The Fashionable Way to Graduate

So today was my sister’s graduation. I must say I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it, I  was so worried about taking too much time off work and thought it would be really boring. However it really was a lovely event. It was held in the Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank and what a lovely hall it is, I’m crazy about the modern interior, the balcony’s are so cool.

Now this was quite a contrast to my graduation ceremony for my mathematics at King’s degree considering my sister just graduated from London College of Fashion so I spent most the time looking at everyone’s shoes!

The highlight for me though was the message from Vidal Sassoon to the new graduates. He was supposed to attend the ceremony in person but couldn’t due to ill health unfortunately and so he left a video message. He spoke about his life and how he started before becoming the world wide success he is, he was very humble and said it was mostly due to luck and that his mother had put him on the right path. As a young entrepreneur I find these types of stories fascinating and a few things he said stuck in my mind. He quoted that ‘the only time success comes before work.. is in the dictionary’.  He also said ‘ you can be the fun person that likes to go to all the parties, or you can quietly work hard and become successful’.I really believe that the only way I will be as successful as I want to be will be by pure and sometimes painful hard work and sacrifices yet I feel there are  so many dreamers out there who seem to think things like that come easy. Another thing he said which I loved was that one should be confident but never ever be arrogant or let your head get too big, you should always have that very slight insecurity about maintaining your status and success when taking it to the next level. I loved the fact that he was such a lovely man and no one can argue his success yet he was so humble. I hate arrogance and show-offs and it’s usually those people who have not much to show for themselves. Anyway I don’t have too much to say about this apart from I love when anything or anyone inspires me, even in a little way. If you inspire me you change my life 🙂

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‘Keep your eye on the doughnut, not on the hole.’

So since the summer I’ve put all my catering activities on hold, since I’ve been working on something a bit more ambitious but exciting at the same time. Not only have I put the catering on hold but it feels as though I’ve put my life on hold. I’ve pretty much had no social life, I’ve missed my closest friends birthdays which makes me feel awful. It kind of sucks but I think that if you are serious about starting your own business or project it’s the only way. Firstly you have to rely on yourself and self motivation is difficult especially when you feel daunted by all the new challenges you will face, so you can’t afford any distractions. Also when you have to work alongside it all to fund your living and start up costs there is simply no time!

I often wonder how people who are starting their own business get over the anxiety that comes with it. I mean you get so sucked into what you are doing, you make sacrifices for it and then you get attached to the idea and put your heart and soul into it that you can’t bear the thought of it not working out when the reality is that there are many ways it could all go wrong. I’ve given up on getting a good nights sleep since I keep waking up every few hours and remembering things I have to do. I was speaking to a good friend about it who told me plain and simple that there are some things out of my control and the only thing I have to worry about is to keep doing what I’m doing, and then I felt fine! (See what I mean by getting so sucked in!)

Anyway I’ve been reading a book by the film director David Lynch and he talks about similar feelings whilst making the movie Eraserhead which took him five years to complete. He said that he almost felt that the world was leaving him behind and he thought the whole world would be different by the time he had finished. Then he talks about the expression “Keep your eye on the doughnut, not on the hole.” If you keep your eye on the doughnut and do your work, that’s all you can control. You can’t control any of what’s out there, outside yourself but you can stay focused on what’s important and do the best that you can do.  It’s so true.

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Art, Making Money, Investment Bankers, and Goats!

Interesting how the same day one of the oldest banks on Wall Street, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy on 15th September 2008 a collection of Damien Hirst‘s works from his series ‘Beautiful Inside My Head Forever’  sold at Sotheby’s fetching more than £70m. Whether you are a fan of art or not you can’t argue that it is an important industry to be aware of, more so now than ever before.

As an artist myself I appreciate how much time, skill, heart and soul can go into a piece of work so I have never been one to criticize paying good money for art.  I’ve always been interested in being a collector  but I’ve never known how to go about it. I read a 12 page report on the art market in The Economist last December, it covered everything from history, corruption, the ins and outs of primary and secondary markets ,trends, how demand for art is the long run is bound to rise blah blah blah but  the conclusion was with all technicalities aside, it’s always going to be risky business so the best way to collect art is to always buy pieces you love, that way you have nothing to lose.  There is a lot of luck involved here too, I’m sure you’ve heard some of the success stories like the guy who bought an original Banksy piece for  a couple of hundred pounds only to find that two years later it was worth hundreds of thousands.

So I made my first purchase at the Affordable Art Fair a couple of months ago-a painting of an ‘ investment banker demon’ from the Pandemonium series by Stanley Donwood, you could almost say it was love at first sight (even though it may not be everyone’s ideal choice of painting to have at home!). I just loved the bright co lours and the fact that it was a cheeky piece, the main thing though was that I imagined this would be a great painting to have up in one of my restaurants/lounges one day and it really does stand out!

Stanley Donwood who has won two Grammy awards for his art and is often described as the sixth member of the English rock band Radiohead produced all the artwork for this year’s Glastonbury Festival and is currently working on a project in San Fransisco. You could also say he is not a huge fan of Investment bankers..

The Pandemonium series is a comment on the financial crisis  and the financiers who caused it – the series depicts soberly suited figures whose heads have been replaced by satanically grinning goats.

“They’re horrible, feral, carnivorous goat-like creatures, consumed by a naked, guiltless, ravening greed,” says Donwood. “Partly, the faces you fear you’ll see when you pull open the curtains at night, partly the laughing visage of decaying Western capitalism, they’re inspired by vast movements of cash into the pockets of the despicable, by bonuses, payoffs and bribes to keep quiet. This motherf**ker wears the suit and tie of a disgraced banker trousering a few hospitals worth of cash’.

” Gallons of paint I’ve poured over them to drown their snickering. But still they laugh.”

To me art has to make an impact or tell a story and I feel this piece does both. I do see it as a good investment partly because it’s controversial and just a few were made and partly because the artist is going from strength to strength with a good fan-base already. I hope I never have to sell it though because I love it!

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Fish Tagine Receipe from a true Moroccan Mama…

Moroccan tea the proper way

Meet Mama Fatine from the quaint little city of Safi in Western Morocco. She lives to feed people, as soon as you enter her home you will be offered tea, freshly baked snacks, then out may come a chicken, followed by a full-blown feast. All the while she sits back and watches keeping alert just in case your plate is empty or something runs out. Such a warm, welcoming and generous host. The last time I visited I told her I wanted her to teach me to cook a Moroccan dish and here is the recipe; (I was surprised at how healthy it was, no frying involved at all!)

Authentic Moroccan Fish Tagine- serves 6

Preparation Time:45 mins, Cooking Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 3 carrots
  • 4 celery sticks sliced
  • 2 tomatoes
  • apx 1.5kg of fresh  firm white fish such as snapper, halibut, or sea bass.
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • handful of green olives

for the charmoula (marinade):

  • handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp  salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • juice and pulp of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 cloves of garlic crushed
  • a few strands of saffron (1/4 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Method:

Peel and slice the carrots into discs, boil for around 15 mins, drain and keep to the side.

Mix all the ingredients for the charmoula together then spread on top of the fish, allow to marinade for at least 30 mins.

Layer the base of a tagine dish (or a large heavy based saucepan) with the sliced carrots, next add the celery, then place the fish on top followed by the sliced tomato, olives and roughly chopped preserved lemon. Add any remaining charmoula and a generous drizzling of olive oil on top of it all.

Cover and cook on the stove on a low heat for an hour until the fish is nicely cooked.

Serve with bread, rice, or couscous and traditionally eaten with hands. The perfect thing to share with friends!

(Note: don’t worry if you can’t get hold of preserved lemon or saffron, it will still turn out great without it.)

Main photograph taken by Bo kim.

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Recent Morocco

So as you may have already read  my first visit to Morocco was a particularly en lighting experience and I have to say the second time was no different.  Although the main object of my trip was for work purposes I was lucky enough to catch the Gnaoua annual music festival in Essouira. It was quite a hectic affair though, a mixture of tribal, reggae,and jazz music, huge crowds, summer heat, many pick-pockets prowling round, hustle and bustle, people from all around the world having fun.  What stuck the most though was the fact that there were Moroccan street kids EVERYWHERE mixed into the crowds inhaling glue. It was quite surreal, imagine the music pumping, the hot weather and these the white plastic bags lined with glue expanding and contracting like jellyfish in these children’s mouths,  some looked as young as 7 with just a glazed look on their face, dribbling and foaming at the mouth,  and when they’d subconsciously get too close to people and they’d get forcefully shoved away they wouldn’t even notice, they’d just keep the same glazed look.  Knowing this could cause them brain damage  and that they obviously didn’t have any proper guidance was  heartbreaking, I wanted to cry. Guess that’s real life though. Still if that doesn’t make you want to do something about it I don’t know what will.

Now moving on to Marrakesh, I think I finally found a city that tires me out! Such a buzzing place. Strolling round the markets  trying to find gems among the rubbish, I’m wondering  why there are so many old men chanting weird sounding things with a hunchback, squint in one eye, a hand out for money and the other hand shakily holding a walking stick!?  Literally all doing the same thing, coincidence!? I say forget the London look get the Marrakesh look!  I got to experience some of the high life too though, I came across a very stylish hotel called Bab with a lovely restaurant and skybar, they had a trendy young crowd ( I love to people watch) and their deserts seriously rock! I had nougat ice cream served with crunchy hazelnut praline and tangy cooked warm cherries! It was definitely one to remember.

What a fantastic county though from the warm people (once you sieve through the bad apples) to the rich cuisine, to the treasures you find in the markets, to the fact that you can do so much from camping in the desert to skiing in the mountains, I know I’ll never get bored of this place but one thing is for sure I’m still afraid of being on my own here at any time!

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Travelling in Style

I’m all about any excuse to have fun or be creative and around a year a go I saw a guy in Narita Airport, Tokyo with stickers plastered all over his suitcase from all the different places he’d traveled to. There were layers and layers of them and it was like his suitcase carried lots of stories. I thought it looked so stylish and and although it’s a simple idea I hadn’t thought about it before and so I decided to copy him! I’ve already got so many comments and stares whenever I travel because of it and I love how on Saturday as I was watching the Soul Rebels brass band playing as part of the Jazz A Juan festival in France they handed out stickers and I immediately thought about it being another memory to add to my travel case! Just wanted to share it with you since it’s fun and so easy to do!

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My First Proper Food Sale!

So a few weeks ago I decided to be proactive and booked myself a space at the ‘Cabbages and Frocks’ Saturday market on Marylebone High Street to sell some sweet and savory goods made by myself.

It was kind of scary since I took this as an initial experiment to see if my products would be popular (and be worth investing in) and would have had to accept the harsh reality if no one was interested!

Before I knew it was the Thursday evening before the day of my stall and I’d hardly prepared. I’d had a long and busy week and was supposed to get a helping hand the next day but that didn’t work out last minute (panic!) so I had to improvise and be efficient. I’m a mathematician by nature and operate by formulas and the first thing I did when I got home from the office was write up a list and devise a master plan, a formula of how I was going to tackle this in the few hours I’d had left to prepare . (Still hadn’t done most my grocery shopping  plus I don’t have a car which makes it harder!). Knowing that I would be occupied with other things for the majority of Friday daytime I knew I HAD to make a swift start and prepare my chocolate covered dates and figs that evening.

I was about to start melting the chocolate for the figs when I was stopped by the worst headache ever, I tried to persist but it was really awful and I usually never get headaches!! I had no choice but to give up and go to sleep, this was not a good start at all and so much for my master plan!

It wasn’t until 6pm on the Friday the day before my stall that I actually got to begin, I started with the sweet stuff first, my rose and pistachio cookies, ultimate chocolate brownies made with Valrhona Chocolate (only the best!)  then moved on to making my spiced pitta bread crisps and the dips.  Don’t forget I also had all the packaging to do and I care A LOT about presentation!

So next the thing I know it’s about 3:30 am on Saturday morning (oh how time flies when you’re having fun..) and I’m still going strong. By now I came to accept that I wasn’t gonna get any sleep. (Didn’t even have time to think about the consequences of that). Oh and I had to give up on the chocolate dipped dates and figs since there was no time, it actually worked out well though since it turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far and all that stuff would have melted at my stand- see everything happens for a reason! Still I needed something else to add to my array and I had all these succulent jumbo Medjool dates left  (one of the most expensive types). I decided to make some date scones, I’d never made scones before but luckily they turned out great although by the time I’d finished baking it was 7am! So not a wink of sleep but AT LEAST MY SCONES WERE FRESHLY BAKED! You have to look at the positives! (So I kept telling myself.)

A friend came to pick me up at about 8am and help me set up. (8am on a Saturday! Ahh my friends are amazing!) I was soo excited when I sold my first thing- a bag of rose cookies (I even wanted to knock a pound off the price (£5.50) for that reason but the customer insisted she was more than happy to pay the full amount) Seriously though it was such a great feeling to know that a complete stranger was willing to buy something that I made entirely myself!

The guy at the stall next to me was selling the most beautiful jewelry (Ana Verdun) and he was proudly stating that his wife designed all the pieces, so cute!

There was a lot of entertainment throughout the day, people from other food stalls being nosey and trying to encourage me to go to different markets! One lady selling (or trying to sell) gluten-free cakes but actually ending up spending most her time lurking around me and then complaining to the manager that my brownies were affecting her sales! (Oopsie!) By this time I was beginning to suss what the market culture is about. (You trust no one but your customers!!).

From the start I was in a seriously hyper and hysterical mood thanks to no sleep and lots of sugar! By lunchtime my King’s College London marketing troops came along to show their support and what did they do? They sat me down to a side (they thought I was gonna collapse), made me have lunch and they stuck around until the end. No wonder my sales were good I had an award winning marketing team take over the show! With other friends passing by too and the sun shining it really turned out to be a fun day.

At the end it was my smoked aubergine and pomegranate dip that stole the show. Not only did it sell out but I also had a customer stressed stating that his wife had tried it at my stall earlier and sent him all the way back to me to get some  and now she was going to get annoyed at him! Saying that the brownies were a big hit too.. My mum passed by at the very end, tried what was left of the aubergine dip taster pot and in a typical mum fashion had to criticize stating it needed more olive oil and salt (well if it was that popular without it..). Still I get my talent and many of my ideas from my mum!

Conclusion: I can definatly say that for a first trial it was more successful than I imagined! Next time I will have to be much more organized though  for sure! I owe so much to the wonderful people around me who helped make it a successful day and are continuing to support me! I’m planning to do a few more over the summer and it’s all about keeping my friends involved- free food and fun is in it for them, and free labour is in it for me 😉

(Photography by Phil Ammon).

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