Well hello there happy readers, we find ourselves back here on another Clapham Studios post. We had some time aside to have a little chat with our happy chef, Josephine O’Hare, who is doing an amazing job hosting the Hare on the Hill supper club. If you are new to the culinary world, and don’t know about Joey, she finished her training at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, in Ireland and shortly after she studied culinary arts at Westminster Kingsway College. Pursuing her passion for food, she worked in several lovely London restaurants and in private homes across the Uk and even abroad. Must we mention that she starred in the BBC’s Masterchef the Professionals show? Not only that Joey made it to the final twelve, so happy reading to find out more about what makes chef Josephine O’Hare tick.
Interview with Josephine O’Hare
- To first start our interview I think the readers would be interested in your passion and how it all started? How did you get into cooking?
I’ve always loved food a bit too much… My mother is a great cook so we were lucky enough to have delicious home-cooked food growing up. After sixth form I went to Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland and really got ‘the bug’. I loved learning about seasonality and sustainability, and engaging with all aspects of food, from field to fork. It is a truly inspiring place to learn. After graduating I cooked in the French Alps for sixth months, before returning to London to start work in restaurant kitchens.
- How did you come up with Hare on the Hill pop-up supper club idea?
Running a supper club has long been a dream of mine. I think the format plays to my strengths: as a private chef I run one sitting – for example a dinner party – rather than a dinner service spread over several hours as in a restaurant. I love engaging with the guests, working with friends, and hosting in general!
- How would you describe your menu and food?
Food at Hare on the Hill, and my food philosophy more broadly, is ‘vegcentric’. I do not exclude meat and fish from the menus at all, these feature in the pre-dinner snacks and the sharing plates at the beginning of the meal, but my starters and main courses are always vegetarian, as I believe that within the communal environment of a supper club it’s important to all eat together. Too often vegetarian are short-changed with a poor main course option!
While I love meat and fish, and love to cook with it, I realise, as we all are increasingly, that we don’t need to eat animal protein at every meal: it’s too much for our own health and well being, I would argue, and certainly too much for the environment. Crazy demand also means animal welfare standards are poor, and this is something I feel passionately about. Putting seasonal vegetables at the heart of a meal is a great way to eat deliciously, colourfully, seasonally and sustainably.
- In a male dominated industry, what do you believe makes you stand out and how are you finding it?
I certainly don’t feel I stand out because I’m female! Although maybe statistically speaking on Masterchef Professionals I was… I think I stand out because of my vegcentric philosophy. People are responding so positively to it, and for various reasons. Some dinners simply say it’s a nice change to not always have a meat-dish on a set menu; some say that they had no idea vegetarian food could be some complex in flavour; some love the seasonal aspect; and many love the fact that though they eat six courses at Hare on the Hill, they don’t go home feeling stuffed or uncomfortable – the vegcentric food is lighter, and well menus are well balanced.
- Would you like to open your own restaurant or do you prefer the pop up life?
That’s a tricky one..! For now I am absolutely loving running the pop-up, but who knows where it will lead!
- What do you believe is your signature dish, and why?
I think there are 2 signatures dishes… One is the corquettes we served at the beginning of the night along with a drink – people love them! I change the flavours each time and serve them with a really punchy dip. We’ve had parmesan arancini with wild garlic mayonnaise, ham hock, leek & English mustard croquettes with a lemon & chive mayonnaise, and crab cakes with aioli, to name a few!
The second signature dish is absolutely the palate-cleanser/pre-pudd which is a ‘cheesecake’… Its raw, vegan, sugar-free, and genuinely the favourite dish of the night every time! I’ve worked hard at converting some favourite desert recipes into lighter or healthier versions, as food without refined ingredients is in increasing demand, and I’m hugely proud of this one. It’s served in a little glass, with some spelt crumble, a seasonal fruit coulis or puree, and a very tart lime granita. It’s so light and refreshing!
- How did you come across Clapham Studios and what do you like about it?
I love working at Clapham Studios. The space is wonderful and it lends itself so well to the relaxed communal environment of a supper club. After Masterchef, photographer Stefan Johnson got in touch to collaborate on a shoot; along with another friend Eloise James we cooked, styled and shot a collection of seasonal salads and had a great time working together. At the time I had looked at several different cafes and spaces for a supper club, but had yet to find the perfect spot. From the moment I walked into Clapham Studios I knew it was what I had been looking for!
- How often do you host a supper club?
As often as I can around my day job and other work commitments. So far that’s been about 3 or 4 times a month, but it will be ramped up in July and August when I have a bit more time. I’m so excited to focus on Hare on the Hill as much as possible over the coming months!