If you’re a food lover in London, then you should know Miranda York. The young London entrepreneur is the woman behind Toast, an organisation that celebrates contemporary food culture and hosts a number of affiliated events, from expert panels to wine tasting courses. The multi-talented Miranda is also an accomplished journalist, and is in the progress of launching her own vintage fashion site. We met with the born-and-raised Londoner to discuss her entry into working with food, her favourite restaurants in the capital, and her ideal daytrip destination.
As a native Londoner, where are you most likely to be found in the city these days?
I live in Bermondsey at the moment and there are so many great restaurants and cafes in the area that it's lovely to just chill out in my own neighbourhood: graze on jamon iberico and tapas at Bar Tozino, browse Maltby Street Market and go for dinner at Casse-Croûte or Zucca. There are also lots of cool art galleries opening – White Cube, Hide, Eames – and the Design Museum is just down the road.
Have you always been a food lover? When did you decide that it was an area you wanted to work in professionally?
Food has always been important in my family - we're always thinking about the next meal! - but it wasn't until I started working for an indie food mag that I became really obsessed. Everyone I interviewed or spoke to was so passionate about what they were doing and wanted to share their knowledge and skills. I just wanted to be a part of that world.
You co-founded Toast with fundraiser Sarah Chamberlain as an organisation that looks at food from both a gastronomic and sociological standpoint. Is anyone else doing this kind of thing, or are you pretty unique in that regard? How do you foresee Toast continuing to grow and evolve in the future?
I think we are unique in many ways. Most food talks and events veer towards extremes: they're either very academic or simply about eating and drinking. We try to create fun events encompassing every aspect of food culture - we try to make sure there's always depth and intelligence in everything we do. But most of all, we just explore things we’re interested in. We’ve got big plans for 2014 – collaborations with Foyles at their new flagship, lots of dinners and talks, and we’re also considering branching out into publishing. We’d also love to create Toast TV and make short films about people doing interesting things in food.
Tell us about the upcoming Toast events, which will host panel discussions relating to women in food. Where did the idea come from? Do you think there’s a dearth of women in food?
We were to talking to Signe Johansen (Scandilicious) about doing something to celebrate all the amazing women working across the food industry. We felt that on the whole they were underrepresented and yet no one was really talking about it. The issue is often ignored. So we decided to do something about it.
You’re a serial entrepreneur, having founded not just Toast, but having also written for numerous top publications and curated Maltby Street Market, as well as being well on your way to founding your own vintage fashion website. How do you balance all these interests and pursuits?
Well I haven’t had a holiday in over a year…. but then as a journalist I get to travel all the time so I don’t feel like I’m missing out too much. It can be difficult to juggle all the different aspects of my work life but I enjoy everything I do and I’m so curious and excited by so many things that it would be hard for me to stick to one job or one career. I like variety. I think as long as you’re putting 100% into everything you do there’s no need to be pigeonholed or restricted. Why not use your creativity and imagination in any way you can?
Where do you see the London food scene heading in the next few years? Any trend forecasting you’d like to share?
I’m always a little wary of trend forecasting but I do think there has been a shift from formal fine dining to a more casual way of eating out. It’s great to see British food being pushed to the forefront too. I think the London food scene is so exciting right now – we’re even giving New York a run for its money – and because of that I think we’ll see more and more chefs from other countries opening restaurants here. I’m sure the weird fusion foods will continue (looking at you, cronuts) but I’m more interested in the sheer variety on offer and the creativity the capital inspires.
What makes London such a hospitable environment for young entrepreneurs and creatives like yourself?
London is a creative hub – young entrepreneurs flock here to learn, to explore, to create – so you’re surrounded by likeminded people who encourage you and push you to try harder and think bigger. People like Bompas and Parr are an inspiration for entrepreneurs like me – they created a business from the simplest of things: jelly. Now they design installations and events for big brands and have even started their own publishing house. For me, they are the perfect example of how being in London allows you to adapt and evolve your business; it’s a city that embraces the new and nurtures creativity.
If you could recommend three up-and-coming eateries (or three people in food and drink who are doing exciting things), who would they be?
James Lowe is opening his own restaurant soon and I’m very excited to see what he does. Jun Tanaka is also looking for a site so he’s definitely one to watch. And I think everyone in London is looking forward to Florence Knight and Russell Norman opening the new Polpetto in January.
When you’re looking to escape the city for a day or two, where are you most likely to motor off to? What’s your dream daytrip itinerary?
My mum’s family live in the countryside near Bristol so I often escape there for a few days. Though sometimes we simply relax at home and go for walks with the dogs, it’s great to go exploring in the city too – Bristol has some great restaurants and I love the area by the harbour. I recently visited The Ethicurean (a couple of miles outside of Bristol) and had a lovely meal there with stunning views over the Victorian kitchen garden and the Mendip Hills beyond. It was so tranquil and the staff were so welcoming. I’m already planning my next visit.
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