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Alumna Marwa Alkhalaf
Success Story

Originally from Saudi Arabia, Marwa Alkhalaf graduated from Le Cordon Bleu London with a Diplôme de Cuisine in 2017.

In 2019 Marwa co-founded Nutshell restaurant with her husband Mohammad Paknejad. Nutshell serves modern Iranian dishes, a cuisine that Marwa fell in love with thanks to her Iranian husband and time spent visiting his family in Iran, experiencing the rich variety of ingredients and flavours of the food.

Nutshell was awarded a Michelin Plate in the Michelin Guide Britain and Ireland 2021, recognition that the restaurant serves quality food. We caught up with Marwa to chat about the restaurant, what her average day looks like and how it feels to be in the Michelin Guide.

What drove you to study the culinary arts?

"Love for food, creation and a dream to open a modern Iranian restaurant in London."

Why did you choose to come to Le Cordon Bleu London?

"The great reputation of the school and list of well-achieved alumni and the fact that I lived in London before and I just love the city."

How did studying the Diplôme de Cuisine help your career?

"It gave me a solid foundation and the necessary skills to start my career in the culinary world. Also, the relationships I developed with the chef instructors, they all have had amazing experiences and they continue to support me now."

What would you say is your most valuable learning experience so far?

"My first service at a restaurant; everything you learned is put to the test."

What are the best and most challenging aspects of running your own restaurant?

"The best thing is the sense of achievement when you receive a great review or win an award for doing what you love. And, of course, the customer reactions when they have their first bite and you can see the enjoyment on their faces. The worst thing is probably coping with all the changes especially at the time of a pandemic. Also, things can be slightly challenging when you have to juggle multiple jobs at once."

What inspired the concept of Nutshell?

"My love for Iranian food; it’s a hidden gem when it comes to Middle Eastern food. The food is more sophisticated and relies on balancing sweet and savoury notes by using herbs, fruits and subtle spices only. The colours of the restaurant and the logo were inspired by the pistachio orchards in Iran."

How did it feel to be awarded a Michelin Plate?

"It felt amazing! Being awarded the Michelin Plate means that we are on the right track, especially considering that we received it after only one year from opening our doors so hopefully we are on our way to a star."

What would you say is the best thing about being a chef?

"If you crave immediate rewards, then this is the job for you. Nothing is better than a happy customer that makes the effort to come to the kitchen to thank you and share a cherished memory with you that our food evoked."

What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

"Don’t be afraid to explore new frontiers. I was worried at first about bringing a new concept to London, but I believed in the idea and it paid off."

What does Le Cordon Bleu represent for you?

"A solid foundation to kickstart my culinary career."

What does your average day look like?

"My days vary quite a lot, as being a chef director means that you're there wherever you are needed, while trying to manage the overall operation and the kitchen."

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

"Juggling multiple jobs at once; managing the kitchen and managing the restaurant overall and sometimes covering for a sick employee."

What inspires you every day?

"My husband, Mohammad. He’s so passionate about the restaurant and he is the driving force behind it."

What part of your role are you most passionate about?

"Discovering new regional Iranian dishes or family recipes and sharing them with our customers."

Finally, what are your plans for the future or any final words?

"Bringing another hidden gem of cuisine to the spotlight and maybe a Nutshell cookbook."

Find out more about the
Diplôme de Cuisine, our professional cookery courses and other culinary programmes to see how you can follow in Chef Marwa's footsteps.

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