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This article was written on 27 Feb 2015, and is filled under Food and Drink, Photography, Writing.

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Ms Marmitelover: Chef, author and supperclub host

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Kerstin Rodgers aka MsMarmitelover launched the now thriving supper club movement in the UK back in 2009 with her eponymous supper club The Underground Restaurant. We’ve been to a number of imaginative, intimate events at her gorgeous home in Kilburn, most recently a Dr Who dinner hosted by comedian Josie Long where Sonic screwdrivers and dalek cupcakes were served! Winner of the 2014 Fortnum & Mason Best Online Food Writer Award, Ms Marmitelover has a new book out, a decadent guide to the ultimate afternoon teas.

We spoke to Ms Marmitelover about what her background in photography, the stresses of freelance life and what it’s like to be a female chef today.

OM: Can you describe an average day at work?

MM: There is no average day at work for me as I do so many different things: blogger, author, photographer, events organiser, chef. But the first thing I do is to swing out of bed and check my emails. This can end up taking a couple of hours. In an ideal world someone brings me a cup of Barrys Tea while I’m doing it.Then I’ll have Marmite on toast. Duh. I try to write a blog post every 3 or 4 days if I can. The thing that takes the longest is uploading the photographs.

Recently I’ve been writing books, so I’ll usually do a bit of that. I may get up and test a recipe or go shopping for the ingredients. Sometimes I’m shooting and styling food shots for my blog or for recipes that have been commissioned.

If I’m prepping for a supper club, I’ll get up, check my orders have arrived and create a prep list for the day. I welcome any staff and volunteers and talk through the menu. We then work through the day getting everything ready for 7pm showtime. I usually have around 20 guests depending on the occasion.

If not cheffing in the evening, I’ll go to an event. I don’t go to many as I don’t want to exhaust myself going out when I have so much writing to do. Sometimes I’ll just woof down something on netflix. I don’t read as much as I used to, I tend to read while travelling nowadays.

At least a couple of times a year, hopefully more, I’ll go on a press trip abroad.

Food and travel are my passion and I get a lot of inspiration from food I’ve eaten abroad.

Press trips are great, it’s an opportunity, but they aren’t a holiday. I like to travel slow if possible, so I have time to write up the press trip while I’m away, It’s always so much harder to recreate the atmosphere of the trip when I get home.

OM: Have you always wanted to do what you do now ?

MM: I’ve always been interested in food, I cooked from the age of 4. But for a long time it wasn’t the fashionable thing it is now, so I guess I was slightly in the closet about my food obsession. Of course there are also all those issues of weight too, especially for young girls, which discourages women from enjoying their food.

 I took pictures from the age of about 8. I trained to be a photographer. I think visually; even when I’m cooking I think visually, I often start with a colour when I’m creating a dish.

OM: What was the hardest part about getting to where you are now?

MM: It’s hard being freelance. You have no security and it’s also rather isolating, especially as I’m single.

OM: And what’s the best part of the job?

MM: Creative freedom and travel. I love to feed my curiosity.

OM: Do you feel you’re treated differently in your industry because you’re a woman?

MM: Yes. Absolutely.

I think I’m taken less seriously as a chef. I’ve just been on a culinary retreat and it was all alpha male chefs calling each other chef. I was ignored. I felt hurt.

There was a masterchef winner there and to be frank his food wasn’t very good but he was taken seriously. I know I cook better than he does. I just feel when you are a small, round, middle-aged woman you are invisible. I try not to be invisible (I’m loud and opinionated and dress to be noticed) but the reality is, if a man/editor/whatever doesn’t want to sleep with you, you don’t exist as a woman. It’s that basic. I know I’ve not had the coverage I should have had in certain food publications because the editor has said I’m not good looking enough. That’s a quote. Men don’t have to put up with this: look at Tom Kerridge. Total lard bucket but that’s fine cos he’s a guy and a good lad and all that.

OM: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given? And what other advice would you give to anyone looking to become an X ? What qualifications and experience do you need?

MM: Be young and confident and beautiful! Yeah, that’s terrible advice. Actually as I have a beautiful 20 year old daughter who is not confident, just like me at her age, it upsets me that young women spend their whole time being negative about themselves. Make the most of your youth because that is when you have most value in this sexist world.
Other than that, work hard. HARD. You hear me? Work harder than everyone else.Do your 10k hours you need to do to become good at what you do. With hard work comes competence and with competence comes self-esteem.

Take a leap of faith. The scary things are the things that will reward you. When I started my supper club I was very nervous; it hadn’t been done before. I thought I was going to be arrested. But I reaped rewards from that act of courage.

There is no formula really. Follow your instincts, follow your gut, channel your dream, visualise what you’d like to happen.

Qualifications and training are mostly good as a confidence builder. But sometimes they are used to procrastinate! Real world experience is a better teacher.

OM: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in the workplace or in your career?

MM: I’ve made so many. Not being prepared, rushing things, taking on too much, being afraid of missing out; this stuff leads to mistakes.

OM:What does success mean to you?

MM: It’s recognition of hard work, we all need to be recognised.

OM: What’s your feminist wish for the future?

MM:

To paraphrase Martin Luther King I have a dream that one day women will not be judged on their waistline, their looks or their youth, but on their abilities.

We all suffer from lack of confidence, me too, it’ll take a long time to overcome that. Thousands of years of conditioning makes us feel non-entitled to all the things that men are entitled to. Not that all men have it easy, they have their own struggles, almost the opposite of our struggles, but I don’t think they are aware what weight their word carries in the world, their natural authority.

Resources:

Supper Club: Recipes and Notes from the Underground Restaurant

Find a Supper Club

Tweet Kerstin here

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