Summer Nicks is the original Renaissance man. He is brilliant and accomplished and he can do many things – mostly unrelated. This individual has skills in the field of restaurant construction, architecture and design, education, entertainment, scuba diving, journalism and currently, he is working on his first music album.
By Zonaira Chaudry
Hailing from the land down under, this Australian loves Pakistan and has been residing in his new home for the past three years. Tkfr takes an insightful journey into this individual’s creative past as he shares his design philosophies and his experiences in the dining world.
Summer has practically grown up in the restaurant business as his family owns a number of restaurants and clubs in Brisbane and Gold Coast. He himself is a proud owner and designer of “Light Works” a café in Byron Bay, which is a prime tourist resort in Australia. The secret to a creative decision according to him “lies in the eyes.”
Summer lived in Northern India as a monk for two years under the authority of the Dalai Lama. There he had three ‘children’ under his care. For their financial support, he designed and managed his first restaurant named Zoola Soul Food, a Bedouin word which implies the customary way of floor sitting and eating. The restaurant proved to be a success and also became a town attraction. It started from hosting six people and went up to 60. Even the Dalai Lama was a guest at Zoola.
Summer‘s next restaurant was “Veggies” in England in 1999. He also served as a food critic for the international magazine “Life Style and Travel.” He started taking Hotel construction and décor seriously when he was in Thailand. “Due to my extensive travels, I picked up ideas, architectural designs, themes which helped me with my new obsession.”
He never looked back. Summer has designed six restaurants altogether around the world: his other restaurants are in France (La Vendou), Thailand (Soul Food) and Now in Pakistan (Carte` Diem now known as Masoom‘s Little Italy). Summer takes a keen interest in his ventures. From laying the bricks himself to constructing arches and doors, Summer personally oversees every tiniest detail.
“Most people have a vague or absolutely no idea of what they want. Usually they get impressed by seeing something in a movie or a television screen and want to build the exact same replica. Initially I act more as a consultant rather than a designer. My efforts start from having talks with the owners, deciding on the theme, modify the basic idea, or throwing some of my own ideas on the table. The other factors which I keep in mind are the budget, the time frame, the work ethics which are different everywhere and the local conditions (climate, construction materials etc.) and it all ends of course with a personal touch.”
And that’s just the beginning; he also takes charge of staff training, deciding the menu, designing the menu cards and also designs the exclusive cutlery to be used. Summer tries to make sure everything goes with nature. He looks at the direction of the sun, which way the wind blows and how he can make the best use of them. “Color coordination depends on personal choices. In old Europe, colors which were used for décor were utterly mismatched but they looked magnificent. West is color-coded too, which at a point becomes boring and senile. Colors are striking and can breathe new life in any room. They should always be experimented with: mismatched, contrasted or similar. A lot depends also on the placement of the color, how you use a particular shade in a room. My favorites which I try to use in my designs are subtle, earthy tones. There is nothing called a color disaster. Keep on changing and coordinating till you come up with something that makes you fall in love with it.”
Summer describes his dream home as “a Greek isle villa with archways, white washed, old wooden doors, candles burning everywhere, an old Moroccan table and chair and an old Egyptian rug, very basic and very Zen.” He loves the old city architecture of Lahore and Karachi. While designing a food place, Summer keeps in mind his own taste. “I try to visualize a place where I would love to eat or hang out. Eating to me is a festival. It’s a celebration of life itself. I have been to places where I was sitting with total strangers in a small room with chipped off paint but the food tasted great and that chipped paint just added beauty to the room. Anything, anywhere can work, it just depends on how you use it.”
Although Summer loves living in Pakistan but working here has its ups and downs. “Language is one hurdle I have to face; work ethics is another thing hard to get by. It’s not easy getting people to work.
Laborers are lazy .They like to take longer breaks. Instead of relying on them I like the “Do it myself” strategy. This could include anything from mere construction to painting the walls,” he says.
“There are some materials which I prefer using for construction but are not readily available for building in Pakistan for instance Plaster of Paris; in such a case I try to indigenize and improvise,” he says. “Don’t compromise on your passion, keep an open mind, try to break out of your shell and don’t lose your vision otherwise you will die; be adaptable,” he advises wisely.
Summer Nicks plans to leave his mark on the world. Look out Lahore because this Aussie is here to stay!
This article was originally published in the print edition of Valuemag, issue 2, June 2008.