lot of time and effort in getting this food on your plate, from the farmer to the delivery driver, to the dishwasher. So, value their effort. That’s what I love about plants: you start with a seed, then suddenly you have something that nourishes you and brings joy. If you value that, you won’t waste it.” Food Rescue Kitchen will air at 7pm on TV3 from Saturday 27 April.