Welcome to the first edition of a new series where I take you behind the scenes of what we get up to outside the kitchen…complete with home movies!
Today: more than just a girl and her dog
8 years ago, a girl sat down at her computer with a large mass of golden fur at her feet and launched her little food blog. Two people visited her blog that day. Her mum. And herself. 😂
Fast forward 8 years and things are a little different. There’s a few more visitors on this website each day. I have a food bank, RecipeTin Meals (“RTM”). I even wrote a cookbook.
And what began as a team of one and a half* is now a team of ten and a half. These days, we do more than “just” creating, photographing, filming and writing up recipes on this website. So I thought it might be nice to share some behind the scenes of what my team and I get up to outside the kitchen!
* The half is Dozer. Though to me, he’s worth 5!
We got an award
In January 2023, I was honoured to accept an award on behalf of my team from the Northern Beaches Council in recognition of our service to the community. The award was for RTM which we started in 2020 during the pandemic when there was increasing food insecurity in our community.
We have a full-time, paid team of 3 (chef and 2 kitchenhands) working in a commercial kitchen in Sydney city who cook 400+ meals every single day. These are donated to those in need through our distribution partner, One Meal, who deliver the meals to individuals.
To learn more about RTM, head here!
What’s important to know is that I was the one made to go up on stage to accept the award, I can’t remember what I said, I held the certificate on the blank side for the official photos with the mayor, and I tried to trick my team into wearing ties but they figured out I was scamming them (but one wore a tie anyway!).
We cooked with kids at the children’s hospital
Note: faces of children shown only when permission is provided.
Also in January, we spent a day cooking with kids at the Ronald McDonald House at the Children’s Hospital in Randwick, Sydney. Ronald McDonald House (“RMCH”) is a not-for-profit accommodation where children and families from outside Sydney stay while a child is getting treatment at the hospital. Some stay for weeks. Some, for years.
So when RMCH asked if we would consider coming in during the school holidays to do a fun cooking activity with the kids, our immediate answer was YES!
Chef JB and I spent an afternoon with the kids making DIY mini pizzas, and a sundae bar, as well as putting out a taco bar for the grown ups.
It was a really special day. And the rest of my team had FOMO. So……
We went back with the team and made dinner for everyone!
Just last week (mid February), most of my team and I went back to RMCH to make dinner for the families. There’s currently around 60 people staying at RMCH (the child being treated + parents + siblings) plus the wonderful staff. We made chicken shawarma for the grown ups and burgers for the kids. And did the sundae bar again – by popular demand!
If you would like to volunteer your time or donate to support, please visit the Ronald McDonald House website for more information. Thank you! – N x
We threw a dinner party for readers
Earlier this month, I hosted my first reader dinner where we sold tickets and did all the cooking ourselves! What an amazing evening, being able to spend quality time with a group of like-minded-people (ie. food lovers!) who I felt like I’ve known for years.
This event was a massive undertaking and huge challenge for my team. We didn’t just swan into a restaurant! Nope, we held it at a food photography studio with enough space and a suitably gigantic kitchen to enable us to cook a 13 course menu for 30 people. Why? Because I kept insisting that I wanted to do the dinner ourselves, just like having a dinner party at home, and to be able to serve recipes from my cookbook.
It was really, really hard work. We had to take every pot, pan, glass, plate and fork. Do all the cooking, We had tables and chairs brought in. Then we had to pack everything up and leave on the same day.
Both my assistant, my head chef JB and I pulled a 21 hour day, starting at 5 am in the morning, then getting home at 1.30 am the next day. Stephen, the Chef at my food bank, started at 6 am at RTM. We let him go home to have a shower, then he came to our dinner to help out there until late into the night.
It was a huge undertaking. An enormous challenge. But also, so satisfying that we pulled it off without a hitch!
My team are amazing. I am so lucky to have such a hard working, dedicated team.
Also, the proceeds from ticket sales went to RTM. So, well, you know. Their lack of sleep was for a good cause! ❤️
4 1/2 hours later… the kitchen had a black-out
Oh yes. Then that morning at 6 am, we found out that RTM had a blackout. So the plan to let my team sleep in the next day didn’t quite happen! We had fridges and freezers full of food that had to urgently be dealt with. We also had to make sure we could still make 400 meals that day, without power.
My incredibly resourceful team managed to pull off a miracle. We lost no food (using a combination of ice bags and taking food to fridges at restaurants my kitchen staff knew). Thankfully we cook with gas so were able to make the meals for that day – albeit with no exhaust fan our little kitchen got VERY smokey!
A day like that reminds me how fortunate I am to have the team I do, who go above and beyond when necessary to make sure we get our promised meals out every single day, without fail. Honestly, I keep saying it – the work ethics are unlike anything I saw in my corporate days.
We had a board meeting & appointed an auditor – I feel so grown up!
RTM is a charity, and with that comes grown-up responsibilities. I set it up in a different entity, I have well kept accounts for it (I’m an auditor, by background!), there’s documents and agreements for “everything”, and between us and our lawyers, we’re making sure we tick all the boxes with relevant not-for-profit legislation and obtain the correct licences to operate a charity.
I appointed independent directors to the RTM board, two well respected serious professionals (one lawyer, one ex-KPMG tax partner) who bring with them a wealth of experience and help guide me as I navigate my way through the not-for-profit world.
This might all sound like overkill to you, especially given RTM is “just a small charity” currently solely funded by Dozer (we use his treat budget). But for me, this is all the groundwork I’m doing to set the right framework and foundation to grow RTM through donations, volunteers, partnerships with corporates and government funding so I can achieve my goal: to provide more free meals to more people, and set up RTM so it can keep running long after I leave this world.
It might sound like a big dream and big goals. But I’ve always been a believer that you need something to aspire to!
We’re still looking for our new food bank kitchen….
The RTM kitchen in Potts Point on the edge of the Sydney CBD is rather… cosy, shall we say! We’re at capacity with staff (3 burly blokes) and meal production, the main restriction being sheer counter space to pack 400+ meals each day. Every single inch of counter space in the whole kitchen gets used for food packing!
I’ve been talking about moving to a larger kitchen for over 6 months now. My team and I have been on the case and have checked out a few premises, but now we’re getting serious. We’ve even hired an agent to find a premises for us…. fingers crossed he pulls through for us!
These are photos of a dream kitchen we visited, owned by a catering company. So much space!!
WANTED: Lease of premises for food bank
I know this is a long shot, but it can’t hurt to put this out there!
We are looking for a premises suitable for a catering kitchen within a ~5 kilometre radius of Ryde in Sydney’s north. A 200sqm+ space with a walk in fridge and freezer, grease trap, exhaust fans, direct street access, easy parking and bathroom facilities, suitable for food production.
Restaurants don’t really work because they are set up to maximise dining space and minimise kitchen space. Whereas we just want cooking space!
I’m prepared (want to!) to bring in all my own equipment – stoves, ovens, sinks, benches etc – and to do renovations as needed. We just need the space!
If you know of any potential spaces, please could you email firstname.lastname@example.org.
But for now, the new coffee machine is keeping the boys happy
My Christmas present to the boys at RTM was a new coffee machine. I just couldn’t bear the thought of them drinking that powdered stuff any longer. And if you’re thinking that they are surely surrounded by loads of great coffee shops, they are… but they aren’t open at 6 am when they start work!!
So though they’re still working in our cosy little kitchen, the new coffee machine is keeping them happy. I mean, look at those Coffee Machine Smiles!
And business as usual at RecipeTin HQ!
And with everything else we’ve been doing, it’s been business as usual up at HQ! Developing recipes to share on this website, photographing and filming them. Working with my publishers here in Australia and overseas, continuing to contribute recipes to Good Food Australia (Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – here are my latest recipes), preparing for the UK launch of my cookbook (NEXT WEEK!! 🎉), planning for the US launch next month…
Eeeerrr… what else?? Oh yes, lots of planning happening on some exciting new things I’ll be involved in this year which I’ll be announcing in a few short weeks.
It’s only February, but 2023 is already looking to be busy – and fun!
And that’s a wrap – for now……
This week – photoshoot at RTM to get “official photos” of the team to launch the new RTM website. I’m taking face powder with me to de-shine the guys. It gets very hot in that kitchen! This should be fun. I look forward to sharing photos with you…
Next week – UK cookbook release date! Monday 27th February, my cookbook hits the stores all across UK and Ireland, and for those of you who pre-ordered, it lands on your doorstep. YEE HA!
Week after – The RecipeTin team conference! A rare occasion to bring my whole team together. There will be much laughter. Expect hilarious stories to be shared!
I hope you enjoyed this little insight into what we get up to outside the kitchen. A little (a LOT!) longer than I expected – it’s been a busy start to 2023! I look forward to sharing life behind the scenes a little more regularly with you.
– Nagi x
Life of Dozer
With all the activity happening over the past 6 weeks, where is Dozer, you might wonder??
Well, the reality is that he can’t go into the RTM kitchen (hygiene and all that). He wasn’t allowed to come to the reader dinner for the same reason.
But rest assured, life is still excellent for Mr Dozer. Basically, he does as he pleases. Case in point – wet tile:
And there he is, bolting towards the filthy golf dam with my camera on maximum zoom while I’m
yelling screeching at him to come back:
And me cooking around him.
Yup. Nothing new to report in Life of Dozer.
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