Food Stories with Megan Ponting: ‘I work the story of my cooking history into the dinner, and that’s what makes it different’

After Megan placed a pot of tea and some specially-bought brownies on the table that she had picked up from The Pig and Pastry café where she works, I knew that this was going to be a good interview. Megan’s smiley and chatty persona instantly made me feel like we had been friends for years, and her passion for her business ‘Feeding the Rest’ was effervescent as she spoke to me about the different events and venues she had hosted so far. It was a lovely end to a busy week as Megan shared some of her memories growing up in the Middle-East, and her love of bringing people together through cooking. Here is her inspiring Food Story. (Also, I attended one of her supper clubs and I totally recommend, it was fab!)

So Megan, where did it all start for Feeding the Rest?

Feeding the Rest initially started as a baking business. I have been baking since I can remember, and I have always loved experimenting with different flavours and doughs. Here in York, we are really lucky as there are so many good bakeries and cafes that create lovely things to order such as at The Pig and Pastry where I work, but it was difficult to see where I would start. I had no intention to stop what I was doing, but then a friend of mine approached me and asked me if I would be interested in doing a supper club because I was also doing a food blog.

She suggested that I could use my Middle-Eastern heritage as a theme for the dinner, and I thought what a great idea! I set up my first supper club for charity and then from there it has grown into private catering and supper clubs. I really enjoy the events and getting the chance to share my story with different people, especially with the supper clubs. I work the story of my cooking history into the dinner, and that’s what makes it different. 

That sounds amazing. Can you tell me a little bit about your cooking history? 

I grew up in Abu-Dhabi in the Middle-East and my dad is Palestinan-Iraqui and so growing up we ate a lot of Arabic food. Although my mother is English, Arabic food had a big influence on her cooking and she learnt everything from her mother-in-law. When we had big family celebrations, everybody would come around to our house because my mum used to make such great food! She learnt to make the food that her mother-in-law used to make, and that is the food that I continue to cook now. 

Everyone cooks in my family, and if you come out of my family and say you can’t cook, no one will believe you! I love to cook the food that I grew up with because it is so difficult to find here.

And how do your supper clubs work?

I do some events that are Middle-Eastern, which is the food I grew up with, and then I also do some events where I cook Tuscan food as I lived in Tuscany for a little while. 

I can host up to thirty people comfortably as I create everything here in my kitchen at home, but I usually cater to around 15- 20 people at the moment. I cook everything myself and spread it out over a couple of days so I can prep everything, and then I do the final touches when I get to the venue. It is really social, and I always try and seat everyone around one long table, so you have the chance to meet and chat with new people.

It sounds really social and interactive. What inspired you to host a Tuscan supper club?

The key thing about the Tuscan supper clubs is that I cook proper Italian food from that region, but there is not a single piece of pasta involved! I love pasta, but I want to introduce people to more than just pasta when you think of Italian food. The thing with Tuscan cuisine is that it is considered to be peasant food as it is very hearty and makes a little go a long way. It is about making the most of what the land has given us, and I love that.

Do you enjoy hosting a particular style of supper club?

I like doing both. I have done supper clubs in different venues and nothing has ever been the same. The audience, the setting and the food has always been different, and I don’t think that one will ever be better than another one. It is like going out for dinner at two very different restaurants!

What inspired you to name your business ‘Feeding the Rest’?

When I lived in London, I lived in a community ran by the church I used to go to. We lived in a nice house for reasonably little rent, and the expectation was that we would spend our free time outside of work dedicated to Parish activities. The two other girls that I lived with had a running joke that I was a ‘feeder’ as every time we had people around for dinner I insisted that I would cook, and the name was born from there! It’s about feeding everybody and that was the name I used when I started my blog which developed into the business.

How long have you been writing your food blog?

I’ve been writing the blog now for about three years and I started writing it when I was in London. In January I relaunched the website so it was more user-friendly and professional. Before that, I was just taking photos on my phone of whatever we had made then uploading it onto the blog! 

If you could describe yourself in three words would it be?

I think it would probably be, ‘excited, cautious, and friendly’.

That is a good mix! And why cautious?

It took me three years to turn my ideas into a business, mainly because It wasn’t something that I thought I could do. I’ve never really had a dream career I suppose, the way that most people do, so the idea of turning my dream into a business was scary and I was really cautious about taking that leap.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing though to take your time.

Yes true, it gave me a chance to build more skills and capital!

What did you do job-wise when you were working in London?

I did a number of jobs whilst I was down there within Hospitality, but before that, I worked for a charity doing their communications and fundraising. That is probably why I am so obsessed with Instagram!

Would you ever run Feeding the Rest as a full-time business? 

As much as I would love to work for myself, I can’t ever envisage not working at The Pig and Pastry! It’s really strange but it has just become part of every day and we all get along so well, there is no scratching as there can be in some places and it is a lovely environment to work in. I didn’t have the business when I first started working there and since then my role at The Pig and Pastry has changed to accommodate what I do at Feeding the Rest, which has been really helpful. 

What do you enjoy most about hosting your supper clubs?

There are so many things that I enjoy about it, I don’t know if I could pick just one thing! I really like sharing my story and teaching people about the food I am cooking. If you haven’t been to either the Middle-East or Tuscany, it is a fun way to teach people a little bit more about these places. 

Do you have a favourite childhood memory of cooking?

When I was around 12 or 13 I had some exams coming up and I was meant to be revising one weekend and was in the house on my own. I fancied a snack so decided to be inventive and I chopped up a KitKat really small, mixed it with cream cheese and spread it on some bread. When my mum came home, I told her about my new invention and that she HAD to try it as it was amazing… believe it or not, I have never made it since! Not my proudest cooking moment!

What’s on the agenda for the next few events?

I have an event on the 11thMay that is a Middle-Eastern themed dinner at a new venue called Cycle Heaven that I am really excited about. Then I have another one at Cardamom and Dill on the 1stof June and that is going to be Tuscan themed. 

And finally, where do you see yourself this time next year?

This time next year, I would still like to be doing the supper clubs, and to hopefully be able to cater for more people. If it is still successful, I would like to take out a lease on a bigger prep kitchen and buy some more equipment as then I will be able to cater for a bigger crowd which would be great. 

Megan Ponting, 29.3.19.

York Talks would like to thank Megan for sharing her inspiring Food Story and for inviting me along to sample her beautiful Middle Eastern cuisine at her Arabic brunch club at Cardamom and Dill. 

If you want to find out more about Megan and her supper clubs, visit her website https://www.feedingtherest.comor follow her on Instagram @feedingtherest. 

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