INTERVIEW Jenius Social’s Jennifer Yong talks about creating connections through food

Following Finders Eaters interview with restaurant manager Michelle Brittain, we wanted to get the industry response on whether cookery classes and aesthetically appealing ‘food porn’ can make us ruthless in our efforts to impress, throwing out food which is dubbed ‘ugly.’ Who better to talk to than self-professed foodie and cookery class connoisseur Jennifer Yong!

Credit: Jennifer Yong
Credit: Jennifer Yong

Jen’s business – @jeniussocial – embraces the idea of social eating. The Jenius Social team offer not only cookery classes, but supperclubs, tastings, masterclasses and more…

Jenius Social

But are they sustainable foodies? I popped down to Hornsey Street in Islington and visited their venue at Studio 8 to find out… After a tour of the studio and kitchen facilities, which are spacious enough for about 30 people if it’s a hands-on cookery class – Jen sharing her hopes with me that Jenius Social will continue to be a watering hole for foodies who want to share, create and love food together – even without the huge range of classes the team are offering – she showed me around her delectable on-site deli.

“Creating Connections Through Food”

Despite some Jenius Social events bearing names such as ‘Pimp My Profiteroles’ – promising to ‘pimp your presentation skills like never before’ – Jen says that in her business, love of food is never lost to aesthetics. On the contrary, ‘I started up Jenius Social because I wanted to make connections through food, not tear them up at the roots.’ She acknowledges the need for society in general to be less wasteful, and suggests that any venue serving food or hosting events involving food has a responsibility, not only to its customers and the community but to itself and its staff, to minimise unnecessary waste.

The Challenges

‘Obviously it can be very difficult, when holding a cooking class, to judge how much each person taking part will eat, and how to divide the ingredients, ration and ratio it accurately,’ says Jennifer. Luckily for her, her previous job running digital ventures in the financial sector means she has a lot of transferrable skills which, along with her passion for food and socialising, have become the lifeblood of her business which she says she runs with the right combination of passion, fun, proportion and efficiency. In fact, Jen explained during our interview the waste-saving benefits of her cookery classes, and emphasised that Jenius Social and their customers have a genuine love and respect for their food. And that is why they come. Teaching people skills such as the proper way to fillet flat and round fish, and pinboning can be a very cost-effective way to get the most out of the fish and maximise the amount of flesh you retain when filleting, and that’s just one example, she says.

The Rewards

Guiding people how to source quality food in a cost-effective way is another service Jenius Social prides itself on. Knowing your food inside out, living it, breathing it, knowing how to prepare, cook and store it in the right way, is one of the best things you can teach to reduce food waste, Jen suggests. ‘In building this business I wanted to fuse my two favourite things: food and socialising, I realised there was nowhere in London that quite had that greet, eat and meet community vibe that I craved. But with Jenius Social, I hope I’ve created a place where food, passion, sustainability, and of course – community – collide.’

‘As Kevin Costner knows’, her website boasts, “If you build it, they will come.” Aaand if that’s not enough – as well as being food efficient, Jen tells me she is also space waste savvy to encourage her customers to mingle! ‘That’s the reason I designed my venue’ (Jenius Social has just four preparation tables) ‘people have to sit together, people have to work together, and get to know each other.’

Want to hear more? Listen to Jenius Social’s Head Chef Andrew Clements and Jennifer Yong discussing their venture here:

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