Join the club

Dish - - The Business Of Dinner - Story — NIKKI BIR­RELL / Pho­tog­ra­phy — JOSH GRIGGS AND JESSIE CASSON

If you’re read­ing this, chances are you love food. For some of us, that love can be all-con­sum­ing. Dish chats to some lo­cal food­ies who have em­braced vari­a­tions on the sup­per club idea and forged new ways to ex­press their pas­sion for all things food.

Early on in their re­la­tion­ship, it was fairly ev­i­dent to Jane Lyons and Will Bow­man they were both ob­sessed with food – think­ing and talk­ing about food, ex­plor­ing dif­fer­ent cuisines and tech­niques and cook­ing for peo­ple when­ever they could. Search­ing for a way to use that pas­sion, they came up with The Next Meal (so named “be­cause we gen­uinely re­ally are al­ways think­ing about the next meal”) – a con­cept ded­i­cated to their food ad­ven­tures.

A web­site and an In­sta­gram ac­count be­came the medium for shar­ing their sto­ries of seek­ing out lus­cious pro­duce, ex­per­i­ment­ing with fer­ment­ing, pick­ling and cur­ing, and cre­at­ing vis­ually ar­rest­ing dishes and drinks, with the pair’s deep-seated en­thu­si­asm for food flavour­ing every de­li­cious post.

What makes their pur­suits ex­tra en­gag­ing for an au­di­ence is their cre­ativ­ity and a knack for sniff­ing out the new and ex­cit­ing – skills def­i­nitely fos­tered in each of their up­bring­ings.

Jane in­her­ited a love of cook­ing from her mother and was gifted cook­books for birth­days as a child. “I re­mem­ber study­ing them so closely,” she says. “I used to make meals for the fam­ily from them – one of my spe­cial­i­ties was Chicken Chow Mein, which my older broth­ers called Chicken Chow Crap.” Her sib­lings have since con­fessed they ac­tu­ally loved the dish, Jane says. “They just couldn't han­dle the fact their sev­enyear-old sis­ter was mak­ing the fam­ily din­ner.”

Will, too, comes from a fam­ily of food lovers, his grand­moth­ers and mother in par­tic­u­lar. “I re­mem­ber when we were young, Mum would

let us taste spices on a plate to see if we could iden­tify them with our eyes closed – at the time it was just a fun game but, look­ing back, I feel pretty lucky to have had that kind of ex­po­sure.” His own foray into cook­ing was a re­sult of mov­ing away from his fam­ily be­cause, he says, “I quickly re­alised I wasn't go­ing to be eat­ing as well as I did at home un­less I learned it my­self”.

The pair have gar­nered quite a fol­low­ing and, through this, col­lab­o­ra­tive re­la­tion­ships have blos­somed. Their first, with Love Food Hate Waste, came through a mu­tual re­spect of each other’s ethos. The Next Meal had been con­tribut­ing recipes to the non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, who went on to be­stow a grant to the pair for their idea on how to ed­u­cate peo­ple about wast­ing less house­hold food. “We hired Mon­days Whole­foods [in Kings­land, Auck­land] for the event and our artist friend Bil­lie Culy [daugh­ter of artist Leanne Culy], helped cu­rate it – she dyed table­cloths with av­o­cado pips and for­aged for wild flow­ers for the ta­bles which was re­ally cool.” There were four cour­ses, each in­cor­po­rat­ing a num­ber of in­gre­di­ents com­monly thrown in the bin. The event sold out, so it was lit­tle sur­prise they were ap­proached again to put The Next Meal spin on an­other pop-up.

An Au­tumn Break­fast was a col­lab­o­ra­tion with artists Holly Hous­ton (daugh­ter of Lit­tle and Fri­day's Kim Evans) and Jess Hem­mings. Held at Wel­come Eatery in Auck­land – it in­volved a two-course break­fast eaten out of Holly Hous­ton ce­ramic bowls, which par­tic­i­pants were then able to take home.

It’s all well and good to love cook­ing and pre­sent­ing food, but the ques­tion is, how does that trans­late to feed­ing a crowd?

“The kitchen is a pretty high-pres­sure en­vi­ron­ment, but we've been happy to dis­cover we work pretty calmly to­gether,” says Jane. “A few peo­ple who have seen us in ac­tion have been in dis­be­lief that we're not bit­ing each other's heads off or throw­ing saucepans at each other when things get chaotic.”

Will agrees their strengths are complementary. “The menu de­vel­op­ment for the last two events was a lot of fun – the dishes for the Au­tumn Break­fast were cre­ated over a bowl of ra­men. Jane def­i­nitely has a bet­ter eye for plat­ing, which came in handy at the last pop-up when we didn't have a clear idea of how the savoury dish would look, even on the morn­ing of the break­fast.”

They’ve both worked on high-stress jobs, sep­a­rately and to­gether – mag­a­zine food shoots, cater­ing for var­i­ous func­tions, which came about through work, friends, fol­low­ers and fam­ily – and both have learned in­valu­able lessons: Will’s be­ing that “feed­ing 30 peo­ple four cour­ses with just an in­duc­tion hob is ill-ad­vised.” And Jane’s “that Will is still in­cred­i­bly kind to me even in in­tense sit­u­a­tions when I am start­ing to flake”.

The cou­ple will be trav­el­ling around Italy and Greece for a few months on a culi­nary

odyssey as this mag­a­zine goes to print, be­fore re­turn­ing to set­tle in Christchurch for a year, as Will in­tends to do a post-grad in wine­mak­ing. There are plans for a semireg­u­lar pop-up down there, where they will share all their travel learn­ings with lucky Can­ter­bury folk. Their ad­vice for any­one think­ing of head­ing down a sim­i­lar path is: “Work out what you be­lieve in and just stick to be­ing true to that. As soon as you put too much pres­sure on it or do some­thing for the sake of it (or worse, for the sake of In­sta­gram likes or paid posts) the en­joy­ment will start to drain out. So make sure you keep it fun,” says Will.

If the idea of cook­ing for strangers or go­ing pub­lic with food pur­suits is in­tim­i­dat­ing, there is an­other op­tion to nur­ture a love of food.

Kris­ten de Monchy had been a mem­ber of a sup­per club while liv­ing in Hol­land and, on re­turn­ing to New Zealand, sug­gested the idea to some ex-col­leagues. The num­ber grew to eight and the group have been meet­ing, pretty con­sis­tently, once a month since May 2010.

“We rarely miss a date,” says Kris­ten. Each month a dif­fer­ent mem­ber hosts (part­ners don't at­tend) and does the lot – plans the menu, cooks the food, sets the scene, with the guests each sup­ply­ing a bot­tle of wine. “It does mean the pres­sure is on when it’s your turn. But when you do host, it en­ables you to try things you wouldn’t nor­mally. It en­cour­ages you to think out­side the square and look for dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents and com­bi­na­tions. And then the next seven times it is very much sit back and re­lax and en­joy the meal,” she says.

The group are all keen cooks, “But not mas­ter chefs,” says mem­ber Teresa. “It’s just as

“It does mean the pres­sure is on when it’s your turn. But when you do host, it en­ables you to try things you wouldn’t nor­mally. It en­cour­ages you to think out­side the square and look for dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents and com­bi­na­tions.” – KRIS­TEN DE MONCHY

much about the com­pany as it is the food.”

Some of the themes cov­ered in the past have been Ba­li­nese, Brazil­ian, raw, veg­e­tar­ian, Moroc­can, Greek, Fi­jian, Ja­panese, Ger­man, South­ern style and 70s, to name but a few. Largely, the host keeps the menu a sur­prise un­til the night, though some­times hints are given in or­der to wine match. The host then sup­plies the recipes to ev­ery­one so that favoured dishes can be recre­ated at home.

“Peo­ple are al­ways fas­ci­nated when they hear about our sup­per club but the first thing they say is ‘oh, like My Kitchen Rules?’” says mem­ber Stephanie. “And I say ab­so­lutely not. We would never crit­i­cise any cook­ing – not that we have to – and if any­thing does ever go wrong or tim­ings get tricky in the kitchen, ev­ery­one is al­ways so sup­port­ive and jumps in to lend a hand. We’re there to have fun.”

And some­times things do go wrong – there was a famed “fon­due fire” which threat­ened to end an evening quickly (stamped out, thank­fully, by a nearby hus­band); a burnt cake was sal­vaged through clever cut­ting; dumplings that got stuck to­gether were repack­aged as a sort of steamed meat­ball – but noth­ing has ever ob­structed the en­joy­ment the women take out of the oc­ca­sion. “It’s okay if it doesn’t work. Ev­ery­one knows we are guinea pigs – that just makes it more fun,” says mem­ber Jo. “Any­thing that’s made with love is al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated.”

The Christ­mas sup­per club, es­pe­cially, is a high­light with mem­bers bring­ing along a food-re­lated gift. “Our girls are so cre­ative and tal­ented,” says Teresa. Ex­am­ples of gifts have been home­made printed tea tow­els, pick­les, chut­ney, vanilla essence, al­mond cook­ies, cookie in­gre­di­ents lay­ered in a bot­tle, mini Xmas fruit cakes, Floren­tines, dukkah and chilli oil. “You go home with lots of good­ies,” says Stephanie. “The host for Christ­mas also re­ally pulls out all the stops and it’s an in­cred­i­ble kick-off to the fes­tive sea­son.”

Mem­ber Mairi started a food blog and learned about styling and pho­tog­ra­phy, which means the group now have these food mem­o­ries gor­geously cap­tured to look back on, along with a reper­toire of recipes to re­turn to. But what this sup­per club keeps com­ing back to is the bond cre­ated over the years be­tween them. Teresa sums it up best with, “A com­mu­nity of sup­port­ive friends has been the great­est re­ward”.

THIS PAGE: Jane Lyons and Will Bow­man cre­ated The Next Meal as a way to ex­pend some of the end­less en­ergy they have for cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful food.

THIS PAGE: Jane and Will’s “Au­tumn Break­fast” menu in­cluded (left) a per­sim­mon, tamar­illo and black pep­per shrub; and (right) savoury po­lenta with mixed mush­rooms, 60°C egg, crispy brus­sels sprout leaves, a Ja­pane­ses­tyle jus and a dol­lop of quark.

THIS IM­AGE: (From left) Kris­ten de Monchy, Joanna Beer and Mairi Her­bert are three of the eight mem­bers of an Auck­land sup­per club that’s been go­ing strong for seven years; (be­low left) Jo’s cala­mari dish from a re­cent sup­per club.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.