The Rebel Company
Who We Are

We’re a dynamic collective of strategists, creatives, food fanatics and seasoned operators. United by our passion for purpose-driven hospitality.

We build concepts and brands that stand out from the crowd and connect businesses to their communities.

For the free-spirited, the discerning and the curious. 👇🏼

How We Do It
We find the sweet spot where strategy and creativity meet talented people, responsible business, and operational excellence.
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How We Do It

We find the sweet spot where strategy and creativity meet talented people, responsible business, and operational excellence.

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Our services


Brand Audit
Brand Strategy
Concept Development
Feasibility & Positioning
Investor Decks


Visual Identities
Website UX & Creative
Print, Packaging, Digital
Signage & Way-finding


Menu Development
Creative Direction
Project Management
Strategic Partnerships
Operations Planning

Current and previous clients


Hilton Hotels
Marriott International
Moxy Hotels
Aloft Hotels
AC Hotels
Sheraton Hotels


British Land
Here East
Mount Capital


Eats Thyme
Rosa’s Thai Cafés
Sager & Wilde
Burger & Lobster
Zelman Meats
Hide Restaurant
Workshop Coffee
MW Eat
Charlotte’s Group
Rudie’s Real Jerk

Pubs & Bars

Draft House
Brew By Numbers
Smoky Tails
The Lark Company

Events & Catering

Really Useful Theatres
Camm & Hooper
Bennett Hay

Members Clubs

Soho House
Conduit Club
Muthaiga Club


Tula Food
Vernon House 4
Case Study
Vernon House, Primrose Hill
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Case Study

Vernon House, Primrose Hill

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We helped Mount Capital to bring a collection of private studios to life in Primrose Hill

This project saw us working in the property sector for the first time as we were tasked with coming up with a brand strategy and visual identity for a lovingly refurbished row of Georgian townhouses in Primrose Hill, North London providing 64 beautifully appointed studio apartments alongside communal living areas.

We began with a tweaked version of our Roadshow product which involved extensive local area research to develop a narrative for the project; gaining an understanding of the various competitors across co-living, traditional serviced apartments and disruptive long stay brands; and working to define the target audiences for the property.

Our response was a brand that placed the local character, charm and heritage of this famous neighbourhood at the heart of the project, bringing stories from local businesses into the project to cement Vernon House at the heart of the local community, making sure residents feel at home and connected a soon as they arrive.

We developed a guest journey that bought in elements of a hotel experience but dialled these down into a subtle, unobtrusive way of connecting with, welcoming, and serving the residents without the feeling of a managed environment.

We also built

Ed Francis
Strategy Director
Paul McVey
Creative Director
Mike Pawlukiewicz
Design Director
Interior Design
Local Area Photography
Interior Photography
Kurami Page 04
Case Study
Kurami, London
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Case Study

Kurami, London

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We helped Camilla Pigozzi Garofalo to bring a health and wellness-inspired meal subscription business to life.

Our brief was to create a brand from scratch that would appeal to a discerning, predominantly female audience who are looking to marry convenience with health and wellness when deciding how and what they eat.

Our response was a brand that took its cues from high end cosmetic and beauty brands, delivering a minimal and slick identity with touches of colour, flair and personality.

The name Kurami was created collaboratively with the Italian client, bringing together the elements of a personal journey - the “Mi” - and an implication of how eating the right things can have enormous health benefits - “Kura” meaning Cure in Italian.

We conducted extensive competitor and market analysis to understand where the opportunities were for a fresh, innovative brand and proposition, before going on to develop the strategic approach, company value proposition, visual identity, packaging design and digital assets for social media.

We briefing in PR and Marketing partners, and provided production and creative direction for a product and lifestyle photoshoot to bring the food and drink to life.

Ed Francis
Strategy Director
Paul McVey
Creative Director
Mike Pawlukiewicz
Design Director
Culinary Development
Food Photography
Food Styling
Product Photography
Print and Digital Design
Beauty PR
4th floor restaurant
Case Study
The Conduit Club, Mayfair
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Case Study

The Conduit Club, Mayfair

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A Food and Drink Programme Championing Sustainability and Social Responsibility

The Conduit is a community of individuals passionate about social change, with world class food and drink at the heart of the experience.

Menus support the club’s wider goal. Promoting sustainability and social betterment. Engendering a better understanding of the trends, opportunities and forces shaping our world.

Michael was instrumental in developing the project from site acquisition through to the opening. Including supporting with raising a £35 million investment.

For the food & drink programme deliverables and results included -
1. The creative brief and vision for the project. Ensuring the club's ethos translated into the food and drink experiences across the club's 40,000 square feet.
2. Hiring the executive culinary team and collaborating on menu development
3. Travelling extensively to formalise direct supplier relationships
4. Securing drinks sponsorship of over £500,000

Michael introduced several forward-thinking initiatives. Including -
1. Eliminating single-use plastics by creating bespoke disposable products. And delivered in collaboration with Margent Farm and Cambridge University.
2. Engaging charities The Clink and Beyond Food Foundation. Creating meaningful employment for disenfranchised men and women in London.
3. Establishing a Guest Chef programme. Opening with a week-long pop-up by Massimo Bottura. Leading to an ongoing programme of engaging food and social impact-orientated events.

1 Rosas
Case Study
Rosa's Thai Cafés, UK
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Case Study

Rosa's Thai Cafés, UK

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We helped Rosa’s Thai Cafés to create an inspiring environment that makes people happy

Throughout the three years we worked together, we became almost a part of the team, working with the support office team collaboratively whilst delivering solutions to their current challenges, alongside products to deliver consistent improvement and innovation on a wide variety of projects.

Rosa’s always put culture and employee engagement ahead of anything else, and their defining belief that they exist “To Create An Inspiring Environment That Makes People Happy” became a yardstick with which to measure everything they did.

“Ed and his team at Rebel have done a fantastic job on all that has been asked of them. I cannot speak highly enough of them and would heartily recommend their services to others in the hospitality industry.”

Alex Moore, Founder and Chairman, Rosa’s Thai Café’s

Mike Gibson landscape
The journalist and content strategist on telling compelling stories, the future of restaurants, and sustainable eating and drinking
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The journalist and content strategist on telling compelling stories, the future of restaurants, and sustainable eating and drinking

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In conversation with Foodism's Mike Gibson

What were you doing before Foodism, and how did your journey lead you to write about food? Is this something you’ve always been passionate about?

You could say I took some time to find my niche. After I graduated with a film degree I was working as a freelance videographer. This is how I came to be at my old publisher, Square Up Media.

They were publishing Square Mile and Hedge at the time and were just about to launch Escapism. So when the chance came up to start writing some small features for the magazines and websites, I took it.

Fast-forward a few months and the company was keen to launch a food title. I was asked to launch Foodism as a weekly newsletter and website. All overseen by my old editor Jon Hawkins.

I loved food, wine, and cooking already. And was keen to get stuck into an industry that I had always thought was exciting. In a city with a world-leading food scene.

A year after that we launched Foodism as London’s biggest food and drink magazine, I worked my way up from editorial assistant to associate editor. And then from deputy editor to editor in 2018.

There are loads of brilliant people who’ve contributed to Foodism’s success over the years. But it’s nice to be able to say I published the first words on its website. And worked on every single one of its 42 issues. It’s very close to my heart.

Foodism relaunched late last year after a year out of publication. What were you most excited about and what can readers expect from the revamp?

The last decade or two haven’t been kind to the publishing industry. There are so many great magazine brands. Many went out of business through circumstances totally beyond their control. Some at a time when they were arguably at the top of their game.

Early 2020 was a difficult time. Square Up Media ceased trading and the future of the brand was up in the air for a good few months.

But I’m pleased to say that what could have been the end was just a few months’ hiatus. Along with its sister title Escapism, it was bought by some of my old colleagues at Threadneedle Media.

They'd taken Square Mile and Hedge. Steering them through the choppy waters of the pandemic.

The setup isn't as it was before. And whilst the team’s a little smaller, it’s great to be working on Foodism again. And with a few of the people who were there from its inception.

I’ve also got my old mate and colleague Lydia Winter with me. All being well, she'll be overseeing a similar relaunch of Escapism later this year.

It’s great not only to have helped turn another negative story for the industry into a positive one. But also to prove that magazine publishing is still a viable business.

People still want to seek out great content. In print as well as online.

In terms of the magazine itself, it’s had a design refresh and I’ve commissioned some new writers. We’re working with some exciting new partners and advertisers who've been brilliant with their support for the relaunch.

Aside from that, it’s been great to use the magazine as a way to show support for the hospitality industry. Encouraging readers to support their favourite venues even while their doors are closed.

I can’t wait to be working on Foodism when restrictions have lifted and Londoners are eating and drinking out again. The industry’s been incredibly resilient and the at-home stuff’s been great. But getting in amongst it is what it’s all about.

Outside of Foodism, you’ve been busying yourself with some freelance content and strategy work. What have been some of the highlights over the last twelve months?

It’s been a period of adjustment. 15 months ago I was very much a magazine editor who never had the time or headspace for freelance work. Now I’m very much a freelancer, editing a magazine around my work in content strategy.

One good thing about the role of a modern magazine editor is that hands-on work with some of the biggest brands in the business goes with the territory. Especially at a publication that’s funded totally by advertising.

After I’d been editing Foodism for a while, we’d expanded into sub-brands, event platforms, branded content, and large-scale commercial partnerships. So my day-to-day was as commercial as it was editorial.

That put me in a great position to approach brands as a freelancer. Working with them to connect with their audiences through engaging content. Which is the niche I’m carving out now.

The sweet spot between brand comms and editorial is where I’m seeing the best results. I’ve done some fun work with food and drinks brands in the last year.

From e-commerce projects for drinks brand owners to working with wine regions on their marketing materials. I'm also working on content strategy for soon-to-launch hospitality platforms.

Then in addition to my freelance work, some friends and I started High Water. The creative agency - run as a collective - acts as a structure for direct branding work. From visual identity and design to tone of voice and positioning work, consumer-facing brand copy, and published products.

It’s still in the early stages at the moment. But it’s been really fun to build something bigger than just me outside of Foodism.

How do you think the restaurant and food worlds are going to change over the next twelve months? Do you think we’re in for the roaring twenties, or continued hardship?

Hospitality is an amazing industry. Shortfalls need to be made up for and rent is an issue - now more than ever. But it’ll start making money again from the moment the restrictions ease.

Outdoor dining is already booked up across the board. Even before places have opened back up. So I think operators can expect full venues from the word go.

I do think that carries with it an implicit danger, though. We're unlikely to have a clear picture for a while. And whilst the first weeks and months after lockdown may be buoyant. We mustn't overlook the long-term effects of the last 12 months. Consumer behaviour may have changed forever.

Having said that. A lot of people attribute the growth of street food and the casual-dining sector to the 2008 financial crash. It forced a rethink of the way hospitality wanted to function. Creating space for talented people in grassroots businesses.

Success stories like Franco Manca and Dishoom are testament to that.

I’d be surprised if in a decade we’re not looking at some really interesting and valuable developments in hospitality. Future success stories themselves that sprung from the effects of the pandemic.

Healthier eating, sustainable food systems, and regenerative agriculture are all big talking points right now. How do you see these continuing to develop and proliferate in the short and medium terms?

I’ve always been passionate about sustainability in food, drink, and agriculture. Foodism has put out cover-to-cover sustainability specials every year since 2015. We’ve worked with some market-leading brands in that time. And put on an awards initiative based around it, too.

I think much of it comes down to how much consumers want to put their money where their mouth is and demand change. What’s abundantly clear is that if we keep consuming as we have been, it’s game over for us as a species. It’s as simple as that!

If it’s a scary thought, then good. It should be. Ultimately, if someone begins to let their behaviour be guided by their ethics, whatever choice they come to is a good one.

In food terms, if someone believes eating animal products is wrong and they go vegan, that’s great. If they believe the problem is factory farming and buy high-welfare, traceable meat from a quality butcher, that’s great too.

It’s easy to exist in the echo chamber and believe everyone cares as much as you do about this stuff. It’s clear the average consumer is better informed about this stuff than a decade or so ago. That’s a good start, but that’s all it is at this point.

I mentioned this in one of your Clubhouse sessions. I’m a big fan of the term “regenerative” when it comes to food and agriculture.

In its essence, it accepts that damage has already been done. And that this damage needs to be undone before we’re on an even footing again. This is a crucial concept for consumers to understand.

There’s still so much work to be done when it comes to the language of sustainability. And the key is better education. Things like greenwashing will become less of a problem, as the average consumer becomes better informed.

What advice would you give to restaurants when it comes to creating PR-able stories? How can they stand out from the crowd?

Foodism might be an outlier. In that outside of the odd piece on the website, we’re not what a PR would consider “listings press”. We’re much more about long-tail, in-depth stories than events or news.

That means that I don’t respond too much to “The UK’s first [insert gimmick here] restaurant,” or similar. For me, it’s about telling stories of great people and businesses in hospitality, food and drinks, and I don’t need too much of a hook beyond that.

Our regular Five Dishes feature is a testament to that. The conversation might start from a PR getting in touch about a new opening or cookbook, but the whole idea of it is to talk about a chef or operator’s journey.

How they started, what drives them, their successes and failures – and get under the skin of what they’re trying to do, rather than just give the headlines of their newest project.

From an operator’s perspective, I’d say it’s all about having a genuine approach that comes from the heart. Whether that’s a certain style of cooking or influence, leading with something that’s purpose-driven or rooted in strong ethics, a talented chef who’s on their way up – and finding ways to communicate that, internally and externally.

London has restaurants that have been in business for decades. And the really good ones don’t tend to struggle for press, even despite their longevity. It’s about quality and authenticity.

Which emerging chefs or new restaurants are you most excited about for 2021?

To be honest, while there’ve been a couple of new openings over the last year, I think it’ll be a bit longer until new concepts launch. So I won’t namecheck anything right now.

I’m just hoping as many of the restaurants I love as possible will be able to reopen their doors. And when late June rolls around, people will have made up for the lost time. Throwing themselves into eating and drinking out.

On a personal note, I’m delighted to see my mates Ferhat and Sertac Dirik doing great things with their restaurant, Mangal 2. I used to live across the road from the restaurant in Dalston and got to know them well.

Over the first lockdown, they took time to reimagine and reopen it. Launching a more forward-thinking menu with a great drinks list. Some dishes are inspired in part by the amazing restaurants Sertac worked at in Copenhagen.

As a food journalist, the first time I hear about these concepts tends to be when they’re pretty much ready to open. But I was talking to the guys about their plan way before they shut and throughout the process of doing it.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a classic Turkish ocakbasi restaurant. But I’m delighted for them that they did what they set out to do and are now reaping the rewards.

The restaurant’s infamous Twitter account is a testament to Ferhat’s long-standing hatred of Dalston hipsters. So it’s nice to be able to give him shit for finally owning an East London restaurant that does sharing plates and natural wine. You absolute sellout, Ferhat.

Which three venues are you heading to first on or after April 12th?

There’ll be a few casual dinners locally and a few good pub sessions. Likely quite impromptu.

But what I’ve really missed is a proper destination restaurant. Somewhere upmarket. A tasting menu, amazing wine, and all the things you can’t replicate at home.

One of my best friends is the champagne ambassador for LVMH (yep, really). We go out to eat a lot and we’ve wasted no time getting a couple of things booked.

We’re doing lunch at Fallow’s terrace in Mayfair in April. And then dropping into my client Victor Garvey’s restaurant, Sola, for lunch in May. They've just won a Michelin star.

I’m also going to Coombeshead Farm in June with my fiancée. We went just after it opened and booked it again for my 30th last April. That didn’t end up happening for obvious reasons. So it’s been a long time coming.

Tom, if you’re reading this, I’m coming for you and your hairy pigs 😉

Ania Honey
The duo helping restaurants and their guests fall in love with natural wine.
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The duo helping restaurants and their guests fall in love with natural wine.

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In Conversation With Ania Smelskaya & Honey Spencer

You work with independent restaurants and bars to up their wine list and service game. What’s the biggest advantage of working with a wine consultant?

First and foremost, we’re front-of-house people ourselves. With 30 years sommelier experience between us.

Restaurants have changed significantly over the years. And today, not every venue needs - or can justify - hiring a sommelier or wine team. And yet guests expect an interesting list and knowledgeable people to help them navigate it.

We bridge that gap. Curating an amazing list, preparing and hosting wine training sessions, and hosting dinners. And at a fraction of the cost of an in-house sommelier.

We train each team member to be their own ‘mini-sommelier’. With a solid foundation of theoretical knowledge and the ability to talk about each wine on the list.

Our work with an array of restaurant clients means we’ve developed a highly-intuitive style that centres on knowing how to meet the guests’ needs. Ensuring they return again and again.

How do you approach training to build an engaged, knowledgeable team in the absence of a sommelier?

We believe in engaging the staff in the benefits of minimal intervention wines. And in spreading the "natural wine bug" :))

Many people working in hospitality are there because they’re curious about the flavours. We encourage this curiosity and build confidence in talking about - and serving - wine.

Creating an army of “mini-sommeliers" who discover a whole new dimension in wines. The result is engaged staff with shiny eyes. Eager to learn more and to tell the world about their new passion.

If you had to lay claim to a favourite style of wine, what would it be?

Honey: I know we can both put our hands on our hearts and say that we love all forms of wine expression.

From the wild stuff that brings up more questions than answers. To the comforting familiarity of styles long-celebrated (so long as they are not heavy-laden with chemicals).

That said we’re both fascinated with the ancient amber wines (aka skin-contact, aka orange) as they are generally so vibrant and versatile.

When food and wine pairing, imagine the thrill of being able to play with a wine that offers all the aromatics of a white with the power of a red. And yet something else entirely.

The potential is vast and wonderful. And we’re only at the beginning of discovering all that amber wines can offer.

Ania: I agree with Honey when it comes to amber wines. I absolutely love to pair them with fun (or serious) food. I’m also obsessed with everything cider (from pet nat cider to ice cider) and love matching it with different dishes.

What are the main benefits of natural wine? From the wines themselves to the benefits on the planet?

Ania: From the point of view of organic viticulture, there are so many benefits that come from not using herbicides and pesticides. Not to mention being mindful of the weight of the bottle, any unnecessary usage of the plastic, and a smaller carbon footprint.

And as a raw, artisan product, it’s naturally better for your health. Made without additives, and fermented as nature intended. It’s no surprise that there’s this rumour that natural wines don't cause hangovers!

But, honestly, it does depend on how much you drink. But I always feel much fresher after drinking natural wines versus conventional wines.

What’s the best wine experience you’ve had in your life?

Honey: I suppose for me this is more of a retrospective. But back in the first days of Sager and Wilde where we both worked, we used to pour outrageous wines by the glass that you just can’t get hold of anymore.

I remember one night in particular. We had Overnoy, Clape, and Jérôme Prévost by the glass and it felt just like a normal night. I curse myself for not taking bigger gulps that night!

Ania: Hmm. It’s hard to say as I am quite spoiled! But I do remember when I first tried natural wines paired with “fine dining” food.

It was when I lived in Stockholm and went on a date to a restaurant called Ekstedt in Stockholm. The sommelier was absolutely amazing and I tried my first Testalonga wine there.

I still have pictures of the bottles! I remember thinking that I would like to be this person one day. Speaking with a contagious passion and confidence about wine. So here I am :-)

You recently embarked on a journey to get your head around the broader topic of sustainability for restaurants? What inspired this?

Ania: Working at Silo was extremely inspiring. I discovered that it was possible to run a restaurant and avoid the waste which at the time, was a given in our industry.

It can be quite terrifying if we think about the amount of food thrown away. I read an article recently which stated that restaurants in the UK produce 915,400 tonnes of waste every year. Including 199,100 tonnes of food waste.

To work in a restaurant with a zero-waste approach was eye-opening. People were interested in my take on the wine and drinks programme. We had to establish a lot of principles. Researching the topic in order to match Silo’s ethos. It was a very interesting journey.

Achieving genuine “zero waste” took a lot of practice and discipline. But after the rules are established, it is relatively easy!

Are there parallels to be drawn between sustainability in wine and in other drinks? And even food?

Ania: The same approach we take to wine can be used to source local, organically-grown ingredients in food. And also to sourcing local beers, ciders, and kombucha/soft drinks. It’s a very similar ethos.

It’s crucial we all make efforts to support small independent companies. And make sure they are mindful of their packaging practices and their carbon footprint.

When the pandemic is over, what are your thoughts on the future of the British hospitality industry? Are we in for the ‘roaring twenties’, or has the industry changed forever?

Honey: I’ve definitely gone through phases of being certain of both.

During the first and second lockdowns - like all of our industry colleagues - there was a feeling of dread. As though choosing to work in hospitality was like opting for the leaky boat.

But I definitely don’t think that now. Seeing how businesses have pivoted in the most extraordinary ways is proof that we are a talented and resilient bunch.

Couple that with 66 million people desperate to get back to the pub and into restaurants, and we think the industry is going to see a huge boom for years to come.

Article / Insights
How to serve meat that doesn't [email protected]&k up the planet
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Article / Insights

How to serve meat that doesn't [email protected]&k up the planet

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Meet Lily Bovey, founder of Haus Party Collective and GROUND Climate Positive Burgers

Last month we spoke to Rishim Sachdeva. Chef and founder of Tendril, a (mostly) vegan kitchen. If you missed it, you can find the interview here. And whilst we’re all for making veggies the heroes, we thought it only fair to talk to someone who’s committed to quality meat that’s responsibly produced, and kind on the planet.

Lily has form in food. Having spent the last six years cutting her teeth on London’s food markets and at events with her STAKEhaus business and other offshoots.

We sat down for a chat about where it all began. The journey from leaving a corporate PR job through back garden trials, to running a thriving operation with multiple brands in multiple locations.

Delving into the nuts and bolts of her new business, in partnership with The Ethical Butcher, bringing carbon-negative burgers to London and beyond.

Discovering a passion for produce

Growing up between rural Surrey and West Sussex, Lily happily admits that food wasn’t always on her radar. It wasn’t until she moved to London, forced to cook her own food, that she began experimenting with produce and ingredients.

“I don’t really come from a foodie family”, she explains. “My mum doesn’t even really cook. We ate mostly ready meals and frozen food and there were so many things I didn’t enjoy. I was a really fussy eater”.

But mum needn’t be upset. Because Lily believes this is exactly why food is now such a big part of her life. “It was a strange journey. But it led me to be more interested in food as an adult. Suddenly, you’re cooking your own food, going to restaurants of your own choosing. And really exploring all the cultures and cuisines that big cities have to offer”.

“Now, ten years, later, I’ve realised I do really like mushrooms and hummus. I used to think hummus was so weird”, she jokes.

What exactly does PR stand for?

Having left school at 18 without pursuing a degree, Lily wasn’t immediately sure what it was she wanted to do. The self-titled “Blonde white girl” envisaged a future in PR. Even if she didn’t really know what it meant.

After a handful of internships, Lily landed a job with Universal Pictures. Determined to start from the bottom and work her way up the ladder.

“I really tried to enjoy it. But I absolutely hated it. The monotony, the commute. It was killing me”.

Lily flippantly mentions “an early mental breakdown”. Being at a total loss when realising that this previously hallowed path wasn’t anything like she expected.

“All my friends were at Uni doing what they wanted. And I hadn’t found my thing yet. It was causing me so much angst”.

But from these dark times, a light was emerging. “The only thing that bought me joy was getting home and cooking meals for all my flatmates. Food was something I was good at. I was cooking for people and they were wowed by what I was serving them”.

Just go for it

The story of falling into food and hospitality is a common one. And in many ways, the typical entrepreneurial journey. Fuelled by the eye-opening cultural exposure that moving into a big city creates.

But Lily has a drive and a level of motivation that is in no way typical. It’s evident in her passion and enthusiasm for everything she does.

A raw talent was emerging from increasingly “understanding flavour and how to make things taste good. It all stemmed from there. I started putting energy and time into [developing an idea] whilst still working a full time job”.

Lily spent some time on other food stalls initially, learning the ropes and getting to know the community.

It was the golden era of street food. With the barriers to entry - and the costs - being relatively low, whilst the market was still wide open for new concepts.

“I finally did a trial run in my back garden under a Gazebo. Inviting friends and getting them to fill in feedback sheets. I just wanted to practice as much as possible”.

With the product beginning to take shape, Lily jumped at the first opportunity to do her first event. And STAKEhaus was born. However she’s happy to admit, it wasn’t all plain sailing.

“Every meal we sent out was freezing cold. And some people waited for 20 minutes”. But sure enough, future events followed and things began falling into place.

“I’ll be forever grateful to the people who supported SteakHaus in the early months. Because they allowed me to just get on with it. Get out there. And just do it”.

“Then I just quit my job and decided that this was what I wanted to do”.

From grilling to form filling

The business grew to a permanent location in Camden with Kerb, the launch of HENhaus - a sister Rotisserie concept - and a packed events calendar.

Lily went from doing a couple of markets a week to a seven day a week operation. With the staff, admin, and responsibility that comes with this. Increasingly splitting her time between the grill and her laptop but still loving every minute. This was the second steep learning curve in her burgeoning career as a food entrepreneur.

SteakHaus continued to go from strength to strength, HENhaus was offered a permanent spot at Streetfeast in Woolwich. And before she knew it, Lily’s thriving business celebrated its sixth birthday.

But with a sense that STAKEhaus had hit its peak - considering the proliferation of new entrants into the market and that six years is a phenomenal stretch for a street food business - lockdown was looming. Lily had her sights set on another sister business.

Green Red Meat

Talking to Lily, it’s easy to take her casual modesty in a happy-go-lucky kind of way. But there’s actually a real sense that she’s carefully considered, diligent, and detail-oriented. And like many creatives, she’s able to visualise something as it emerges from just a seed of an idea.

“I was hungry for something else”, Lily explains. “I was chatting with The Ethical Butcher guys about finding a buyer for their burger meat. Their steaks were selling out but they wanted to minimise waste by using as much of their animals as possible.

But as it turned out everyone’s loyalty with their existing suppliers - and the high regard in which they hold their recipes - meant that her search was unsuccessful. And after a few further conversations, a partnership emerged and GROUND was born.

“I was selling a lot of meat and was hearing more and more about the impact beef production has on the environment. I wanted to understand how I could make STAKEhaus better and more sustainable. There was definitely a part of me that felt guilty about this”.

Lily began researching regenerative agriculture. And discovered that if executed properly, cows can play a vital role in repairing the damage done not only by industrial farming practices. But by common approaches to farming, too.

“Cows and other livestock play a crucial role in the success of regenerative farming. And the practice is totally different to even pasture-fed cows. It’s part of an entire system. The beef needs the farmer and the farm needs the cattle.

“The cows serve a purpose. Bashing in poop, pee, and seeds into the soil. This has untold benefits for the soil”.

Beginning a conversation

GROUND will trade from their freshly-kitted out van, and at food markets across the UK. And Lily and the team are shortly releasing their “Covid-proof” burger kits.

But their focus is ultimately on creating a retail product that fills a gap in the market between existing meat and meat-alternative burgers. Promoting regenerative agriculture and its benefits to the consumer and the planet.

Turning to our friends and collaborators at Dapple Studio, they began work on the brand’s narrative and visual identity.

“The brand needed to be fun and accessible, but above all, a real conversation starter,” says Lily. “We wanted to help the regenerative farming cycle to make sense”.

GROUND carries a strong message and wears its principles on its sleeve. But this is precisely the point.

This article from this month’s The Rebel Post covers the topic in more detail, as it vies for attention with Veganuary, in the form of the now-controversial Regenuary. And GROUND deserves to be at the heart of the discussion.

“We want to make choice easier, provide better value, and communicate that there are options out there that don’t have the negative impacts customers are used to hearing about”.

But Lily isn’t delusional about the fact that people eat too much meat. “We’re offering an option where customers can understand all the conditions surrounding how what they eat was produced. And make an informed choice from there.

“Regenuary isn’t about excluding people from doing the vegan things. Rather asking people to generally look where your food comes from. But it’s unrealistic to expect the world to turn vegan any time soon. So while in that space, why can’t we provide a product that’s filling the gap?”

With GROUND, Lily is aiming for a proper standard of zero waste and carbon neutrality. But is realistic about growing into those aspirations.

For now, happy that the fledgling business is pushing an agenda out there that’s been building. And bringing into people’s eye view.

“It seems obvious if you’re in the industry. But the wider public isn’t aware. Mainstream food isn’t pointed towards carbon emissions or its environmental impact.

“You can’t expect someone who’s struggling to feed their children to start questioning what food they’re buying. Or buying more expensive produce because it’s coming from the UK. Let alone from regenerative farms.

“What we can do is start influencing those who are in the middle and have the ability to buy better. Then hopefully things trickle down from there”.

A controversial but bright future

Lily’s enthusiasm and energy are infectious. And she’s clearly completely committed to her business and the wider cause. Her “you have to start somewhere” attitude is laudable. And whilst she’s focused on the pursuit of perfection, it has never stopped her from going out and doing things.

“I believe you’re better off just going for it. And apologising afterward”.

GROUND is a new business championing a little-known approach to an industry mired in misinformation and complexity. And controversy and virulence will inevitably follow.

But something tells us that Lily will relish the challenges. And that the business she’s backing with her heart and soul will do very well in the process.

Follow GROUND’s journey at @greenredmeat

Rishim Sachdeva
Article / Insights
The (mostly) vegan kitchen helping London eat less meat
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Article / Insights

The (mostly) vegan kitchen helping London eat less meat

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Interview with chef and founder of Tendril Kitchen, Rishim Sachdeva

The early years

Rishim grew up in a large family where every meal was an occasion. Cooking with his mum at eleven or twelve, he was making full-blown dinners at thirteen. Realising at this early age that he was going to be a chef. “There’s nothing else I would even consider doing”.

He graduated with a hospitality and tourism degree from Oxford Brooks University (parental pressure over a passion for the classroom). Before moving to London to take a junior position at The Oak Room with Marco Pierre White.

“This was when I realised that this is what I want to do my whole life”.

Rishim has always been passionate about travel and exploration. And this comes through in his cooking. His food is inspired by many places and cultures but remains grounded in technique.

“At The Oak Room, I realised that French food really is the foundation. I spent the first six years of my career perfecting this.”

Becoming increasingly experimental and ready to explore his next challenge, Rishim set his sights on The Fat Duck. “I got rejected for a stage eighteen times”.

But he didn’t give up. “Applying was part of my monthly routine. I’d rework and improve my application and try again”. And two and a half years later his persistence paid off. Rishim was offered a six-month stage and two years later, a junior sous chef position.

Progressing through the ranks was an incredible experience for Rishim. Experimenting with ingredients and techniques on the one hand. Pursuing simplicity on the other.

The pursuit of simplicity

With a growing passion for being close to nature and understanding the seasons, a move was on the cards.

“I set about finding restaurants that were mastering that”.

Rishim joined the brigade at Almeida and worked there for two years. Including a few months under Robin Gill. The two hit it off and Rishim followed Robin to his first solo venture, The Dairy in Clapham, shortly after opening.

The death of Rishim’s mother prompted a return to India where he spent eight months discovering the country’s evolving culinary landscape. Having left the country at seventeen to pursue his career, he’d never known the restaurant industry there.

Returning to London to continue learning and developing his nascent personal cooking style, Rishim took the sous chef role under Nuno Mendes at Marylebone’s Chiltern Firehouse. Followed by a second stint at The Diary.

“We were playing with textures, flavours, and techniques. Watching Nuno create dishes is an experience in itself. A humble zucchini gets layers and layers of memories in a bite. I can still taste it and crave it."

Returning to his homeland

Rishim’s brief time in India had been on his mind. With so many brilliant restaurants opening in Delhi and Mumbai, he felt compelled to get a piece of the action.

“Going back to India was a complete culture shock! I’d never worked in the country. I was still figuring out my style but I knew that I wanted to work with the seasons and with local growers and producers”.

It was at this point that the vegan seed was sewn. “Until now, vegetables were always a second thought for me. The emphasis was always on meat, whilst vegetables were taken for granted.

“In India, 60% of the population is vegetarian so you can’t get away with second rate dishes. People started coming back for my vegetarian dishes. Even the meat-eaters”.

Rishim was executive chef at the multi-award-winning Olive Bar and Kitchen in the trendy neighborhood of Bandra, Mumbai. Owned by arguably the country’s most revered restaurateur, AD Singh, it was a brilliant platform to both showcase and refine his approach to cooking.

A hit with the discerning local audience and the media, Rishim won many awards, making a name for himself as one of the country’s most exciting chefs.

“The culinary genius behind the restaurant is sourcing organic produce from across the country, local artisan cheese, and working with techniques such as fermentation and preservation to extract unique flavours and textures.

“For blurring the boundaries between the traditional and modern, chef Sachdeva won the Johnnie Walker breakthrough chef of the year award” - Conde Nast Traveller

The decision to go vegan

In late 2018 Rishim was newly married and expecting his first child. Thinking long and hard about what he wanted his life to look like and where he wanted to settle. The couple made the decision to return to London and it was at this point that the idea for Tendril Kitchen was born.

Shortly after returning to London, the self-proclaimed ‘hardcore carnivore’ used Veganuary 2019 to challenge himself. “Can I create food that satisfies my cravings as a meat-eater whilst also giving me satisfaction as a chef?”

The answer was yes and he’s never looked back. Under the Tendril brand, Rishim hosted multiple supper clubs and catered to several private events. Also running a three-month pop-up close to his home in southwest London. And a second in Hackney for Veganuary 2020.

A bumpy ride

A meeting with the team from The Sun & 13 Cantons in October 2019 led to him being offered the opportunity to take a slot on the roster of emerging chefs at the pub. An established platform that has launched several successful chefs and restaurants. Including Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express.

His residency was scheduled to launch in March. Just as the country was going into lockdown. He admits that 2020 has been a rough ride, but takes comfort in the fact that his food has been a hit.

Rishim has a growing collection of loyal clients who order Tendril's delivery boxes each week. And people from all walks of life have come through the door at “The Sun”. He’s excelled at converting the pub’s regulars, too.

“A couple of guys who were having a beer in the afternoon weren’t interested in vegan food. So I sent them some free stuff to try. And over the course of the next six hours as more of their friends joined, I ended up serving them 18 portions of the same dish”.

Overcoming adversity

Rishim is committed to changing the perception of vegan food. And to bring it to a wider audience in a fun and imaginative way.

But he’s all too aware of the stereotypes he faces as an Indian chef cooking non-Indian food. And how important it is to challenge this.

“The perception is that if it’s an Indian chef, it’s got to be Indian food. But I’ve never trained in an Indian kitchen. I may just about be able to knock up a curry at home, but that’s about it. I can’t cook Indian food.

“I feel like I have to get my sales pitch right in a way that British chefs don’t need to”.

And this extends to people in the industry too. “Junior chefs would come for interviews for Tendril and the first thing they say is that they don’t have experience cooking Indian food”.

Rishim relishes being part of the hospitality support system and is a great believer in the industry’s ability to evolve. And with the support he continues to receive from chefs including Robin and Nuno, he feels that things are changing.

What the future holds

There’s a certain synergy between Rishim’s desire to challenge these perceptions and his passion for challenging those of vegan food. “My cooking style isn’t bound by nationality. Vegan food is so flexible. It unites all my experience, influences, and the inspirations from my travels”.

Rishim is enthusiastic and positive about Tendril’s future. Despite the ongoing challenges that hospitality faces in the wake of the pandemic. Itching to get back into Soho, he’s keeping himself busy delivering meals three times a week to his growing number of fans.

And what’s next for the business when the residency at The Sun comes to an end in March? Rishim would rather not say. But whatever he has up his sleeve, his passion, and energy for what he does is as unfaltering as his modesty.

“At the end of the day, it’s just tasty food. I worked hard, learned from everyone around me, found what I liked, and built on it.”

After the government announced that London would come out of lockdown in tier two, the immediate future of the Christmas menu he’d been planning is uncertain. So it’s all eyes on the government’s review on December 16th.

Rishim is looking forward to launching his Veganuary menu next month in one way or another. Because after all, it’s the month that inspired him to create Tendril in the first place. And that’s certainly something to celebrate.


“You couldn’t find a nicer, more creative group of people to work with”

Gustaf Pilebjer
F&B Design Director, EMEA, Marriott International

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