'We knew we’d need to survive during this time, there’s not enough support for business owners'

When your business solely relies on the sharing of food and social interaction, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic could be devastating.

Faced with the stark reality that their hospitality businesses were going to suffer, founder of London-based feasting company Forage and Feast, Jacinta Sninira, and Jasmine Wheelhouse founder of Earles and Co, an event management company, joined forces.

They launched London Kitchen, a food delivery service of home cooked meals, with a portion of those donated to NHS frontline staff.

“We had seven events scheduled this summer but as they’re mass gatherings they’ve been cancelled, whilst we’re all trapped inside," Jasmine said.

“It was kind of a bit ‘what do we do now?’ I knew Jacinta was planning to do catering and my expertise is logistics. Don’t get me wrong I love cooking and eating but we’ve come together and we’re delivering across London.”

It was a matter of survival for both businesses, with Jacinta facing similar challenges a few weeks ago when she had to realign her business model, a bittersweet moment for a business that was thriving.

“I started Forage and Feast last year, but started playing with the idea in 2018,” Jacinta said. “I’ve worked in hospitality for about 20 years, I saw feasting become such a big thing in Australia. It took me a while to have guts to do this myself. I was managing independents but wanted to do it myself. So, I started Forage and Feast and did some private events and the reception was amazing.

“It’s all about produce, I’m really into food. At the beginning of this year I had some pop ups with Unwind, which is run by a friend of mine. It was working really well, I had just set up a permanent collaboration with them when all this happened and it all came to a stop.

“That was my first foray into doing hot food, I’ve always cooked for friends and family and they used to say ‘it’s amazing’. One of my brothers said, ‘why don’t you do this,’ so I thought I’d give it a go in terms of delivering food.”

With ingredients locally sourced, a fridge stocked with cooked meals and a car packed full for delivery, you’d expect there to be a huge team behind London Kitchen. Incredibly, however, it’s just Jasmine and Jacinta at the helm, at least for now.

“We kind of both knew where our strengths lied, and we knew we’d need to survive during this time as there’s not enough support for directors and business owners,” Jasmine said. “I don’t qualify for the job retention scheme, or anything else. We want to make the business continue to run, at the same time we wanted to do our bit.

“There’s so many people less fortunate than us, and so many on the frontline battling this crazy disease. These NHS workers couldn’t get into supermarkets; we were seeing that on the news. They’re doing 13/14 hour days so we thought it would be cool to give something back, for every meal plan purchased through us we give four meals to the NHS.”

So, how do you purchase the meals?

“People can book a half week of meals, which is three meals for two people at £55 or a full week, six meals for two people for £105," Jacinta explained. "It’s like having a private chef every week, which we think is a good deal. We deliver free in London.

"If you book a half-week we donate two meals to NHS, if you book a full week then we give four. You can also go to our website and just book meals for NHS workers, which is at a cost price. So, someone just booked 50 meals for the NHS, so we’ll be cooking that up. We’ll be delivering 90 meals for the NHS this week!”

So, what exactly are they cooking? While many of us are eating pasta or tacos for the third time this week, Jacinta and Jasmin have put together some delicious menus. But, with length queues outside local supermarkets and some stores running out of certain ingredients, how are they managing?

We’re using local shops to source ingredients to try and support them,” Jacinta said. “We’re in east London we have a few good options, but I’m sure they think we’re eating all this food ourselves! We plan the recipes then go and get what we need. We’ve been lucky so far with finding ingredients.

The spring pea risotto was super popular, we’ve done a beef kofta, aubergine Parmigianino. We’ve had a lot of requests for those! It’s comfort food and it’s delicious. It’s food we’d like to eat.”

If you'd like to purchase a meal for an NHS frontline worker, you can do so here: https://www.weareearles.co.uk/eat/delivery/support-our-nhs

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