United Kingdom –
Christopher Poole is on a chicken-filled hunt. It’s a hunt that requires he eat at every Nando’s restaurant in the world; that’s more than a thousand restaurants in over twenty countries. The project arose because two years ago Nando’s promised that anyone who ate at every branch would receive the High Five Black Card, entitling the bearer to free Nando’s for life. Unfortunately, after visiting 85 locations in the UK, Christopher discovered the competition was no longer valid.
Regardless, Christopher is continuing on his mission. Along the way, he’s hoping to meet others with a passion for piri piri chicken and make a feature film to tie it all together. Emaho spoke with Christopher, about his goals of the project, where he wants to eat next, and why Nando’s is so good.
Emaho : What spawned your obsession with first, Nando’s, and second, travelling around the world to eat at all the Nando’s?
I was brought up pescatarian until the age of 16 when I discovered chicken. I would eat any meat, but chicken was the only one I actually liked. I was also brought up to love spicy food and as soon as I walked into my first Nando’s 11 years ago, I knew I’d love it. It was chicken vs. spice. Every menu item seemed to have spice (spicy rice, peri chips). I loved the atmosphere, the sense of humour of their menus, and I think the fast, casual dining aspect really appeals to me.
I want to go to every Nando’s because (A) I love Nando’s and traveling – I read that Nando’s set the High Five Black Card challenge themselves (was it tongue-in-cheek? who knows?) and I thought there would be nobody else in the world more suited to it than me – plus (B) I love to start seemingly impossible projects, and (C) I think it will make a good road trip and feature film.
Emaho : Why do you want a High Five Black Card so badly? How did you decide to go through with this challenge?
Steve Jobs once said, “The journey is the reward”, and that is exactly how I think about this project. The high five card will be an insignificant bonus to the incredible time I’ll have traveling the world and meeting new people, especially fans of Nando’s. Aside from that, I would love to have free Nando’s for the rest of my life, of course! I decided to go through with the challenge because there is no other way to get a black card other than to get famous and have an influence on pop culture. But black cards are only valid for one year, while mine will have no expiry date, trumping anybody that has one just for being a celebrity.
Emaho : I know most of the Nando’s you’ve visited have been in the UK, but have you been to one in any other countries? Are there any that stood out in your mind?
Yes, I’ve been to South Africa, Canada, Ibiza. They all stood out for different reasons. The Ibiza one used to be my favourite. It was the only one in Europe (outside of the UK) and it was an al fresco setup in Bar M, right on the beach. Eating PERi-PERi burgers, listening to DJs and watching people walk past in the sunset was heaven for me. Then they closed it down a few years ago, but I’m campaigning to re-open it.
Emaho : There are approximately 1,000 Nando’s restaurants in the world. How do you expect these restaurants might change from country to country?
I’ve heard that some countries do cocktails, and in Asia they do white rice. The table numbers in Australia are printed on huge wooden cockerels, and they have table service in Canada. The buns in Ibiza had sesame seeds. Obviously I’m going to notice all the differences, no matter how small, but I think they are roughly based on the same idea and you can reliably get great spicy chicken from Nando’s no matter what country you are in.
Emaho : Are there any destinations you’re really looking forward to? How do you plan to fund your travels?
Yes. All of them. I think a sub-challenge of the Nando’s challenge is the dangerous areas that some of them are located in. Especially in Africa and Pakistan. (You can see where they are located here.)
I am going to be relying on the kindness of strangers who want to dine with me, put me up and drive me around. Also, Kickstarter, as I will be filming it all.
Emaho : I read that you were interested in buying an old car to travel with. What would be your ideal vehicle to travel in?
Actually a camper van. I’d like an old Winnebago for the American leg of the journey. If I had a lot of money, I’d probably whiz around in a Porsche 911 GT3; it would probably only take me a couple of weeks.
Art & Culture Interviewed by Ken Wallingford