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Kitchenette startup accelerator: food, entrepreneurship, community

We may not think of them as such, but each and every restaurant, food truck or supperclub we love dining at is, or has been at some point, a startup – with its challenges, successes and setbacks, and an impact on the economy. Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to the official launch of “A steak in the Economy” – a study about why food entrepreneurship is so important to the British economy (to any economy, really). You can download the full report here – do read it, it is chock-full of interesting insights, including interviews with the people behind The Clove Club, Kerb, Meat Liquor and other foodies’ favourites.

kitchenette food startup incubator uk report

Hosted in the magnificent Roast Restaurant in Borough Market, the presentation of  “A steak in Economy”and the following debate  was an intense and eye-opening experience for me-  I had a chance to hear some surprising findings from the study (did you know that the “eating out” sector employs more than a million people in the UK, mroe than construction or IT?) and to discover Kitchenette, the first UK food startup incubator. Also, the speakers’panel included some of the food entrepreneurs I admire most, including Yianni Papoutsis (the CEO of the Meat Wagon group) and Petra Barran, CEO of KERB street markets. It is things like that that make me most proud of my little blog- of course, it is great to scoff cronuts and enjoy the occasional free meal, but where I see the real value for me as a person and hopefully for my readers is in meeting inspiring people and exploring  the restaurant and food industry “behind the scenes”.

kitchenette report steak in the economy

The report was presented at a morning event held at Roast restaurant. Middle left, Cinthya Shanmugalingam, CEO of Kitchenette, and the panel of food entrepreneurs including Meat Liquor founder Yianni Papoutsis and Petra Barran of Kerb. The Good Egg, one of Kitchenette’s first cohort of food startups, cooked a delicious Shakshuka eggs breakfast

I also had the opportunity to interview Kitchennette’s Chairman and food entrepreneur Iqbal Wahhab and Cynthia Shanmugalingam, Chief Executive and founder of Kitchenette. Here is my short Q&A with Iqbal- I think it is an inspiring tale of how the passion for food can really change lives- and society- for the better, and my conversation with Iqbal Wahhab is a perfect example of this.

An interview with Iqbal Wahhab, OBE

You may know Iqbal as the former creator and editor of Tandoori Magazine; or the founder of the Cinnamom Club incredibly succesful series of ventures; or as the owner of Roast, a great seasonal British restaurant and stall in Borough Market; or as a TV commentator, youth mentor and benefactor. Mr. Wahhab really is not just a serially successful entrepreneur  but also an example of how food entrepreneurship is good for society and the community – he is particularly committed to working with young people, contributing to  grass roots initiatives in the capital and beyond, for example with apprenticeships schemes for disadvantaged youths in Roast and other restaurants.

Iqbal wahhab roast kitchennette

His latest project  Kitchenette, of which he is chairmain and sponsor, is a social enterprise that aims to help the city’s most original and promising first-time food entrepreneurs, in particular women from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds. The organisation pledges to train, mentor and invest in these individuals and ensure that their businesses run on sustainable and ethical bases.

ITFW: What brought you to support Kitchenette LDN and to accept the chairmain responsibility? What is one thing you’d like to achieve with this initiative?

IW: Until Kitchenette came along, most food social enterprises concentrated on employment often at the expense of the quality of the food in the mix. You can only dine in  a worthy establishment once; if you want people to come back again and again, you need to have good food.

Kitchenette’s emphasis on culinary quality as a key eligibility driver for their programme was to me a much more sustainable and credible route which set it apart from other projects and their timing was just right with the emergence of the street food revolution and supper clubs that get sold out within hours of being posted on Twitter.

This was no shoehorning of ideas but more of a timely commercial grasp of a growing social trend. I took the chair role because I thought I could add value and helped finance the early stages and was able to convince others in business to do the same.

ITFW: You work a lot with youth in your restaurants – if you could say one thing to your 17 year old self what would it be?

IW: What would I say to my 17 year old self? “My God you’ve made a mess of your life so far. Whatever you do, keep away from your old gang because they’re going to end up in prison and you don’t want to follow them” .

Today I am going to Brixton Prison and will be telling inmates that if it wasn’t for a lucky turn in my life, I too would probably be there. I work a lot with young people to tell them there is a life away from the benefits, drugs and crime culture. I found it and they can too – with Kitchenette it might be through food.

I am grateful to Mr. Wahhab for taking time to answer my questions and find his experience very inspiring. In the next post, I will talk more in depth about the Kitchenette food startups incubator with her founder Cynthia Shanmugalingam.

You can read more about the “A steak int he economy” report and Kitchenette on this Channel 4 article.

Have you ever thought of starting a food business? Street food truck, supperclub or restaurant? Let me know in the comments

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Such an interesting personality!!

    • He is indeed! and very approachable as well. I think this Kitchenette thing is a great initiative…as you know very well, food startups are exciting and they do good things for the community as well :)

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