Cooking / Events / Nutrition / Our story / Sustainability
London ate insects – and they loved it! By Seb Holmes
March 27, 2014
Well, well, well where do I start? Firstly I’d like to once again apologise for my consistently inconsistent blogging nature. ‘Articuleat’ – my personal blog – is always at the forefront of my mind, yet I still haven’t mastered the art of cooking and writing at the same time. My girlfriend always says, “men can’t multitask!” She may be right? But fortunately I’m way too stubborn to believe all that old bollocks. So I will continue to write, pen in one hand, knife in the other- I apologise in advance if you’re ever on the receiving end of me using the wrong hand.
Now I have been incredibly busy recently with Eat Grub. Last time I shared what I was up we were in the final stages of designing our seven course, insect-based menu to serve up to Londoners in Shoreditch.
Things have progressed amazingly since then. Now my initial purpose for sharing my inside perspective of the cheffing world in London, was to give you guys a first hand perspective of what really happens behind the scenes when it comes to organising, designing, creating and actually supplying the public with food in London. All the hard work, stress, ups, downs is all kept behind closed doors. This is the same with many businesses in this industry, so that when you sit down and have a great experience, we make it look easy. In reality, it takes a group of amazing people working their arses off to truly make it work.
The Eat Grub team, I can safely say is a wonder concoction of individuals that have just proved their excellence by successfully offering Central London insects as a new culinary experience.
There are many things that I could have guessed I would have been doing five years ago. Cooking insects, quite honestly was not one of them. When I was asked to create a menu I jumped at the challenge (just as any other chef would, I’m sure – right?). I will admit, there were moments when I was cooking 11 dishes on my own for a tasting; crickets all over the stove, grasshoppers up the walls, palm sugar on the ceiling, where I thought “what the fuck am I doing?” Despite this, as soon as I saw Shami and Neil’s reactions when they put my food in their mouth, I became addicted. Anyone that loves cooking as much as I do will know the same feeling – when someone eats your food and gives the globally renowned nod, you’ve nailed it. The whole experience so far has been amazing and I’m well and truly a convert to the world of entomophagy. Insects are delicious and if you use them in the right way, you would be crazy not to like them.
When designing the menu I felt like a kid in a candy shop. My love and passion for Thai food seemed a natural fit when put with insects. I wanted to focus on not just supplying diners with a quirky one off experience, but enlightening them to the potential of this massively unused ingredient.
The whole menu was carefully designed by the whole Grub team to do just this. I tried to put myself into the thought chain of someone who was coming to eat with us. The first dish, ‘soy crickets and pandanus leaf’ is about as in your face as you can get when it comes to eating insects. For this reason we positioned it first in the menu, just to get people in the mood. After all, in Thailand school children eat this dish for lunch – if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us. Even knowing that they taste delicious, I remember wondering how people were going to react to a big bowl of crickets being put in front of them. After some of the ridiculous food complaints I’ve come across in my time, I at least expected someone to have something to say, but no! By some stroke of miracle I was wrong again, people were loving it – although I’m sure some may have taken a little longer to get going than others.
The rest of the menu takes the diner on a journey of discovery. From dishes that are relatable to the Western palette, to dishes where you would hardly tell insects were involved and some, that quite frankly came out of the craziness of my mind. To see so many people enjoying the dishes I created was an amazing experience, it’s certainly made me look forward to what’s to come next.
Ultimately, I think cooking with insects is an awesome challenge and eating them is a new experience to many. It’s funny how instantaneously a lifetime of disagreement can be changed, just from having the balls to try it. A repeated notion in many of the reviews is just how easily people forgot they were even eating insects. In just seven courses their preconceived negativity towards chowing down on some grubs for dinner had almost disappeared! This reaction excites me, who knows this could be the start of a food revolution? Why not they taste bloody great.
The success of this event has been outstanding, with positive reviews coming from many areas of the media. If you would like to read a little more about what happened in Hoxton Square, follow some of the links below: