Swimming into the mainstream: The Ahi Poké founders on brand expansion

By Georgia Bronte contact

- Last updated on GMT

Ahi Poke founders Jeremy Coste, Gabriel Cohen-Elia and David Ballaiche
Ahi Poke founders Jeremy Coste, Gabriel Cohen-Elia and David Ballaiche
Hawaiian-themed restaurant Ahi Poké is opening its third site, in London’s new Bloomsberg Arcade development later this month.

Founded in 2016 by Jeremy Coste, Gabriel Cohen-Elia and David Ballaiche, fast casual poké restaurant was born when the trio found they craved the raw fish dish after returning from a trip to Los Angeles.  

The group is well underway with its expansion plan, with a fourth bricks-and-mortar site set to open in Spitalfields in the New Year.

Where did you train and where did your passion for the restaurant trade come from?
Jeremy Coste:  I’ve always had a passion for food. My father is a baker in my home city of Grenoble in France and I grew up helping him to bake fresh bread and pastries before going to school in the mornings. I learned French cooking in Lyon at the Institut Paul Bocuse and then I worked in several fine dining restaurants such as Jean Francois Piege in Paris, which was a life changing experience. 

Poké has only recently become popular in the UK. Where did your inspiration for the restaurant come from?
JC:  After a trip to LA Gabriel came back describing this amazing dish originally from Hawaii but with a Californian twist. We started to work on our own poké recipes and we loved it. We liked the Californian vibe that the dish had with raw and healthy products and Japanese techniques that I learned along my career. Poké is a dish that ticks all the boxes: it's healthy, nutritious, full of colour, filling, and it tastes really good. That’s why it’s becoming so popular. 

You also operate NAC and Chez Chow. Why is Ahi Poké the one you have chosen to take to more than one site?
David Bellaiche: It’s a straightforward operation with a smaller footprint than NAC and Chez Chow which are neighbourhood restaurants and bars. We opened Ahi Poké with the hope that we’d provide a healthy, casual lunch and dinner alternative and it’s really exciting that that’s what we’re able to do now.

You also trade at Nova Victoria as well as your flagship Fitzrovia site. What are the differences between the sites? 
DB: The customers differ slightly, with Nova being more lunch focused & Fitzrovia having a big eat-in component
Gabriel Cohen-Ellia: We always look for new sites with character. Both Nova Victoria and Fitzrovia fit the bill, and we think the Bloomberg Arcade will too.

A selection of the brand's poké bowls
A selection of the brand's poké bowls

The application for developments such as Bloomberg is notoriously difficult. What was the application process for Bloomberg Arcade?
GCE: We met with Bloomberg’s team, presented our concept and ethos and did a tasting, after which we found out we had been selected to be part of the arcade. We’re really grateful to be alongside some fantastic restaurants. We’re next to operators such as Caravan, Koya and Brigadiers - it really is testament to the team and London’s hunger for poké.
JC: Given our emphasis on sustainability, we are very happy to be part of what is said to be the world’s most sustainable office building

Where are you opening next?
JC: We will be opening at the Old Spitalfields Market, another wonderful neighbourhood full of great stalls and restaurants. We're really excited about that.
DB: We only look to open a new site if we feel that we could add value to the neighbourhood, but we look forward to bringing Ahi Poké to as many Londoners as possible.

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