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The Big Picture: Nicholas Allan, Star Anise Café, Stroud


“Good food and conviviality lie at the heart of every community. . .”

“My first job at 14 was Saturday mornings, bagging up brown rice and mixing muesli in a tin bath in Sunshine Health Food store.

I was so small my boss would invariably have to jump in (in frustration) to mix it for me. But this set me on a path with food. Years later, in London, I encountered wholefoods cooking in a small health and wellbeing charity, Concord Institute.

I had worked in various cafes, including ‘Cranks’ in Soho, but it wasn’t until I became a father (life invited me to a different level of engagement) that I properly engaged with cooking. I returned to Stroud, looking for a smaller place to bring up our daughter and a job cooking at Ruskin Mill led to starting up Star Anise Cafe with two colleagues, Alexandra Hoppe and Milda Gudelyte. 

We were completely out of our depth but went for it: the Stroud Mayor, John Marjoram, cut the ribbon to open the cafe on Sept 1st, 2004, with a commitment to plant-based wholefoods cooking. We have continued since then, with the ongoing and growing support of the Stroud community, who have kept us afloat with their patronage. 

We’ve moved from being a new cafe in the town to an ‘old’ cafe in the town, but I hope still with great coffee, food and cakes to celebrate the shared experience of this small and feisty town tucked in the five valleys. Good food and conviviality lie at the heart of every community and nourish a sense of celebrating our shared humanity. 

I look forward to growing our offerings and am excited by our fledgling plans for a 20th birthday celebration next September!

326218C0 4760 477F A4AC D8D3382B8800 1 | The Big Picture: Nicholas Allan, Star Anise Café, Stroud

The old photo: Myself, my brother and my two sisters: somewhere in Scotland. We were born and grew up in our father’s home country: I still recall the absolute delight to be in the company of my siblings and this old photo brings back a sense of joy and adventure that we all inhabit as young children. 

PIZZE 27 11 23 9 | The Big Picture: Nicholas Allan, Star Anise Café, Stroud

Favourite Object: Fourteen years ago, I chanced upon a branch of The Japanese Knife Company just off Baker Street and was entranced by the skill of the shop-owner’s knife-sharpening expertise, so I bought a Japanese vegetable knife (now so often sharpened, it’s due to be replaced). A good (and sharp) knife is essential in the kitchen. This knife is an old, worn ally, a silent magical tool that has facilitated many, many a carrot and onion being cut and cooked into deliciousness.”


Pictures by Simon Pizzey

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