Social Pantry combines gorgeous food, a cafe, catering and working with ex-offenders. Founder Alex Head explains it’s all about getting people together
HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE SOCIAL PANTRY?
Social Pantry is an events and contract catering company I founded in 2011 in a café based in Battersea. With a dedicated team of experience chefs, event planners and waiting staff, we’ve become the go-to London caterer for bespoke weddings, events and contract services. Fresh, seasonal and delicious food served with style!
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO SET UP SOCIAL PANTRY
For the love of sharing food. Cooking for people has always been a big part of my life since my early teenage years. From selling sandwiches off the back of my bike to feeding hundreds at a high-end corporate function, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing clients enjoy my food with their family, friends and colleagues.
STARTING A BUSINESS LIKE THIS ISN’T EASY …
There are plenty of challenges involved in setting up and then growing a business, at each stage you have to overcome new challenges and they all take certain skills at each hurdle. Starting a business with no funding has potentially made the journey a harder road but one I am proud of going down.
DESCRIBE IN FIVE WORDS RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS
Varied, exciting, rewarding, challenging, enjoyable.
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST FOOD-LOVING MEMORY?
I was an extremely naughty child and being one of four children who were always eating, my mum started putting my energy to good use in the kitchen when I was about 11 years old.
As another incentive to keep me on the straight and narrow one of my grannies would give me 20p every time I baked a cake or helped cook dinner, it was not long until I realised I could make some money from selling a sandwich or two too!
WHAT DOES FOOD MEAN TO YOU?
A time to relax. Food is a beautifully delicious catalyst for enjoying other people’s company, getting people together and an opportunity to feast. Lots of my fondest memories involve food – it really is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
EXPLAIN HOW SOCIAL PANTRY LOOKS TO WORK IN ETHICAL WAYS
Social Pantry looks for social enterprises that naturally connect with the values of the business – passionate, entrepreneurial and responsible. I am incredibly proud to be very socially aware and have worked hard to build and maintain relationships with certain charities.
Key4Life is a social enterprise that works with young offenders and helps to lead them down a better path and reduce their need or want to reoffend.
I’ve had plenty of second chances along the ride and what I love most about being in my position now, is that I can offer second chances to others. All the young men I have met, employed and mentored through the scheme are brilliant. They are driven, motivated, intelligent and ready to work – you cannot ask for more than that from an employee.
I love being able to provide a work place and environment that the young men enjoy coming too. A great team that they love working in and building a company of staff who are excited to have the young men working alongside them.
My aim is for all the boys who work with Social Pantry to learn new skills, from cooking, contract serving, coffee making to being front of house at the café.
WHY IS A SOCIALLY-CONSCIOUS BUSINESS IMPORTANT TO YOU
It is one of the most rewarding aspect of the business.
I have always been brought up to appreciate everything around you and to seize an opportunity and I am so proud that I can now offer opportunity to others through a business I have created.
I love that people I work with enjoying coming to work on a daily basis because I have managed to create a company culture that provides a safe, fun and enjoyable place to work and learn within.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LONDON RESTAURANT?
Salon in Brixton Market has always been a favourite, the menus always offer an inspirational take throughout their dishes. I love their fresh, cool and exciting take on classic ingredients. An Nduja Sausage Croquette definitely caught my attention last time I was there – too damn good.
WHAT IS YOUR LAST MEAL ON EARTH?
Glass of an Gwertztraminer; Chicken Liver Pate with Crispy Chicken Skin on Brioche; Homemade Pumpkin Ravioli with Spinach and Pecorino; British Cheese board.
WHERE ARE YOU HAPPIEST
Surrounded by family and friends having a lock-in lasagne at my café on a cosy winter night with a good few bottles of wine.