So I’m writing this at my desk whilst simultaneously hoovering up some Pret-a-Manger chicken and brown rice soup…
Not very original or foodie-ish of me, I know, but it’s quick and just so damn comforting. (Fun fact about me – I always prefer eating from takeaway plastic or wooden cutlery over household metal ones. Don’t know why, just do.)
Why am I in such a hurry? I’m trying to squeeze a blog post into a small time-gap between a talk about supper clubs and the food industry (given by some insanely cool food gurus) and work at Patty. (I wrote a short blog post yesterday about my promotion at Patty & Bun and why I’m okay with it keeping me so busy).
In Discussion at Foyles
The talk I just mentioned was hosted by food writer Julia Leonard on the sixth floor of the Foyles bookstore on Charing Cross Road. On the panel were:
Sabrina Ghayour – Persian chef, supper club hostess and cookbook author
Zoe Adjonyoh – Ghanian chef and owner of Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen (Brixton)
Selin Kiazim – Chef and owner of Oklava (Shoreditch)
AKA: my new idols.
When asked how they came to discover that the food industry was for them, all three women mentioned their passion for bringing strangers together over food. It reminded me of Dishoom’s barrier-breaking ethos, and I instantly liked them.
Zoe Adjonyoh began her journey offering ladles of stew from her front door during a street festival in Hackney Wick. A year later – with no public servings in between – she and her girlfriend decided to open their flat up and serve hungry locals during the festival. This escalated into a kind of super-supper-club, with hundreds of people packing into Zoe’s flat. I can imagine the amazing flavours of Ghanian street food, so it doesn’t surprise me that people kept coming back! A few years down the line, and Ghana Kitchen is in residence at Pop Brixton.
Sabrina Ghayour had a background in restaurants and events before deciding to concentrate on cooking. Bringing Persian and Middle Eastern food to the supper club scene, she quickly became a success. When asked why she didn’t pursue her own restaurant, she answered that she had friends whose restaurants ran into trouble, there is lots to worry about, and “starting a restaurant is like having a baby. You can’t leave it alone for a minute”. A fair point, I think. If a little daunting.
She did say, however, that having events and hospitality experience really helps when running supper clubs because the discipline and knowledge you need is very similar (things like keeping everything clean, fast service etc.). So at least there’s that!
Sabrina instead chose to pursue lots of smaller projects: she teaches cookery, runs her supper club, chefs for pop ups, and more.
Selin Kiazim became a chef through a perhaps more traditional path: she studied at a catering college and then worked with acclaimed chef Peter Gordon at The Providores in Marylebone. She then opened Turkish-Cypriot restaurant Oklava with business partner Laura Christie. The menu of Oklava reflects Selin’s heritage, and she has earned amazing reviews.
The talk brought up two main thinking-points for me.
The first is that I could collaborate with young chefs to achieve more. I’m still a hopeless cook, but I am pretty organised. Just like Selin and business partner Laura (who, according to Selin, “does all the boring bits”), perhaps I could start looking for talented chefs for whom I could do all the boring bits? If anyone knows any talented young chefs, send them my way!
The second is that the three amazing chefs who talked to us this afternoon all had vibrant, hospitable heritages. All three cultures that London is hungry for, food that many people have not tried yet.
I’m not so sure that people are hungry for Essex…
I need to start thinking, then, of how I can make my “brand” stand out and how I can contribute something original and interesting to the food industry.
Supper Club progress
The talk today re-inspired me. However, over the past couple of weeks I have been making some small progress towards hosting my first supper club!
Sam and I made a mind-map of the first menu. It will feature seasonal greens (asparagus in particular, which is best in June and July), salmon, and (if we can pull it off) scallops to start. I’m especially interested in seafood, and summer is the perfect time to start learning to cook it! For dessert we are going to make a simple vanilla cheesecake, which shouldn’t be too difficult…
Our first practice of cheesecake, however, was not too promising. I think Jamie Oliver went a bit OTT in his recipe, because the zest of a whole orange and a whole lemon meant that the cheesecake was not very vanilla-y at all. And the base made up about half of the desert. Not such a successful first shot, but we’ll give it another go.
I also bought Jackson&Levine’s Round To Ours, which is proving very inspiring. Their mood-setting tips are golden.
Perhaps there is hope for me yet, anyway. At least I’m feeling very inspired by the talk today, and plan to focus on the supper club over the next week!
Date someone who sends you cards
One final thing – hi Sam. If you’re reading this while you’re at Glastonbury then you are a sweetheart, thank you. I always look forward to seeing you, but never more so than I am looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday. Sunday isn’t the same when you aren’t here.
For anyone reading these posts via email, make sure to visit the site to see pretty pictures!