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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VIDEO: The Roebuck – the pub with the best food waste strategy

Meet Jareth Mills, Head Chef at The Roebuck, a gastro-pub tucked away on the leafy side of the Borough.

His zero-waste policy earned his pub to be shortlisted for the Best Food Waste Strategy of the Sustainable Restaurant Association Awards in 2015.

In our interview on a sunny afternoon, Jareth shares with us his ethos, how his kitchen makes the most out of their ingredients and challenges he faces.

The Roebuck was also part of the FoodSave pilot scheme in 2014, where its kitchen waste was monitored for 3 months for analysis and review. The result showed that the pub could be saving up to £2,324 a year:

Communication with the customers is also an important part of running of The Roebuck. Even the artwork behind the bar tells you of the story of the pub’s efforts to be environmentally friendly:

And finally, his plans for the pub to sponsor a cherry tree and where his inspiration for zero-waste comes from:

 

David Swordy – The Blog of a Student a Bit TOO in Love with Food!

I have the great fortune to be writing this from Paris. My lovely girlfriend is a Parisian, so for a foodie like me, spending any time here with her family has me in food heaven. From the fresh baguettes for breakfast, to the fabulous restaurant fair, Paris food culture has me firmly in its jaws.

During this week I have eaten in both restaurants and from home. Home-made Salmon Gravlax one night, then Sushi at the wonderful Orient Extreme another – a restaurant which combines the classic Japanese cuisine of Sushi and Tempura with the interesting (and successful) addition of South American flavors. The best bit is, being a food-waste fanatic – they give you THE biggest doggy bag ever to take home with you – so none goes to waste folks. Doggy bags – not JUST for dogs 😉

The particular restaurant I will be reviewing however is the restaurant at the hotel La Forestière –  The Cazaudehore Restaurant Saint Germain en Laye.

Just outside of Paris, in the town of Saint Germain, the Cazaudehore restaurant – like the hotel – is surrounded by trees and accessed through one large gate; giving the restaurant a secluded feel – something which you certainly want when eating outside the city. The place originally was big for foraging, so wild food picking to make the most of the beautiful landscape and collect the food God gave us! Rather than buying tons from supermarkets and effectively throwing it away as soon as it becomes discoloured or ‘ugly’.

Due to the lovely weather sitting outside was a must. That period of pre-twilight that retains some of the heat from the day along with the atmosphere of a candle-lit dinner is – and was – the perfect time to eat.  Upon arrival the professional yet friendly front of house staff exhibited none of the snobbery one comes to associate with Parisian Waiters.

As per usual – due to my student status – money was as ever a consideration. Fortunately, various set menus were available, which also included the cost of a bottle of wine in to the price. We decided upon the Forestière menu, a well priced set-menu that still allowed for some choice within each course. To accompany this we selected a 2009 Chabili that we hoped might compliment our food.

Like any good set-menu,  there was an Amuse-bouche to start the meal. This was a salmon tartar that was incredibly good. When eating raw fish texture is important, however the thing that really determines the quality of the taste is its freshness. This Salmon was incredibly fresh, this, combined with finely diced shallot and fine seasoning was a great way to start a meal.

For my starter I had a fresh pea soup, lardon emulsion and foie gras. I expected a lighter dish due to the peas, but this dish was bold and gutsy. It was however surprisingly balanced, and also given that feel of extravagance with a healthy dose of truffle oil. In addition, the fact that it was actually a chilled soup served to balance it further and give a lightness to the dish.

Following this I had a dish that simply blew me away. I am undeniably carnivorous, I love all things meat. However I decided I needed to expand my tastes and went for the fish instead. I can safely say I was not disappointed. Rolled sea bream with aubergine fondant, garlic emulsion and stuffed conchiglioni pasta was the dish. Fish so delicate yet so flavorsome, I have never eaten. Aubergine – something which I’ve had very little of – slow cooked and seasoned to perfection made a wonderful combination with both the fish and the garlic.  My one criticism of this course; though the fresh pasta was very well made, seasoned, and stuffed, it did not match with the rest of the dish. My reasoning being that it was stuffed predominantly with aubergine, a flavor that already featured prominently within the dish.

Following this course we were served another Amuse-bouche, which I must say I found absolutely revolting. This was down to my personal taste however and not the fault of the restaurant. I strongly dislike Roquefort cheese; an emulsion of this with coco and nuts was not to my liking.

My taste buds soon recovered when served a deliciously decedent desert consisting of a rhubarb and white chocolate cake construction of some sort, served with a rhubarb sorbet. This was not a challenging dessert in terms of flavors and balance. However sometimes you can really appreciate just a good, tasty desert of wonderfully sweet tastes that leaves you – certainly full enough! The courses ARE  great size but the thing I’ve found in Paris is – they’re just enough and hardly anyone leaves anything on their plate – the culture, I noted seems to be much less wasteful than back in Britain.

This meal was delicious and fairly well priced at 71 euros. If you like staying at hotels that have their own (good) restaurant, then La Forestière certainly fits the bill.

David Swordy

 

 

 

 

 

Top food saving cafes in London

Want to grab cheap and healthy up-cycled food on the go? Here’s our list of London’s top picks…

Click on the map:

https://en.batchgeo.com/map/c7758504202df7e6e0f3cc442da4aefa
https://en.batchgeo.com/map/c7758504202df7e6e0f3cc442da4aefa
North London

1) The People’s Kitchen Passing Clouds (@PeoplesKitchen)

peoples kitchen
Image by @PeoplesKitchen_

A volunteer run community kitchen offering up surplus food dishes. Offers FREE cooking lessons at the Kingsmead Community Centre, Kingsmead Way.

Next event: community feasts served every other Saturday (from 7th February) at 6pm at the Concorde Youth Centre, Kingsmead Way, Hackney. Volunteers welcome from 3pm.

Location: Passing Clouds, 1 Richmond Road, Dalston, E8 4AA

Contact: 07824641927

save the date
Image by James Smart

2) Save The Date (@savethedatecafe)

Part of the nationwide Real Junk Food Project, Save the Date cafe is a pop-up kitchen in Dalston providing restaurant quality surplus food on a pay-as-you-feel basis. For more information read our interview with co-founder James Smart.

Location: Abbot Street, Dalston

Opening times: Wednesday- Friday, 3pm-10pm

Next event: Disco Soup, 20th March, 17:00-23:55. Find out more.

morningside
Image by @CafeMorningSide

3) Cafe Morningside (@CafeMorningSide) A community cafe in Hackney which values community, food sustainability and healthy eating. Volunteers welcome! To read more about Cafe Morningside see our article. Location: Morningside Community Centre, Cresset Road, Hackney

Contact: 07587083131

Opening times: Thursday and Friday, 9am-4pm

South London
brixton pk
Image by @BrixtonPK

4) Brixton People’s Kitchen (@BrixtonPK)

Part of the People’s Kitchen group, this Brixton community cafe run by volunteers cooks up surplus food for people across South London.

Contact: 07466653761 or volunteerwithbrixtonpk@gmail.com

Next event: 

East London

5) FoodCycle Pie in the Sky Cafe (@FoodCycleCafe)

FoodCycle-Logo
Image by @FoodCycle

The food saving charity, FoodCycle’s very own community cafe in Bromley by Bow. Run by volunteers it serves up affordable, healthy dishes made from surplus food.

Location: Bromley by Bow Centre, St Leonards Street

Contact: nicola@foodcycle.org.uk

Opening times: Monday-Friday, 8:30am-3:30pm

To find out more check out our liveblog and extended interview with cafe manager Nicola Corney. For other FoodCycle hubs across London visit their website.

West London

6) West London People’s Kitchen (@WestLondonPK)

west london peoples kitchen
Image by @WestLondonPK

Runs pop-up kitchens serving meals and snacks made from surplus food across West London, with payment on a pay-as-you-feel basis. Volunteers welcome!

Next event:

Morningside Cafe: Keeping Hackney sustainable

People enjoying a freshly cooked meal in a café may be an ordinary scene, but something is different about the Morningside Café.

This community café in Hackney serves food uses surplus ingredients donated by market traders and the menus change day by day, depending on what has become available. Its team includes refugee chefs and volunteers.

The pricing system works on the basis of Pay-As-You-Feel principle, which means the customers give the amount they want or can afford.

The founders of the Morningside Café are university students Lise and Francesca, who passionately believe in creating a community kitchen that works to reduce food waste. They have long been aware of the issue of perfectly edible food being dumped in the bin, thanks to their days of skipping. Skipping is a practice of salvaging food that has been thrown away by others, usually by shops or supermarkets.

The café currently opens only on Thursdays and Fridays, but the pair hope to launch monthly supper clubs and cookery classes as a part of the extension of their Morningside project.

Address: Morningside Community Centre, Cresset Road, E9 6SJ
Opening Times: Thursdays, Fridays from 9am-4pm

FEATURE: New cafe calls on Londoners to stop food waste

There are just weeks to go before the launch of a new cafe in Dalston which will create its dishes from surplus food donations.

Save the Date cafe will intercept and repackage food from supermarkets and food outlets that would otherwise go to over-crowded landfill sites.

The project aims to change attitudes in the UK on a larger scale through educational workshops and attracting the attention of big businesses.

We caught up with James Smart, the co-director and head chef at Save The Date, to talk about changing attitudes towards food waste and how to source your own leftovers.

save the date
Image by James Smart

Saving Food

Some 60 million tonnes of food are wasted in the UK every year.

James explained that the idea of the cafe is “to change people’s perspective on how we treat food, how we value food, and how we are wasting it.”

“There’s so much being wasted that’s good; if we did stop wasting all that food we could feed everybody in the world”.

The not-for-profit cafe will be run by volunteers and operate a strictly Pay-as-you-feel (PAYF) policy.

That means payment may be made through voluntary work at the cafe or through a donation of cash or equipment, such as a tea pot.

Food providers will include three of the UK’s largest supermarkets as well as various high-street cafe and restaurant chains.

The Real Junk Food Project

Save The Date is the latest initiative from from the anti-food waste organization, The Real Junk Food Project, whose first community cafe opened in Leeds in December 2013.

The network now spans 40 cafes across the UK, with plans to expand abroad to Uruguay, Japan, France and America.

As James pointed out, the project’s expansion shows that “more and more people are becoming aware of the issue”.

As part of the Real Junk Food Project network, Save the Date will be able to share resources and volunteers with other cafes.

The notoriety of the project has meant that Save The Date cafe has already received attention from the Green Party and Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Diane Abbott.

Image by @realjunkfoodLiv
Image by @realjunkfoodLiv

Educating the young

Save The Date plans to change people’s eating habits, starting with the youngest, through their schools programme.

James highlighted the importance of catching the problem at an early age.

“If kids learn to grow up that way and they know about ways to eat and about nutrition, hopefully by the time they’re older it will be naturally ingrained into them that you shouldn’t waste food.”

Supermarket attitudes

James believes that the key to making changes is to get big companies to take responsibility for their own food wastage.

“It should be made illegal to waste food.”

France is already in the early stages of doing just that.

A group of French MPs have drafted a law making it compulsory for supermarket chains to hand over all unsold food still fit for consumption to charity.

In May a law was passed in Belgium doing-away with ‘best before’ labels on coffee, rice, dry pasta, hard cheeses, jams and pickles to help reduce food wastage.

The highly successful ‘Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables’ initiative by French supermarket giant Intermarché, sees ugly fruit sold at a 30% discount to demonstrate to shoppers that it is still just as edible.

“People are willing to accept that food,” James pointed out, “it’s the supermarkets who think it’s cosmetically unfit”.

“The food’s sometimes even tastier and has more nutrients in it because it’s had longer to grow”.

Inglorious_Fruits_and_Vegetables
Source: http://www.permaculturenews.org/images/Inglorious_Fruits_and_Vegetables.jpg

Social benefit

The cafe’s PAYF policy promises to help members of the community in need.

Figures suggest that suicide rates have dropped in Leeds, in the area around the Real Junk Food Project’s community cafe.

“There were people spending seven days a week without food in the apartments across the road from the cafe.”

“They are now some of our best volunteers because they’re getting fed every day. Their whole life has changed around because of it”.

James is also keen to welcome the homeless to Save the Date.

“We don’t discriminate against anyone. In my ideal world I would have homeless people in my cafe sitting next to some of the richest people in the country”.

The Real Junk Food Cafe runs a number of soup kitchens and mobile catering vans, which James plans to introduce in London.

Do-It-Yourself

Save the Date also aims to encourage people to actively save food at home.

At the cafe’s ‘Food Boutique’ people will be able to pick up essential items for a small donation to save money on their weekly shop.

A ‘skipper’ himself, James encourages people to source their own surplus food but warns that it should be done “with extreme caution”.

Certain areas of London are better for ‘skipping’ than others, he told me.

It’s a good idea to ask for surplus food in markets where it’s often kept in a separate food bin to be taken to landfill.

Sourcing food in skips can be risky because “you don’t know what journey it’s been on to get there,” James explained.

“It’s all about using common sense.”

Knowing how the supermarkets’ bin system works is essential to avoiding potentially contaminated food.

Food-only bins destined for landfill are the safest option.

Above all, James warned, avoid entering anywhere unless you know that you have the right to.

Staying safe whilst skipping is important not only for your own well-being but for the impact of the anti-food waste cause.

“If someone get’s really ill and breaks the law while they’re doing it, all that will do is have a massive negative consequence on the whole of the industry”.

A key rule-of-thumb when skipping is never to take more than you need, since large communities, such as squats, depend on that food for survival.

As James summed up:

“The golden rule is common sense and never take more than you need.”

Save the Date cafe will open at the Bee Garden on Abbott Street in Dalston on 28th November. For more details and to volunteer visit their Facebook page.

Interview with David J Latto – The People’s Kitchen

When Finders Eaters heard about the People’s Kitchen, we just had to check it all out! And who better to ask than the People’s Kitchen’s own David J Latto. He takes control of the community aspect and making sure leftover food is made the most out of – by the people who really need it most.

Food Stall
Credit: Wikipedia

 

So! What’s this enterprise all about David?

“Essentially, we think that sharing food with strangers is one of the nicest ways to spread happiness. And if the food has been saved from going to waste, it makes it even tastier. That’s our philosophy anyway – and we hope more and more people are going to come to agree!”

When I popped down to meet him, I wanted to get the low-down on why ventures like these are so important – and he told me that a combination of love for food, and people – is the inspiration behind it all! And it’s in aid of people who might not have the means, particularly financially, to nourish themselves.

David tells me that the dedicated team behind him and the People’s Kitchen collect food that would otherwise be thrown away from local shops, markets and businesses: “We then invite people to cook together in a local kitchen, or on our bicycle kitchen – whether you just want to chop onions or are up for taking charge of a dish, you’re in.

-“After that, we welcome everyone to enjoy a meal on a donations basis.”

“Primarily, it’s a community – and that’s really the key thing here.” He assures me with a great deal of pride that first and foremost the staff are family, friends and neighbours, city folk with the same THREE goals.

Which Are?

“They’re always the same” David insists, everyone that has had anything to do with the People’s Kitchen follows them like law. “A fun law of course, don’t be put off!”

1. Getting people together. “It might be a cliché, but we believe food gets people talking.” So the People’s Kitchen events are completely collaborative, he says, and “we have made new friends at each single one.

2. Sharing skills and learn new ones. “Another cliché”: David says the People’s Kitchen love South London because of the diversity of its people…and its diversity of culinary skills: “We want to build on the expertise within our communities, swapping ideas and knowledge at our events. Our events include recipe swaps and cooking demonstrations from members of the community.”

3. Reducing food waste. Brixton is a key player as a food hub location wise with its array of markets and restaurants. According to the People’s Kitchen website: ‘It is estimated that 36% of Brixton’s waste is food. However, food waste from retailers only account for a small portion of the total amount of food we waste – the majority actually comes from households. We want to avoid moralising and instead inspire people through hands-on cooking sessions that encourage people to think about creative ways around food waste reduction.’

Essentially the key word is community. “That’s what we’re all about, community feel, community drive, community spirit, and this is reflected in the People’s Kitchen THREE most important goals.” (see above!)

 

So what are the aims – and just who is this food-friendly feast for?!

 

  • Getting people together. It might be a cliché, but we believe food gets people talking. (people’s kitchen events are completely collaborative) “we have made new friends at each single one!”
  • Sharing skills and learn new ones. Another cliché: we love South London because of the diversity of its people…and its diversity of culinary skills. We want to build on the expertise within our communities, swapping ideas and knowledge at our events. Our events include recipe swaps and cooking demonstrations from members of the community.
  • Reducing food waste. With its markets and numerous restaurants, Brixton is a food hub. It is estimated that 36% of Brixton’s waste is food. However, food waste from retailers only account for a small portion of the total amount of food we waste – the majority actually comes from households. We want to avoid moralising and instead inspire people through hands-on cooking sessions that encourage people to think about creative ways around food waste reduction.

Fancy Volunteering? Or just keeping up to date on what’s going on in the Greater London area that you can enjoy?

People’s Kitchens

There are several People’s Kitchens in London.Dalston

“We always need volunteers.. if you’d like to help cook/peel/chop we begin at 3pm”
Or if you’d like to just come and eat; dinner is served at 6pm (& on a donations basis)
join the facebook group:
& if you have any other questions you can email d.latto@yahoo.com
At Passing Clouds: 1 Richmond Road, Dalston, E8 4AA
BrixtonThe Brixton kitchen runs at Myatt’s Fields and have a mobile kitchen – so can be anywhere.To follow the Brixton kitchen

http://brixtonpk.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/BrixtonPeoplesKitchen

https://twitter.com/BrixtonPK

For more info on what we at Finders Eaters are going to be getting involved in around Greater London inspired by #foodwaste – tweet us right now @finderseaters_ or comment below! #PuttheFunbackintoFood!!