Friday, 8 April 2016

The food we've been eating on the course - a chat with Gabby Delellis of Homegrown

A big theme among the participants on our course is that we need to make more conscious choices about the food we eat. So on that note, we thought it would be a good idea to talk to Gabby Delellis, who runs Homegrown in POP Brixton and provides the delicious food we've been eating every Wednesday evening.

Q. What is Homegrown and what is your ethos?

Gabby: Homegrown is a juice bar and café. It came about because I grew up on a farm in Sussex. My family is Italian in origin so everything was farm-to-table. My granddad has a butcher's so all of our meat came from animals we reared on the land. My nan, my mum and my dad used to grow all our vegetables.

I went travelling for five years and then I moved straight to London. And what I found when I'd moved to London was that there was nothing promoting sustainability or farm-to-table. There was no focus on locally sourced produce in restaurants. When I went out with my friends I couldn't find anything healthy to eat that was fast food - healthy fast food - which really surprised me. All of my friends used to come over to eat. I used to host a lot of dinner parties, and I have this passion for food.

Ultimately the relationship comes from when I was a child and what I used to eat. We never used to get anything from then supermarket unless it was a dried good and that's where my inspiration comes from. It's all about what's good for the soul. Nothing is bad for you. Everything in moderation.

We're predominantly vegan and vegetarian. Wherever we can be we are dairy free, refined sugar free. We're conscious of people's dietary requirements although we do offer some meat. We're strong on home cooking, fresh produce and seasonal food. That's really what we are about.

Q. Where does your produce come from?

Gabby: Our suppliers are locally based. Most of our produce comes from the UK, apart from some of the fruits that go into our juices like watermelon. Occasionally if a fruit is out of season it will come from Europe. But a lot of what we sell comes from just outside the M25. That's what we try to maintain. It is tough. Because of price, mainly.

Q. What's the thing you're most proud of?

Gabby: That's a tough question. I know that we're not offering something wholly unique. There are people out there doing it. There are loads of salad bars. Loads of cafés. But I'm proud of what we've managed to achieve in a year [since opening]. Our local reputation. We get a lot of repeat business.

But I'm most proud of maintaining affordability. You don't need to break the bank to eat healthily. What you find when you go into a lot of places is that you're buying a box of salad and because it's got a tiny bit of superfood in there, you know, all of these key words consumers are drawn to, you end up spending £10 for a salad box. We try to maintain affordability because it doesn't have to be expensive. That's one thing I'm quite proud of - that people can come in and eat, and not feel that they're being ripped off when they're choosing to eat tasty food.

Q. If you could change one thing about the food system, what would you change?

Gabby: Probably farming, where it all originates. The source. There's a man in America whose name has slipped my mind who is revolutionising the farming system. He uses a rotation process. He starts with his cows in one field, and rotates the herd through his fields. There should be more positive influences on farming.

As a consumer, we really need to start changing our mindset about food... what we want from a vegetable and what we see. We're very set in our ways. If a carrot doesn't look like a [perfect] carrot we won't buy it. And that's such a shame because there's so much waste when all vegetables and fruits are good. Just because it doesn't look perfect doesn't mean it isn't edible. We try and promote ugly fruit here.

Q. When people come into Homegrown, what's the big trend you notice your customers are asking for from you?

Gabby: Our juices sell massively. But I think a lot of people are becoming conscious about animals. We have a lot of people who come in and love our vegan cookies. They don't contain any dairy. Our vegan sweet treats are our biggest sellers. People are becoming much more conscious about what is in their food.

Q. And finally, what's hot on the menu at the moment?

Gabby: At the moment I absolutely love our spring salad. It's bulgur wheat, green peppers, spring onions, coriander and feta with a tamari and olive oil dressing. It's delicious.

Q. Thanks Gabby.

Gabby: Thank you!

You can find more information about Homegrown on Twitter - @homegrown_ldn - and Facebook. They are open every day in POP Brixton and also available for event catering.

Location: Brixton, London, UK


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