Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jess, who manages Grub Club’s chef community. She told me a little about Grub Club’s past, present and future – warning – you will become hungry if you read this interview.
Pippa C: Hi Jess – thanks for having a chat with me. Can you tell me: what is Grub Club?
Jess A: Grub Club is a platform for unique dining experiences, which prides itself on being “like a restaurant, but even better”. It connects chefs of all levels, from amateur to Michelin-starred, to underused venues (e.g. cafes which are only open in the day) so that the venue, the chef and the diner receives experiences they benefit from. We ticket our events and can bring it to an audience; we are essentially the culinary connector of chefs to the hungry horde.
PC: That sounds incredible. How many people can be accommodated at your events?
JA: we usually host events from 8-25 people. We want the experience to be a friendly and social one for our diners and chefs. We have many people come in a group, in a pair or on their own. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people who all appreciate good quality, delicious food.
PC: People after my own heart! How did the concept of Grub Club come about?
JA: It was founded by Sid (Siddarth Vijayakumar) and Olivia (Olivia Sibony) who met in India. Sid was walking around one day and stumbled across a tiny 8-seat restaurant in someone’s house and was enchanted by the romance of such a small venue. When he moved back to the UK, he found it hard to track down something similar and wanted to bring the excitement he had discovered in India back to the UK – so Grub Club was born. Sid actually began recruiting venues by cycling every day and popping into cafes to see if they would be interested in partnering up. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in 3 years, as the restaurants are now mostly coming to us!
PC: You must have been lucky enough to sample a few of the meals while working for Grub Club. Are there any that particularly stick out in your memory?
JA: that’s a hard one. Pause. There was one that was based in Deptford call Tentacle SE8 hosted by a food designer, which was river-themed because the chef was based close to the Thames – it even had coral on the table! There was also another in the St Pancras Clock Tower, which was incredible – a very special venue. My all-time favourite though must be one in North London, which was Roald Dahl themed. A few friends who had met university ran it and it was hosted in their home. They didn’t have much culinary experience but they managed to incorporate the theme so well! They had readings in-between courses, which consisted of foods like Mr. Twit’s Bird Pie and the three-course chewing gum from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – to this day, I don’t know how they managed it.
PC: Wow – that sounds right up my street! So you must have quite a broad range of chefs to connect with venues then?
JA: We definitely do – I believe we’ve worked with over 400 chefs in the time we’ve been up and running, which is a figure to be proud of. Some are regular and some are one offs.
PC: Tell me a little more about your chefs – you must have quite a range.
JA: Yes – and the experience level spans the amateurs through to Michelin-starred chefs. For instance, Pratap Chahal is one of our regular chefs and has cooked at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, Chez Bruce, Cinnamon Club and Galvin Bistrot, amongst others. He’s actually got an event coming up on February 11th in his home for 14 people and there’s a few seats left. I always find it amazing that people will rave over the chef’s table in a restaurant but this is an opportunity to actually sit at the chef’s table!
PC: It’s a great opportunity to get up close and personal with some chefs who are at the top of their game. What sets you apart from the competition in your market?
JA: what sets us apart is that we don’t just want to curate the events, we want to act as a support to the chefs and venues and diners. We want to connect people with the right venue, help then discuss ideas and position their events so that we maximize the enjoyment for everyone. For example, if a restaurant has started up, we know how hard it is to gain traction in uber-competitive London, so we could get in touch with them and send a few chefs their way to host a supper club. It would provide some more money to the venue and also give our chefs a new place to trial out their cooking skills.
PC: that’s great – definitely adds a new dimension to the ‘supper club’ concept. What will you use your R&D Tax Credits for, in a business sense?
JA: I would have to say more marketing. So far, we have been relying almost totally on word of mouth, which has worked, but it will be great to have some money to invest at getting our name more out there. We also want to build on our existing tech to track down even more venues and chefs and the R&D Tax Credits GrantTree claimed for us will definitely be a huge help for that.
PC: that’s amazing – glad GrantTree could be of a help Jess. Can’t wait to hear more about upcoming Grub Club events – I’m hungry just thinking about them!