New owner of Chichester cafe to add a Portuguese twist | Vicky Meets
Vicky meets... Emma Francis-Pearce, owner of The Lunchbox in Chichester.
• How did you come to be at The Lunchbox?
I took over on March 13. I had been in Portugal for 14 years working as a private chef when I returned to Chichester. Obviously during Covid working as a private chef was quite difficult, so I was looking to set up a little business. Then The Lunchbox came up. It was walking distance from my front door and it was Covid-proof. My dad had a business in Littlehampton before his death, so I’m really into independent businesses and working with other local businesses – it’s in my blood. To take on a business that had been run by the same family for 44 years was just perfect. I worked in North Street years ago and I bought my lunchtime sandwiches from The Lunchbox when it was in the Butter Market.
• Will you tell me a bit about your background in catering?
I ran a restaurant in Portugal that was very successful. We were number one on TripAdvisor, but it was 16 hours a day, six days a week. That meant my one day off was spent shopping and my social life was zero. I was asked to host private dinner in a client’s home and I cooked a seven-course dinner for ten guests. My client was so impressed that she burst into tears! I eventually closed the restaurant and went into private catering. My work was very high-end fine dining. I love mixing flavours and making things taste and look fantastic.
• The Lunchbox is a bit of a different set-up then?
I have hit the ground running but it’s actually really nice to come to a fast-moving, high-turnover environment with lovely, local customers. Everyone has really accepted me and Jo (the previous owner) has been great. The Lunchbox has fabulous fresh ingredients daily. We always have different ingredients and it is really busy. We are on Uber Eats and Deliveroo and people come in all day. The all-day breakfasts start flying out of the door as soon as we open.
• Will you make many changes?
I’m adding in a few bits and I’ll be bringing in pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tarts). I’m doing a lot of baking myself, too. Otherwise I’m keeping it as it always was. All the staff are staying and they are fabulous. The Lunchbox has been in the city for nearly half a century and that’s down to a perfect balance of great service and a great selection of fresh ingredients.
• How do you think the high streets will recover from Covid-19?
Post-Covid I think Chichester will be one of the most colourful and exciting high streets in West Sussex because there are lots of really good local independent businesses here.
• What do you consider to be the perfect sandwich?
Bacon, brie and cranberry on a white bap. Depending on the time, served with either a cappuccino or a G&T.
Find The Lunchbox in Cooper Street, Chichester, or visit www.thelunchboxchichester.co.uk for more information.
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