A new way to empower chefs has come to London and it's called Biteclub. Wondering if it has anything to do with Fight Club? While it might make for a good spin off of the film, Biteclub has actually been set up to help fresh food ideas and chefs flourish.
It assists chefs in launching a limited-edition restaurant and helps them test and hone the concept through Biteclub’s membership. The venture comes from Zag, which is the incubator arm of global creative agency BBH.
Business rates and high rents make the high street inaccessible to the most talented and creative independent chefs, Biteclub’s Jamie Behbahani tells Food Spark.
While the chefs can cook really well, they don’t know the commercial side of things – whether that’s raising capital, finding a site, marketing, building their own personal brand or a long-term strategy.
“All these things are quite a lot to expect from most chefs – the odd one makes it, the Patty and Buns of this world and the poke brands that have managed to get to the permanent sites, but for every one of them there are thousands that never do, and arguably their food can be better, but they don’t have the business acumen to get there,” he says.
“So we set Biteclub up as a technology solution to that problem. The idea of Biteclub is our knowledge of marketing and technology and our investor network have created a home where we can provide them with everything they need to build their brand, test their concept, without committing any money whatsoever, and slowly and surely build their profile and proposition.”
Diners who eat at the concepts rate the experience, including the most popular dishes, location and pricing. If it doesn’t reach a four-star minimum, then the concept doesn’t continue to run. If it is a success, the data is used for investment propositions.
In short, Biteclub is looking for the next big thing, and it’s backing it up with data.
No more giant African snails with Ghanaian fine dining
So far, Biteclub has held almost nine events, one of which included Million Dollar Menu winner Jay Morjaria, who is rolling out a vegetarian East Asian concept called Dynasty.
Another featured chef Adwoa Hagan-Mensah, who showcased a Ghanaian fine dining experience.
Talking to Food Spark, Hagan-Mensah says that Ghanaian food is unique, but she has also tweaked traditional dishes for the Western palate.
“In Ghana, we eat lots of different rice dishes. We eat plantain, cassava, yam, but a lot of the food is stewed meat dishes with vegetables like baby aubergines and different types of spinach. But generally speaking, traditionally the dishes would have mixed meats – like you would have giant African snails with dried fish and you’d have lots of tripe,” she says.
“But we’ve realised that essentially Asian and Indian food has gotten to where it is because it’s been tweaked to suit the Western palate, but kept the traditional flavours at the same time. That’s what I’m doing at the moment, because if you put a bowl of tripe in front of someone, then they are not going to love the food and talk about it.”
Hagan-Mensah did a five-course tasting menu for Biteclub, with either a meat or plant-based option.
“Dishes included guinea fowl with traditional red stew jollof rice – which is like a West African version of paella but nicer – plantain with smoked mackerel and what we call shito. It’s an unfortunate name but it’s really delicious. It’s almost like the Thai hot sauce, but it’s made with smoked shrimp, corned beef, chillies and scotch bonnets and lots spices and herb. It’s cooked with olive oil for hours and hours and it’s almost like our Ghanaian ketchup – we eat it with everything,” she says.
Also on the menu was a peanut soup with Ghanaian bread and a dish called spinach and agusho, with fresh spinach, Portobello mushrooms and tomatoes. Agusho are melon seeds that have been pan-fried and ground into a powder. Then water is added to turn it into a paste. It’s then cooked, which gives it a texture like scrambled eggs but tastes nutty.
More to explore
African food is on the rise and is only going to get bigger, says Hagan-Mensah.
“North African food is quite popular already, but I think East and Central African food is going to be closely followed by the West African food trend at the moment because the food is so different. West African is full flavoured, spicy and punchy, but East African food is slightly milder but it’s still flavourful. I know a couple of street food colleagues that are starting pop-up restaurants and they are doing well, so I’m predicting it’s going to be next thing,” she says.
As for Biteclub, Hagan-Mensah says it is brilliant low-cost model for chefs like her – providing her with a platform, promotion and ways she can move her brand forward. Her ultimate dream is to own a restaurant.
“I’ve always felt that a Ghanaian restaurant centrally that is Wagamama-style dining would be perfect. Somewhere where everyone can access it – and not just in the Brixtons and Hackneys, or somewhere funky like Shoreditch – that’s out there on the high street. I’m hoping by collaborating with Biteclub that someone will take notice and see the potential and run with it and work with us.”