Girl Boss: Emelia Ward, Founder of Hackney PantryBy Angelica Malin
I’ve always been obsessed with food and cooking, but most importantly also gathering people together around food. Working in the arts I organised and attended many events, and whilst the art and locations were always stunningly beautiful and the food often tasty, it didn’t reflect the fresh produce led way of eating I was used to at home, and even now in many restaurants across London.
There are many things that have influenced my style of cooking. Being vegetarian for 20 years and needing to create interesting dishes, I look to all flavours and cuisines for flavours and textures. I just love to eat – and wanting to enjoy food that tastes as good as it makes you feel. I’ve grown up around a family obsessed with food, as well as in the country with our own vegetable garden, and we’ve aways focused on the best most seasonal produce, using that days harvest as the inspiration for what to cook that evening.
How long did it take for the idea to become a reality?
You could say it was both quick and slow! I registered the company in November 2015 and hosted our first event in January 2016 – in that time I sorted out bank accounts, insurance, health and safety with the council etc (you must register with them 30 days before you start providing food). In that sense as soon as I wanted to press go, I did. Of course I’d actually been thinking about the idea for some time before that and the journey to finish my part time day job took another year until January 2017, when I took the plunge and went full time with the Hackney Pantry. But that gave me plenty of time to test out ideas, build up a customer base and get my business plan lined up. After that it was really just a case of pressing the fast forward button on all my thoughts and plans.
What’s been the hardest part of setting up your own business?
In all honesty it’s been doing it by myself. I’ve realised that I am someone who needs to talk things through with people and when you have to make every decision by yourself that can be tough. It’s also very easy to compare yourself to other people on social media who’ve been in the business much longer than you have. But I’ve found surrounding myself with good friend and family and my husband of course is the best tonic. And slowly meeting lovely people in the food business too.
You regularly hold pop-ups and workshops across London – what have you got coming up?
London In The Sky
Favourite breakfast dish?
A tough question! I don’t think much is off the menu at breakfast/ brunch and I’m always concocting some new combination. On holiday in Italy recently we had fried courgette flowers for breakfast which really got me thinking. My favourite dish recently has to be my green shakshuka made with foraged greens and herbs including sorrel and nettles with a massive dollop of labneh and griddled flat bread on the side. But if it’s just a regular weekday breakfast you can’t beat a good smoothie (strawberry, watermelon, beetroot and cucumber with almond milk and honey is my current fave) or classic overnight oats. I’ve recently started adding puréed strawberries to the mix which is delicious.
Favourite place in London for brunch?
Ooh that is also a hard question as it’s probably my favourite meal and time to eat out, especially for inspiration. Morito Hackney Road was the first place that popped into my head – it’s not your average brunch, the flavours are incredible, their poached eggs, spinach, chilli butter, seasoned yoghurt and crispy sage is my perfect brunch dish.