The Rebel Company
Who We Are

We’re a dynamic collective of strategists, creatives, marketers, food fanatics and industry geeks united by our passion for purpose-driven hospitality.

We build concepts and brands that connect businesses to their communities. For the free-spirited, the discerning and the curious.

What We Do
We find the sweet spot where strategy, design and marketing meets responsible business, talented people and great taste.
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What We Do

We find the sweet spot where strategy, design and marketing meets responsible business, talented people and great taste.

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Our services

Strategy

Brand Audit
Brand Strategy
Concept Development
Feasibility & Positioning
Investor Decks

Branding

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

Content

Photography
Video
Motion Graphics
Copywriting
Content Writing

Digital Marketing

Strategy & Content
Website & E-commerce
Paid Media
SEO & PPC
CRM

Development

Menu Development
Creative Direction
Project Management
Strategic Partnerships
Operations Planning

Current and previous clients

Hotels

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

Pubs & Bars

BrewDog
Draft House
Brew By Numbers
Smoky Tails
The Lark Company
 

Independents

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

Members Clubs

Soho House
Conduit Club
Muthaiga Club
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Events & Catering

Really Useful Theatres
Camm & Hooper
Bennett Hay

DTC

Tula Food
Kurami
 
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
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 vernonhouse.london

Ed Francis
Strategy Director
Paul McVey
Creative Director
Mike Pawlukiewicz
Design Director
Illustrations
Architects
Interior Design
Local Area Photography
Interior Photography
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

GROUND 3
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

Sheep in Field 1
Article / Insights
Can regenerative farming create a sustainable future that doesn't involve quitting meat?
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Article / Insights

Can regenerative farming create a sustainable future that doesn't involve quitting meat?

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Hospitality can lead the way in promoting better ways of eating

If one good thing comes out of the last twelve months, it will be that many folks rediscovered the joy of shopping locally. Buying from independent stores or by supporting their favourite food businesses online.

And it goes without saying that much depends on this shift in behaviour not only outliving the pandemic. But continuing to proliferate.

Food businesses and brands continue to evolve at a pace. As competition increases and consumers demand more. We’ve seen a shift, possibly accelerated by Coronavirus, in two specific areas.

Health. And veganism.

But somewhere along the way, it seems that - aside from some notable ‘vegan junk food’ exceptions - the two became implicitly conjoined.

A Rush to Save the Planet

This year, ‘Regenuary’, a growing movement, is vying for attention - and eating habits - on the merits of regenerative farming.

A practice that seeks to farm more holistically. Promoting soil health, biodiversity, and the environmental benefits that follow.

The crux of this argument is that meat production can be a sustainable - even carbon negative - part of the system.

Veganuary got Cancelled

This unintentionally provocative Instagram post was where it all began. Debunking Veganuary’s claims that any vegan diet is better for you and better for the planet.

And then the inevitable happened. A polarised argument ensued.

In these times of “cancel culture”, I asked the author, Glen Burrows, from The Ethical Butcher if the strikethrough, in hindsight, was slightly misjudged.

“I’d use the same graphic [if I had the chance again]. But would change some of the wording. I think speaking in absolutes was dangerous.

“We didn’t expect it to be quite so incendiary though. I thought people might be a bit upset, but wanted to start a conversation”.

From a strategic standpoint, this presents an interesting case study.

Provocation and polarisation can sometimes work in a brand or movement’s favour. In the sense that it talks clearly to a specific audience and gets a message out there.

But it’s often better to take a gentler approach. One that promotes healthy discussion and education. I sense from our conversation, that this was Glen's intention.

When asked if he’d be happy to join forces with Veganuary, he was very open to the idea.

“I’d love to and would happily talk to them. Because we should agree with 95%. But they need to change their tack and retract their key statement.

“They need to concede on the point that ‘not eating meat is the only way to save the world’."

The Misinformation Machine

Veganuary’s key messaging is undeniably factually incorrect.

In an age of transparency, consumers expect trust from the brands they support. Veganurary are in position of responsibility. And they’re going to want to re-look at their positioning if they’re going to increase their reach.

“Our vision is simple: we want a vegan world” the website states.

“A world without animal farms and slaughterhouses. A world where food production doesn’t decimate forests, pollute rivers and oceans, exacerbate climate change, and drive wild animal populations to extinction.”

“For almost every animal-derived ingredient and product, there is now a vegan alternative, and this means that a vegan’s meal may look and taste exactly like a non-vegan’s meal, it just doesn’t come with the animal suffering or the same environmental impact.”

To use a technical term. This is bollocks.

Ok. Let me qualify that slightly. From the perspective of animal cruelty and welfare, there’s no argument here. And if that’s your reason for going vegan. Good on you.

But. Don’t for one second be misled by the statements on health and environmental impact. These have nothing to do with being vegan.

According to their own website, 56% of Veganuary supporters cite health and the environment as drivers for participating.

You don’t have to look hard to realise that a vegan diet that doesn’t question where and how food is produced, is much worse for the vegan and the planet than an omnivorous diet that does.

This misleading oversimplification must not be overlooked.

The Middle Ground

To be clear. I’m not criticising all elements of Veganuary’s mission. Nor the genuine care and passion that is at the heart of the movement. Neither am I criticising veganism itself.

The two sides may be polarised on the animal vs. no animal argument. But there’s plenty of common ground which is where the conversation should be focused.

Whether you’re a Veganuary advocate or a budding regenerative farming supporter. The mission here should be simple. Produce food in a way that not only protects but repairs the planet. Whilst protecting our own health, too.

It’s unhealthy to obsess over - and be critical of - something that’s inherently better than the current alternatives.

Dig Deeper. Just dont Disturb the Soil

In terms of the overall climate crisis. If we stopped 100% of greenhouse gas emissions today, we’d still have to deal with the "legacy load" of 1,000 billion tons remaining in the atmosphere. Continuing to heat the planet for decades. Possibly even centuries.

To address this. We need to look at a cyclical, not linear, consumption model. In every area of our lives.

In this interview, Nick Jeffries from The Ellen McArthur Foundation made the point that “we can’t expect our economy to continue to thrive if it relies on the continual consumption of finite resources. We’ve got to decouple from this”.

Regenerative agriculture seeks to do just that. Rolled out at scale, we could see a large part of our legacy load sequestered back into the soil as part of a process called Carbon Drawdown. The potential for positive impact is quite extraordinary.

I’ve listed some resources for further reading at the end of the article, but here’s the situation in a nutshell -

Poor farming practices decimate soil health. Leaving enormous swathes of land uncovered and unable to capture and store carbon in the atmosphere.

As soil health deteriorates, more and more chemicals are needed to grow crops. Over time, the soil dies. Every year, a landmass the size of the UK is abandoned as it become completely useless.

The cost of farming increases due to the quantity of inputs (pesticides and chemicals) needed to produce a crop.

Government subsidies go towards supporting industrial farming when they could (and should) be used to support better practices.

"Only 1% of the $580bn of US farming subsidies is spent on good things”, according to Nick.

Amongst other things, this leads to food poverty for the very people who produce what we eat.

Then. As we move onto virgin wilderness, we damage more land and destroy its biodiversity. It's become a vicious cycle.

The Cycle Continues

Regenerative farming has the potential to change this. And do so now. Whilst there is a degree of complexity involved for the geeks amongst us. The principles are very simple -

1. Don’t disturb the soil (and release the carbon) through tilling and ploughing

2. Keep the land covered all year round to allow for continuous photosynthesis

3. Replace mono-crops with rotational crops

4. Re-introduce and nurture biodiversity (yes, including livestock)

Healthy soil with cover crops captures extraordinary amounts of carbon. Fast forward 26 minutes into film Kiss The Ground to find out just how well.

Properly managed regenerative farms are actually reducing the greenhouse gases in the environment. And need no inputs either. The soil is so healthy and full of organic matter. Growing thriving plants and feeding healthier people.

And as part of the right rotation, livestock plays a huge part. Grazing, trampling, and peeing and pooping as they go.

The Task is Surmountable

Where we stand today, the entire food system is out of sync. We must align farmers’ decisions with ecological and profitable ones.

Only 5% of farming is currently done regeneratively. This means 95% is actively damaging in some way.

The UK government provides our farming community with 60% of its income, just so it can remain competitive. We can’t have regenerative agriculture without regenerative business.

Statistics around industrial agriculture make for more positive reading. Contrary to popular belief we don’t actually need it to feed the world. We need it to feed animals.

Madelyn Postman from Grain Sustainability confirms this. “Only 30% of industrially-farmed products end up on our plate. The rest goes to animal feed and biofuel”.

Madelyn believes that even the most committed omnivores need to be reducing their meat intake. And focus on quality.

Going on to say that “there’s not enough ethically produced meat to feed the world at the moment. So the only answer is for people to cut back. We can’t have chickens that cost a pound or a market that expects this”.

The world is less reliant on industrial farming than we think. With 70% of the foot eaten globally coming from farms under ten hectares.

And whilst this is likely to vary dramatically between countries. On a global scale, the conversion is possibly simpler than on initial inspection. Especially when you consider that eliminating the need for inputs dramatically reduces costs.

As ever, the change will be driven by consumers. With governments around the world slow to act on the climate crisis. This requires the right information to be out there so people can make informed choices.

Madelyn believes that improved labeling would be a great place to start. Allowing consumers to understand the effect their food choices have on the planet. As well as their health.

“You could easily be a vegan and have a higher carbon footprint than an omnivore.

“Food labeling is a big issue. Whilst you can see from the label where the food is from, and make an assumption about how it’s been processed and transported, you can’t be sure. It requires consumers to dig a little deeper.

“I love the idea of labeling so that you can clearly see the impact the products you’re buying [have on the planet]. The key will always be to eat seasonally, locally, and organically as much as possible.”

Beware of the Bandwagon

Veganuary is being exploited by the food industry. As supermarkets increasingly stock mass-produced, processed, and unhealthy foods. Selling these to an uninformed audience.

None of this deals with the underlying issues and messaging that it’s not meat production that’s bad. It’s how that meat is produced. And that the last thing we need is more processed food in our diet.

Summary

Want to go vegan? Great. Caps doffed. But look further. Look deeper. Ask more questions and do more research.

Because a blindly vegan diet, devoid of the facts about how and where that food is produced, is not going to do you or the planet any favours.

And if you’re going to continue to eat meat. That’s fine, too. But do it less and do it locally. Make sure the animals you’re eating were reared as part of a cyclical, bio-diverse, and regenerative process.

And then whichever camp you’re in, you’ll be going a long way towards a healthy planet. Creating a positive effect on the climate through the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Not just halting future emissions.

Nick Jeffries put it succinctly as part of his closing thoughts for this webinar.

“For the first time in our lives, we saw supermarket shelves empty and that should be a wake-up call.

“We can’t rely on global supply chains and big business to deliver everything we need. We don’t all need to become vegan. But we do need to understand how our food is produced. To over-simplify things is to miss the point”.

Maybe Veganuary should have more in common with Regenuary than they do? If they get their facts straight, their message right, and come in from the extreme of the argument.

Because questioning the ethics of eating quality meat a couple of times a week vs being vegan asks the wrong questions. Imagine what could happen if both sides worked together.

Most of us will remember the time when the food and hospitality buzzwords were fair trade, organic, seasonal. Could 2021 be the year regenerative farming becomes common parlance?

The basis of conversations with guests and customers. Eager to understand more and how they can support the movement.

And who knows. Maybe January 2022 will be the year when folks can support both Veganuary and Regenuary at the same time.

Footnote

Glen is a fountain of knowledge and statistics when it comes to both reiterative farming and the part animals must play in this. Read on to learn more.

References

https://veganuary.com/
https://kissthegroundmovie.com
https://gather.film
https://farmerama.co
https://www.ellenmacarthurfoun...
https://www.instagram.com/abby...

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.

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What We Believe

We must use our resources and voices to contribute to a more equitable world. We believe hospitality brands can pioneer better ways of living.

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