If you’re a fan of food and drink then you’re going to love Hayley Sudbury and Angella Newell. They’re the co-founders of The Tasting Sessions, events that bring together good food and drink with music, festivals, artists and designers to create a completely new experience.
We sat them down to talk about The Tasting Sessions as well as what we can expect the next big trends in food and drink to be!
FemaleFirst: How do you predict food and drink trends?
Angella: Well that’s a very interesting question and it’s certainly an area of the landscape that’s changing quite rapidly. For us, we always tend to go back to the macroeconomic trend as well and look at that very much as a starting point as to why things are shaping the way they are. I guess one of the key things that we’ve certainly noticed is that during times of economic downturn what people consider to be valuable changes. Things become a little bit simpler as people seek out experiences that have a much longer lasting impression than purchasing a physical product for example. We obviously use the internet in a big way for what we’re doing, which has a massive impact and trends certainly catch fire a lot more quickly and spread around the globe, so it’s a big tool for us as well.
Hayley: If you want to just draw on some research quickly, Courvoisier have just done a piece of work that highlights that basically almost 40% of people in the UK are looking for a new and different dining experience. So that’s where we really come into the piece with what we’ve been doing around tasting sessions and changing people’s experience about how they experience food and drink and how they connect with people around it.
FF: So what are your food and drink predictions for the next year?
A: Well we’ve been working very much at the intersection of food, drink, music and art and increasingly technology has played a big part in that. So we have five key trends that we’re seeing out there right now and the first one is something that we’re calling the internet of food and this is very much about the fact that we’ve had the science of food with the likes of Heston Blumenthal and now it’s time for the internet of food. This can be anything from sensors in the supply chain that tell you where the steak that’s sitting on your plate has come from, through to personal tracking systems and saying this is the impact food is having on you right now. Secondly we’re certainly seeing that sustainable food practices are taking hold and there’s a growing acknowledgement that we really need to make some big changes to agriculture and farming to create sustainable food production for the next generations. One such things is insects as the plants’ next food source being served up in restaurant because of the high protein content and the fact that is takes a lot less resources in order to create said insects. Other things that are happening as well are lab grown in-vitro that you might actually wash down with a programmable glass of red wine. They’re kind of extreme examples of food replacement but things we are starting to see, moving from the lab into the restaurant right now. Something else we’re seeing as well is this idea of sensory has become a very big trend and tasting food with our brains, I like to call it the seventh sense, a few scientists can manipulate taste sensation literally by using chemical compounds that actually block or stimulate taste receptors and tell you you are tasting something that you might not actually be tasting. So this is something that I think will become more common place as we look to make nutritious foods tastier, but it’s also something that could be taking the culinary experience very much to the next level.
FF: How do you think the whole dining experience has changed and evolved? Do you think social media i.e. things like Instagram, Twitter have had an effect?
H: Without a doubt. Firstly, what’s happened is with social media generally, people can now enter this business a lot more easily that they could’ve say 10 years ago. You’re able to build a community quickly, if you’ve got a product or a service or experience that you want to bring people to you can do that and you can profile what you’re doing. I also think a lot of creative individuals broadly who aren’t just people making decisions around being a chef or a cook for example are choosing to experiment with the food and drink industry. So the types of individuals you’re now finding broadly in the industry has really widened and that’s how Angie and I ended up in this too, just a love for food and drink and an ability to experiment through collaborating with loads of other people. One of the ways we do that is that we’re members of the Courvoisier Future 500 Network and that’s allowed us to collaborate with professionals in the food and drink industry.
A: And beyond
H: And beyond who are up and coming, a whole load of creatives and really do something quite different around that food and drink experience.
FF: Do you think networking is important and also tell us a bit about how you first started the tasting sessions.
A: On the networking, without a doubt yes. I think good networks like we mentioned being members of the Future 500 is absolutely how you can create amazing things. Collaboration is actually a trend in itself as well; it’s not just about the individual anymore it’s about the power of the people! You can certainly make much more impact with a greater group but for us, back to the power of the people and two females in this case, you’re Female First so we’re pimping out the two female entrepreneurs! We met around food and drink, we loved it, I was going to start a vineyard Sudbury Estate, Ang was going to make cheese, we kind of figured that we’d put the goats on the vineyard with the dairy, we’d do a little line of the Nule goats cheese with Sudbury wines and that would be spectacular.
A: With some light performance, some music and art.
H: Absolutely. One small issue, it was like gees, I haven’t quite got the funding for that yet being at the earlier stages in our life. So why not actually start experimenting around food and drink and turn all this passion and energy we have around connecting people around these experiences into something and that’s really were The Tasting Sessions was born and that was almost five years ago now and it has been an epic journey. Around the world several times, we’ve eaten and drunk most things you could consider or wouldn’t consider all of them legal of course and generally had a great time building out something quite different and I think having two cofounder is certainly a lot more helpful than just being a solo in the whole thing.
FF: What are the weirdest things either of you have eaten?
A: As we were talking about insects earlier certainly if they are on the menu I will always give them a go and I was in Cambodia, a couple of years ago and tarantulas have become a bit of a delicacy there. So I had to order them, it would have been rude not to. So they came out deep fried with a lime and tamarind dipping sauce it was quite delicious actually. The legs were slightly crunchy like matchsticks, the body was a little bit softer, a bit more of a challenge but I got through there in the end and that was a great experience actually.
H: I mean Ang is pretty off the wall I think one of our friends just posted; I hope you are talking about the Cambodian experience and apparently not even the locals eat the body that’s how much she likes to push boundaries. They tend to eat more of the legs but Ang, she just chomped into that whole thing.
A: Fair to say I didn’t know that at the time.
FF: Could describe it as anything perhaps we’ve have eaten before?
A: I guess the legs taste a little bit like crunchy matchsticks actually but flavoured with the lime and tamarind dipping sauce. The body was a bit more like sort of a marshmallow with a gooey inside and a hairy exterior. Imagine that.
FF: What are you both working now of have coming up?
H: Well we’ve got a number of things that we are doing ranging from private dinners, we are also doing some really interesting stuff around connecting female entrepreneurs and leaders at dining experiences both here in the UK and the US and that’s under our business which is called Smith, that’s at www.thisissmith.com We really believe that if you get great people to the table then great things happen and that is really having a great experience that supports that or social lubrication as we like to call it. Amazing food and drink that gives people the opportunity to connect around and discuss what’s going on in their lives and from that we are even seeing amazing collaborations happen. So our focus is very much those dinners and profiling the emerging and established chiefs both here in the UK and in the US.
FF: Do you have any advice for anyone that perhaps really passionate about food and drink but just doesn’t know how to go about getting into the industry?
A: Well look they can always get in touch with us. We’ve got lots of ridiculously, hilarious stories to share. I think what’s happening on Twitter generally and just connecting with the taste makers, the trend setters, it’s fairly easy to isolate that and look at what’s happening in your local area. I also think it’s about going and chatting to the person you respect the most. If there is a chef or a restaurateur or a fantastic mixologist. I was just talking to Amanda Humphries who is a fabulous female mixologist and is doing some amazing stuff particularly around the Courvoisier sensory experience and I would go and chat to someone like her. Firstly another chick in the industry, doing really cool stuff, Amanda what can we do? Can we collaborate? Can you come and do something for me? That’s really, I think what it’s about, it’s about where is the best, how do I tap into that? It’s picking up the phone, it’s sending a message and it’s just being proactive.
H: It’s about getting involved really.
FF: Where can people go for more info?
H: So for us they can go to www.thetastingsessions.com or they can also go to www.courvoisier.com where they can find out information on the Future 500 network and that is much broader than just food and drink. So it’s a network of fantastic entrepreneurs so spanning all industries and on Smith they can go to www.thisissmith.com
FF: Brilliant, thank you.