Come November, The Wandering Kitchen will have been in business for a decade which is quite the feat. Their ethos of offering good quality, home cooked food that is made with love has served the business well when they were operating mobile units and remains embedded in the structure of their permanent lakeside cafe location today. The team pride themselves on providing a unique and homely experience for customers and have proven to be a popular fixture. We spoke to business owner Joanna to find out more about The Wandering Kitchen:
Firstly, what inspired you to start up your own catering business?
Both Ed and I have worked in catering since we were in our teens. We then both left the industry to do other things in our twenties. When we met in our early thirties we were talking about all the things we missed about the industry, the buzz and the excitement. And it sort of snowballed from there. We were also eating out a lot at that time. And we wanted somewhere that we could get a good home cooked meal that wasn’t too fancy but something that didn’t feel like it was mass produced and we couldn’t find it, so we had to create it!
What is the most important lesson that you’ve learnt whilst running your own business?
Oh goodness there are so many, we started in street food doing a few events a month to now having a full time cafe that is open 7 days a week. The difference in where we started to where we are now is huge and at every step there has been a lesson or 5. I would say that the top three lessons that we have learnt are:
● Make sure you charge appropriately and stick to what you need to charge even if people are pushing you on price
● Don’t say yes to everything, ask yourself ‘is this appropriate for my brand’
● Have a strong brand, brand identity and voice. It makes you stand out from the crowd.
What led to you joining NCASS and how have you found your membership?
We joined NCASS when we had 5 different cafes, prep kitchens and trailers (we don’t now due to covid). As each needed to be compliant and NCASS provided an easy way to remember when gas certs etc needed updating and NCASS provides us with great Health and Safety docs. I also fully utilise all of the cash back offers as I am a points and loyalty card kinda person.
Your website mentions that you like ‘rustic and hearty’ food – can you expand on what that means to you?
I love food, I love eating out, I grew up in a big family and my uncle ran a restaurant in the south of France which I went to a lot as a kid. I was brought up on home cooked food and meals times in my family were loud, full of chatter, discussion and warmth. So when we started The Wandering Kitchen this is what I wanted people to feel when they came to us. For me food is about extending the table, for everyone to enjoy. And what goes with this environment is ‘rustic and hearty’ food. It is made from good ingredients and it is made with love but it isn’t fancy and hasn’t been made with fancy procedures. It is meant to be like the food that makes you think of home!
So we’ve come to visit the lovely lakeside location – which menu item should we have for the essential Wandering Kitchen experience?
Definitely the wild boar burger with stilton and home made onion chutney served up with our signature chips. This has been on our menu for nearly the whole time we have been in business. It is what we used to serve from our street food trailer. It is The Wandering Kitchen in a nutshell. And people keep coming back for more, or message us and tell us they have been dreaming about one.
How important is it to you to source ingredients locally?
We LOVE working with other local businesses and some of the ones we have been working with for the whole time we have been in business and are very good friends of ours. We support local because the products are amazing and produced with care and attention, it is good for the local economy, better for the environment as the food miles are less and it also means that we are supporting real people that we know and their families and this feels important to us. We know that we have helped to keep other businesses like us operating, especially during difficult times like COVID.
This November will see the decade anniversary of the business – that’s quite the achievement! What do you think has helped you achieved such longevity in hospitality?
Hospitality is second nature to both myself and Ed, I think it is probably in our blood. Ed and I have very complementary skill sets. He trained as a chef, I ran coffee shops, I worked in marketing, he worked in sales. It works! We also now have a really amazing team behind us at the cafe, which makes life easier too.
What are the plans for the future – and the second decade of The Wandering Kitchen?
So this is a question I have found difficult to answer. Because once upon a time pre covid I would have been all over this answer listing things I wanted to do and aspirations. But hospitality in the post covid world is not the same as it was before. I have been following your #empowerindependents campaign and I think this is really important. I consciously put a lot of shine on what we do, on our instragram posts etc.
But everyone in the hospitality industry right now is in survival mode and in this mode it is hard to have dreams and ambitions. It makes me so sad and really a little bit mad as we are going to see more and more wonderful businesses closing and as I have mentioned in my previous answers, food for me isn’t just about eating, it is about being the hub for family gatherings, for people to meet, which is good for the soul. I think the world will be a very sad place without the independent places to go and grab a coffee or meet up with your mates.
So maybe the next decade of The Wandering Kitchen is about helping our industry out, and making sure it has another 10 years.