Spotlight on 4 Food & Drink Female Founders

Jo Aspin shines a spotlight on four leading women in hospitality this International Women’s Day…

Pary Baban

Pary Baban

Cook and owner of Kurdish Restaurant Nandine, Camberwell

Pary Baban, founder of Nandine, came over to the UK from Kurdistan in 1995 after being displaced from her home under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Before this, Pary was travelling around Kurdistan for seven years where she was seeking refuge from Saddam Hussein’s government in distant relatives’ homes.

Throughout her displacement in her late teens, Pary became deeply interested in food and the different styles of cooking that her different family members had in the different regions of Kurdistan. She started to make note about what ingredients they used and the different recipes they created in a diary that she still has and uses today. These recipes have formed the basis for the menus in Nandine. 

Pary is still very much involved at Nandine and can be found in the restaurant most evenings, cooking for customers who come from all over London to try her authentic and original Kurdish food.

45 Camberwell Church St, London SE5 8TR | @nandineuk

Alina Gromova-Jones

Alina Gromova-Jones

Founder and F&B Director of KOJO

Plant-based eatery KOJO was launched by entrepreneur Ryan Jones and wife, nutritional therapist Alina Gromova-Jones in December 2020. The pair initially opened their flagship Hampstead branch, and recently launched their new Liverpool Street location. was inspired to create KOJO as she wanted to share what plant-based eating meant to hear, making it approachable and welcoming for everyone, but also provide some education around how eating plant-based does good for your health and benefits the planet too. Alina follows a 100% plant-based diet and wants to educate others that you can still obtain all essential nutrients you need in your diet without eating animal products. 

Alina holds a qualification in Nutritional Therapy from the London College of Naturopathic Medicine and a degree in Media Communications from Regents University London. Her focus on nutritious foods has now become a lifestyle and a way of education, that she is keen to share her philosophy through KOJO.  

KOJO only works with suppliers who share the same sustainable beliefs, using local produce that has had minimal chemical intervention, use less plastic packaging and give back to the planet and local initiatives. Alina is always on the lookout for new innovations and how KOJO can improve on what its currently doing. 

Japan Centre

Japan Centre, founded in 1976 by Tak Tokumine, has been credited for trailblazing the familiarisation of Japanese food in the UK. Still a family business to this day, Tak has transformed the Japanese food and dining scene in London, pioneering the cuisine which was largely undiscovered since Japan Centre’s arrival. From a small bookstore on Warwick Street, to a chain of authentic ramen bars, and Japanese food halls, Japan Centre has evolved into a well-loved institution over the years thanks to its rich variety of quality Japanese goods; spanning food to drink, magazines and gifts to sushi and hot souzai food.

Hannah Tokumine

Managing Director

Hannah is Tak Toumine’s daughter. As Managing Director, Hannah oversees the daily and strategic functions for Japan Centre Group, effectively transforming vision into reality. Her efforts are a critical part of bringing the huge success of the business today, through tremendous management, inspiration & innovation. 

Having launched Japancentre.com she brought to life Shoryu Ramen in 2012 as the marketing vision and founding team member. Rolling out Shoryu across the UK she has continued to drive development with DIY food kits, spearheading the move of our flagship Japan Centre food hall to its new home in Leicester Square, launching Japan Centre Ichiba in Westfield London, and establishing new brands Ichiba Marketplace, Yokocho and the Mochi Bar. 

Happy International Women’s Day!

Written by Jo Aspin | IG @welovchilli

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