I ran my first Supper Club in January 2018.
I started with six people in Sulston’s Kitchen and they were mainly friends and family. This slowly grew to eight people and then to ten. Eventually, we had to put on two nights per month and soon people were booking a month in advance. December 2018 we struggled to fill one night but by December 2019 we had a Supper Club every Friday and Saturday through the month in the lead up to Christmas.
Over this time I have teamed up with The Old Fire Station to cook one of the first Secret Supper Clubs in Tonbridge at Haywards Farm Shop cooking with all their amazing produce. It was a chef’s dream. This was followed with a Secret Supper Club at Neptune in Tonbridge, cooking on the Range Master in their showroom and serving from what would normally be their central till area. The guests were seated around the cooking area on Neptune’s beautiful dining room furniture; this was a really special night.
The whole idea of the supper clubs was to bring people together through the love of food, likeminded people that may have just moved to the town or those who wanted to be social and get to know new people. Everyone sat around one large table and one of the courses was always a sharing course, this helped create conversation and interaction. The open kitchen in close proximity to the guests was perfect as it gave me the ability to interact with the guests helped to add to their experience. It was the perfect way to describe the dishes, answer questions about the food, talk about the local suppliers and the amazing produce as well as general chat about new businesses in the town, up and coming festivals and events and so much more.
It was always BYO, which I feel, made the evening a lot more relaxed and also less expensive and this is partly what helped create the relaxed environment.
In these challenging times, much of what made the supper clubs so successful is still possible except now I run them in the comfort of your own home.
We will have monthly menus of 4, 6 and 10 courses for you to choose from for 6 – 8 guests (currently only 6 in line with government guidelines).
We are currently booked up every Saturday in October but free all other evenings so for more info and to book just head over to our online shop.
This is one part of the next chapter and I look forward to cooking for you and your guests.
Photo taken by Severien Vits at one of our Supper Clubs.
This is possibly one of my favourite ever photos and really captures the essence of what the supper clubs are all about.
You don’t need alcohol to have fun…… really!
Like most people in the UK, I have been drinking since my early teenage years whether in Europe on school trips, raiding spirit cupboards and making some serious cocktails that Dale DeGroff would have been proud of, hanging around a shop until someone would buy us a case of stella. The list goes on.
I talk openly about this with numerous friends and the social culture in this country that revolves around the pub and drinking.
To be honest I like the feeling of being drunk, on numerous levels, I like that first pint in the sun. I like the first pint after a long day at work. I like the pint in the airport at 5am. I like the glass of wine with a nice meal; the champagne to celebrate an achievement, the glass of whiskey with a friend, the mojitos on holiday in the pool. You get the picture.
So after an extremely heavy 2019/20, on Monday 3rd August I decided to take a break from alcohol. I’ve done it before and managed a year around 2013. Presumably not by chance, this was when I was training at my peak and competing at high-level jiu jitsu competitions. At the time I also ranked in the top 20 for my age bracket in sprint distance triathlons and I was completing a Foundation Degree in Culinary Arts. All whilst I was working full time as Executive Chef.
In theory, to break most habits you disconnect with people you associate with the thing you want to stop. But it seems everyone drinks alcohol so unless I want to stay in on my own this isn’t going to work. It’s hard though and I get tired of explaining why I’m not drinking. Especially when the person asking you is drunk. Tbh, when it’s round the other way, I’m no better.
I stopped drinking on a Monday and of course I had already arranged to meet a friend that week for a drink, so the first hurdle was telling my friend I’m not drinking. He said he was actually looking to have a break for a bit so I sighed with relief and we met up for a non-alcoholic drink. I thought for a moment this would be the answer. I could be everyone’s excuse not to drink; maybe everyone was looking for a reason to have a night off?!
Last time I stopped drinking I remember wanting to feel different in the mornings. To be honest I didn’t feel much difference, but that’s ok.
From experience, when making big life changes like this it is important to have goals and a focus. Create a reason not to drink. I have signed up for the Tour de Cambridgshire in June next year, which is a 100 mile fast paced race around Cambridgshire and I am looking to head to Denmark in spring 2020 to cycle 820 kilometers in 7 days around the Baltic Sea.
There will always be excuses and reasons to drink and for me it is important not to feel bad if I do, it is a marathon not a sprint. If I have a drink I will just reset the next day and start again. If by this time next year I have drunk 10 times, it is better than to have drunk 365 times. The following year I can hopefully get it down to 5 times and so on. Who knows I may be able to just stop completely.
I will post a blog in 6 months time for anyone that is interested to see how it’s going.
After giving up trying to lift weights in the garden, going on two runs and doing a couple of online body weight movement sessions, I finally remembered I had my bike in the shed. So thought I would dust the cobwebs off, literally.
I haven’t used it since my last sprint distance triathlon back in 2013. I used to love cycling. For me, it was the best bit of Triathlon training. So I searched for my cycling gear and found that it was all far too small for me! Lockdown had well and truly got a hold of me by this point and instead of the 80kg I was back in 2013, I was sitting around 98kg, which I can attribute mainly to beer. Nevertheless I sucked my belly in and prayed that the zips did not break as I squeezed into the stretched-to-the-limit lycra. My movement was pretty restricted but luckily you don’t need to move your upper body too much on the bike.
I went out and hit a 14k loop that I used to do on my rest days. Unsurprisingly it was hard work, but the landscape was beautiful and this is one of the things I have always loved about getting out on the bike. We are so lucky here in Tonbridge. In 5 minutes you can be in the beautiful Kent countryside. So I got home knackered but happy! I waited to see how the legs felt after a couple of days and they were ok so I did the route again only this time a little faster. I was a little less knackered and happy again.
Exercise makes you happy BUT you have to enjoy the exercise for it to be sustainable. I was not happy doing the weights, in fact it was probably having the reverse effect and just pissing me off. Before lockdown I was, and have for a long time, been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which for me is perfect as the ‘getting fit’ part is a byproduct of having fun with friends, wrestling and learning some cool stuff.
Cycling is the same in lots of ways. Like Jiu Jitsu, cycling enables you to train together in a team but you are on your own on race days or those big weekend rides. No one can physically help you on that big hill; it’s down to you to dig deep in the same way when you are under someone’s side control in a Jiu Jitsu competition. The guy on the side shouting, “get out from under him” doesn’t help! It’s all on you and you need to utilize everything you have learnt while training with your team to get out. I love this!
So anyway, after my second ride out I bought a new jersey online, in a Large. When it arrived, it didn’t fit much better than the old ones. It was at this point that my mindset shifted. Not being able to fit into a large top (even though cycling jerseys come up small) was the trigger I needed to break some pretty unhealthy habits and train more. We all know its calories in vs calories out and I’ve always trained really hard, which has allowed me a little flexibility on my diet and drinking. However, stop training and keep eating and drinking means I blow up like a balloon pretty quick. Being someone who likes to eat and drink, I decided to increase my training so some rides I was burning 1800 calories. So far the most I’ve burnt on one ride was our 145k ride to Rye that burnt 3785 calories. The more I trained the less I drank, the better I started to eat. If we were heading out on Sunday morning ride, I wouldn’t drink too much the night before and would try and get an early night.
Now 3 months since my first ride of 2020 I have stopped drinking completely, made a few tweaks to my diet, I am doing yoga every morning and I am feeling great. I am also now ranked 10th on one of the Strava segments that covers part of the loop I first went out on and have now reduced my time for that loop from the initial 33:35 to 27:13. Perhaps most importantly, the new jersey that was too tight now fits perfectly!
We have managed to bring a few likeminded cyclists from Tonbridge and surrounding areas together and created PeloTON, a fun little club that anyone can join. We ride varying distances on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays as a group. We have had some awesome Sunday rides around Kent, Sussex and Surrey. We have climbed two of the top 100 hills in the UK including The Wall and York Hill. We’ve seen some stunning views on the marshland around Romney and up on Ashdown Forest. Most importantly we’ve found some great coffee shops. We are heading out to Whitstable next Sunday to try and hit the 100-mile trip goal.
If you are interested in joining contact us on Instagram or join our club on Strava (PeloTON).
As lockdown was announced local chef and MasterChef winner, Julie Friend saw, like many of us, all of her jobs crash like dominoes from her diary.
“I started to panic after enjoying the first couple of weeks of enforced holiday and realised that I was going to have to either look at a new career or reinvent myself somehow.
A friend came round for a socially distant tea in the garden and remarked ‘this really is a magical spot you have here’. They were right. It was not only magical with views over wildflower meadows and apricot orchards, but the perfect solution for a COVID-safe dining experience which could be reached directly from my drive with no access to the house. Overnight The Tiny Table was born”
Creating bespoke menus with local seasonal produce, Julie cooks from her licensed kitchen, for one group at a time of up to 6 people. Lunches and early evening dinners are both an option and maybe brunch if you ask nicely.
The food reflects the setting with many of the ingredients having been picked straight from the garden a matter of minutes before they end up on a plate. No concerns about food miles here. Julie also takes advantage of being positioned between two fabulous farmshops – Haywards and Farmers Farmshop – and creates dishes with what she finds available in those.
“We are also weather and light dependent, so I’ll only be able to take bookings until mid-September but will try and fit as many requests in as possible”
People can book by emailing me for more details at email@example.com