I LOVE TWITTER. I saw a tweet from Kitchen Table Projects yesterday, talking about their new pop up at Old Street station. I responded, and got an invite to go along a few hours later to their very first event of the summer.
For those who aren’t aware, Kitchen Table Projects is an incubator that acts as a starting point for emerging artisan food producers to make their visions come to life. It’s run by Tara Sundramoorthi, a former pastry chef-turned-cafe-owner who did an Innovation & Entrepreneurship Masters at Imperial College and then founded the business using her skills and experience. Their tagline is ‘championing artisan food producers’, so how could I resist?
This summer’s big thing for them is the Artisan Springboard: a 12 week retail incubator programme that helps artisan food businesses to the next level. They have 11 of their own brands instore, from chutney to oil, sweets, sauces, dressings and alcoholic cupcakes, with an awesome ‘feedback wall’ asking rotating questions of people via iPads to get instant feedback, something they’d rarely get the opportunity to do.
The shop itself is a DELIGHT. I spent a LOT. Alongside the 11 brands above, it’s lined from floor to ceiling with amazing producers of artisan goods, from the smallest new businesses to some medium-sized ones you can only get in a few delicatessens. There were some real treats; my finds of the evening were Dips‘ Nadidee Preserved Lemon Chutney (one of Kitchen Table Project’s brands) and Rod & Ben’s Red Pepper Spicy Salsa – the latter is sadly quite hard to find, though you *can* get their soups at Abel & Cole, the former I’m going to try to interview Managing Director Hershil soon. Both of which we were served on toasted sourdough from the ‘Jam Bar’ while being plied with iced water (hottest day of the year and all). Everything else I found you’ll have to wait and see!
Anyway, back to the event. The Artisan Springboard has been open for a week and a half already, and yesterday they hosted their first #kitchentabletalks – an evening event of informal talks, Q&A and food tasting. Yesterday’s focus was ‘The Stories’ and featured their two best-selling products of the first few weeks (since it was a tie); The London Marshmallow Company, and Milk & Date. Plus Ed and Richard from Doisy & Dam, and Jonny from Spoon Cereals.
London Marshmallow Company’s story about starting their business after making Christmas presents was lovely (and familiar, see the candy cane ones I’ll be making this year here). Milk & Date spoke so genuinely about the generations of families drinking the fairly unknown combination (in Europe at least) of milk and dates, from West Africa all the way to the Far East, which is kept refrigerated and comes in original, cinnamon and ginger variations. I tried the tester shots, and the cinnamon one was delicious.
Ed & Richard, two longtime friends, set up their superfood-infused chocolate business a few years ago as a response to not being able to find a nutritious treat they could enjoy, and spoke about their strategy of going small first before ramping up to big box stores, and are now in almost 200. They said that ‘asking for help’ was the absolute best thing to do as a foodie startup, and sung the praises of Old Street’s food market from both a sales and product testing perspective.
Jonny from Spoon Cereals spoke about experimenting wildly with dried and fresh produce at Barnes Food Fair. Having just been invested in by Dragons Den’s Deborah Mearden and Peter Jones, they flagged ‘great graphic design’ (since co-founder Annie is an ex-advertising exec) as helping them stand out. Spoon’s granola is made with maple syrup, which would typically make the product more expensive – but larger deals with big retailers have lowered this. This means greater taste, lower sugar, and an amazing product! The Cinnamon & Pecan, and Peanut & Apple are going nationwide in August.
You can buy Dips’ chutneys at Cockfosters Deli (and several food fairs over summer), The London Marshmallow company at 3 places across London, Milk & Date via firstname.lastname@example.org and Doisy & Dam online here.