CHATTING FOOD WITH . . .
Niki Astley, 34% Burnt
We sat down with Niki Astley, founder of Birmingham based supper club 34% Burnt to chat menu concepts, travelling and the importance of supper clubs.
34%Burnt is the new project from the team behind Salt & Earth and Two Cats Kitchen, Niki Astley and Georgiana Radenschi.
The project promises to bring years worth of culinary effort, investigation and global travel together in one intensely delicious whole.
Firstly, congratulations on your first run of events for 34% Burnt. How was it?
Thank you very much - truthfully I couldn't have asked for better or picked a better bunch of people than those who came. Everyone was extremely gracious and interested and, above all, had a lot of fun
You’ve previously owned successful businesses Two Cats Kitchen and Salt and Earth, what makes 34% Burnt different?
34% has roots in both projects but ultimately looks like neither. Its a tasting menu format with a focus on minimalism and experimentation but doesn't have a particular idea beyond flavour. It draws on global ideas of process and technique but isn't beholden to any food culture in particular.
You’ve just announced another run of events for June. What can people expect?
Hopefully better refinement of the ideas we ran in May. Dishes take so long to come together it's ridiculous. I've never needed anything in particular to make a great dish except time - and there's never enough.
Creating a menu isn’t an easy task, especially for a brand new concept. How do you begin to create a menu? Do you start with a specific dish, or is it built on ingredients?
I'd say I build on saucing, in the broadest sense of the word. I always use good stuff but ingredients are largely interchangeable, although certain products are sometimes just so incredible, like mangalitza pork or Yuzu, you're basically just sharing them and the thrill of handling them.
We’ve heard you are a bit of a globe trotter, how important do you feel it is as a chef, to take time to experience other food cultures, and how has this helped you evolve?
Big question - Travel helped me understand there is no rule. What works in one part of the world is completely thrown out in another, be it a question of texture, product or process. Travel helped me understand what my food should be and could be. Some chefs are perfectly in love with a particular style of food or chef and that's great - they have the discipline to follow. I'm not that kind of cook.
Birmingham isn’t short of Michelin stars and fine dining restaurants. How important do you feel supper clubs and pop-ups are to the City’s food scene?
They help you walk an idea out, see if it works and if there's a demand for what you're doing with minimal investment. There's a lot of fast food places too but no one stops to think about opening another. Destination restaurants are good for the city and the more of them there are, the better the standard will become.
Also, I've got to work so I've got no choice!
You are back for June. Are we making this a regular thing?
Let's see what happens in June!!
A Quick Chat
Your favourite restaurant? Currently Borago in Santiago, Chile
Food Hero? Rene Redzepi
Favourite Ingredient? Octopus
What will be the next food trend? God knows
Worst food trend? Snobbery
Guilty Food Pleasure? Five guys