So many fun, foodie related things have been happening over the last few weeks and months. Sometimes when I stop and think about it all, about everything that’s happened in the past 7 months I think “wow, Fi, amazing! You’re really doing this”
After my stages at Violet and Ottolenghi, I knew I didn’t want to stop cooking but it was time to face facts. I needed to start earning some money. My days of cooking for unpaid work experience were gone; it was time to get a job.
I registered with a couple of chefing agencies and through them got jobs working in various kitchens across London. Usually these were in corporate kitchens in private financing companies or law firms. Places I never knew existed until I found myself working in them! Quite fascinating kitchens, they normally do a mixture of breakfasts, lunches (either a la carte or buffet style) and evening canapes / events for their employees. As an employee benefit, they usually have a pretty good budget to spend and focus on good quality food that is both healthy and delicious. So not a bad place to be cooking. Plus the other (major quite frankly) benefit is that it’s all in office hours, so my days would normally be 7am – 3pm and no weekends. Very, very reasonable. It might not be what I want to do long term, but in the short term this has been a great way of keep cooking, keeping my skills up and start to earn the all important ££.
I also found a small, boutiquey catering company called Dayan and Webb who I have been working for on a semi-regular basis as an assistant chef. Doing mainly bespoke lunches and canapes for corporate clients, this small company is run by two fellow career-changers who have a lovely philosophy towards the food they cook. Their offering is mainly modern British with a twist; they use beautiful ingredients and think so carefully not just about the food and flavours, but how it will be delivered, presented and how the customer will open it up and actually eat the food. Which, from a Service Design perspective I love. Their focus on the corporate sector means this is another Monday to Friday type job… again, ideal!
I’ve also been lucky enough to meet and work with the wonderful Josephine O’Hare. A fellow Ballymaloe graduate, Joey was on Masterchef The Professionals last year and was the final female standing, making it through to the top 10. Besides this just fantastic achievement, Joey is a private chef in London and runs a series of pop-up supper clubs; Hare on the Hill. (She is also just such a lovely, down to earth and wonderful girl). These supper clubs are so much fun, bespoke dinner parties which take place at this awesome photography studio on Lavender Hill in Clapham. Anywhere from 20 – 40 people come to the studio which gets transformed into a makeshift dining room.
Joey cooks beautiful, seasonal veg centric food and also loves making just-as-delicious-if-not-better-than-the-original alternatives to white flour and refined sugar heavy dishes. Her alternative brownies (gluten and refined sugar free) are seriously delicious. Not some half arsed healthy substitute which makes you wonder why you’d bother. With Joey I’ve been lucky enough to be assisting her as a fellow cook; prepping and then serving and plating. I love her seasonal, veggies-as-the-superstar focus and relaxed dining experience she creates.
But the project I’m most excited about and proud of is creating Kiwi & Roo; a new foodie business with my lovely friend Lara. Lara is one of my good buddies over here, a fellow antipodean with a serious penchant for eating. She’s heading off to Leiths Cookery School in September and we share lots of the same views about everything to do with food, cooking and eating.
Lara lives over in Leyton, a part of East London near Stratford and the Olympic Park. While this area is quite far out of the city, it’s become pretty popular with people looking to buy their first homes as it’s still relatively affordable. It falls firmly into the ‘used to be a bit dodgy but now seriously up and coming’ category. Leyton have just started a new Saturday food market in the beautiful Coronation Gardens, just off the High Street. And it was while Lara and I were visiting the market back in May that Kiwi & Roo and our foodie idea was born!
Kiwi & Roo is our baby, our street-food stall making delicious, asian inspired steak sandwiches. Half Vietnamese Banh Mi, half classic English steak sandwich. It’s basically everything we like to eat in a fresh ciabatta roll. Delicious, fresh, loads of flavour and colour. If Antipodean was a cuisine, this would be it.
We’ve had such fun setting up our concept, recipe testing, designing the menu, creating out stall and tasting and iterating with friends and family. From start to finish, end to end we’ve created it all. And then finally on 9th of July we had our first stall.
And even better than all of this is IT WAS SUCH FUN! Even though we were up at 2am painting signs. Even though the bread delivery man arrived 2.5 hours later at 4.30am. Even though we bought the wrong gas bottle and had to madly dash out to get another one. Even though after running our second stall a week later we’ve made money but not yet made any profit. It’s just been the best experience.
So far we’ve done two Saturday slots, but both of these have been filling in positions for permanent stall holders. However, we’re hopeful that our one offs are going to turn into something longer term as well as get us out there into the wider world of street food markets and festivals. You can check us out here http://www.kiwiandroo.com
However it’s not been all food related. I’ve been doing a couple of short term projects for my old company Nile and I’m shortly about to start a 3 month Service Design gig with another agency in London. This might mean the next few months have a bit less of a foodie focus than the first half of the year, but that’s all good. All part of discovering the right balance of food and living and cooking that I want to try and have in my life.
I’ll be a bit sad not to be in chef whites as regularly but it will be great to get the old grey matter engaged in a different way. Plus I plan to keep cooking as much as possible in the next few months… so let’s see what they bring.
Watch this space