With the arrival of her daughter Holly on 21 December 2019, Ethna had hoped to take a year’s maternity leave and leave Nook in the capable hands of her staff.
When lockdown came, however, and the café was forced to close its doors, she felt she had little choice but to roll up her sleeves and get back in the kitchen herself.
“When you close down like that, the money is still coming out; but there’s no money going in,” she explains.
“I suppose after a few weeks, I kind of thought, ‘I’m cooking for myself full-time, I’d love a nice takeaway.’ I was kind of itching to get back to it, so I started doing the gourmet food boxes and takeaways and meal kits. It just took off and I’ve been doing it every weekend since.”
Having gotten an online shop up and running, Ethna has been offering everything from taco and bao kits to Italian gourmet, Greek mezze and Spanish tapas boxe. She has also added a deli section to her café to sell goods from local producers.
At the start of July, Ethna re-opened the café, but due to the rules around social distancing, can only fit four tables – half of what she had before. That said, it has allowed her to bring back her long-serving, main staff members.
She feels that the hospitality industry has been “completely ignored by the Government” and that the uncertainty makes it difficult to plan for the future.
However, Ethna remains hopeful that Nook will pull through.
“I can’t do anything else but cook; and I don’t enjoy anything else,” she says.
“I’m always coming up with new ideas and sure we’ve been through hard times before. We’ll do it again.”