Example: The Chalk Embers Restaurant, Cricklewood, London

Julia Carson-Walters

Julia Carson-Walters

Owner - The Chalk Embers Restaurant, Cricklewood, London

The Chalk Embers Restaurant is a well-established Bar and Grill just off the A5 that overlooks Cricklewood's busiest shopping centre in North London.

Restaurant owner Julia Carson-Walters, 47, is a confessed worrier. Like most people, Julia not only spent months during lockdown lamenting how abruptly her world changed but expended her most creative time planning new menus for the takeaway side of the business.

Despite her current success, Julia, whose family emigrated from Turkey a few generations ago, had left school with no clear idea what she wanted to do with her life. Having several interests, she'd studied economics at Uni. 

Having cultivated a love for travel and the sunshine, she went to work in travel and tourism. After working a few years as a travel rep, quite unexpectedly, her uncle had a stroke, leaving him unable to run his café.

Julia Carson-Walters| Restaurant Owner

It's Always About People

"When I began I knew next to nothing about this business. I am a quick learner and it didn't take me long to understand what made my customers happy. But it wasn't magic. I simply asked them and many were more than happy to tell me. I now have a regular set of particular customers that I contact whenever I'm looking to try something new. They always tell me like it is".

When her parents implored her to help, she agreed but told them it would only be a temporary arrangement. That was the moment she became an accidental café manager, that became permanent.

It didn't take her long to understand the business, and shortly after, she expanded and created The Chalk Embers Restaurant. Eleven years on, she grew the restaurant again by stretching into the building next door and was well underway to becoming a profitable award-winning top class restaurant. Then COVID arrived and changed almost everything.

During the lockdown, Julia's biggest problem was thinking of ideas to retain her staff. She felt wholly responsible as many of them were family members. The lockdown was perhaps her biggest crisis to date.

With time on her hands, she decided that now would be the perfect time to revamp her website. Her business, being close to the railway station, was never short of foot-traffic. So she convinced herself that no website was necessary, and so her dated-looking website languished without updates. It wasn't until her youngest member of staff suggested the revamp that it occurred to her to manage the revamp.

To remain connected to the business, her waiters didn't mind painting walls both inside and outside. And neither did they mind helping her give the place a facelift. She did have to furlough a few of her staff though, but luckily didn't have to let go of any of them.

She also gave some of her time thinking of ideas to train her staff to spot, minimise and avoid areas of potential contamination.

To Julia, after creating her new menus with more available time than before, her most significant achievement was finding creative ways to fill her quiet weekday evenings.

Julia Carson-Walters| Restaurant Owner

I Wouldn't Change It One Bit

"I didn't plan this life at all. But today, I love what I do. Now I would have it no other way. Here, I can be as creative as I like and nothing matters more that my family, my staff and my customers. It has been challenging at times but now, I wouldn't change it one bit."

Right now, she is training her staff once more in readiness for the lifting of the lockdown and looking forward to introducing her new creations to the public.

Prepared by Don McDonald (EatOutInWembley)

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