The Plant-Based Community Cookery School
Photo by Tom Hains
In 2009 former music journalist Sarah Bentley did what is now known as, ‘a pivot.’ After ten years working as a print and radio journalist specialising in reggae-dancehall music for titles such as The Face, ID, Touch, Music Week, The Fader and BBC World Service she started to get industry itchy foot.
The motivation behind her journalism was to make a positive difference – to tell stories that dispelled prejudice, shone a light on phenomenal but often overlooked and under-funded people and projects, and told human stories that challenged and changed perceptions. Her work took her all over the world to the street dances of Kingston, Jamaica; music classes in HM Prison Brixton; and to Africa’s first state of the art open heart surgery hospital in Sudan. These experiences gave her a bird’s eye view of global injustices, disparities and the power structures maintaining this status quo.
After having a series of articles pulled from broadsheet papers due to disgruntlement about their content from the advertising departments, she became jadded with the industry and so began a period of exploration.
She dabbled in grassroots activism (well tagged along with real activists who blocked an oil rig for the day), did an apprenticeship at online petition site 38 degrees and helped to build cob houses in eco communities. She had a life changing conversation with Indian activist Vandana Shiva about the horrific impact of big agriculture on farming communities in India. It was a lightning bolt moment that inspired her to dive into community food growing, take multiple Permaculture courses and become a food growing apprentice for Growing Communities, an urban food growing and veg box scheme.
A vegetarian since childhood and vegan since she was introduced to ital food – vegan Caribbean food eaten by Rastafarians – whilst traveling in Jamaica; food always played a huge part in Sarah’s life. She held regular gatherings in her garden nicknamed ‘Skank & Grills’, where she’d host enormous vegan buffets with reggae music as the soundtrack. She loved the family feel at these gatherings and the opportunity to change people’s hearts, minds and stomachs about ‘bland’ vegan food.
She was invited to assist with the writing of a funding bid for a local health food shop - Food For All. This bid was the origins of Made In Hackney, an all vegan community cookery school and charity that she has co-run with a phenomenal team of women since 2012.
Today the cookery school has worked with over 15,000 people across the capital inspiring people to grow, cook and eat more plants. Their work aims to tackle health inequalities, inspire people to transition to a more planet friendly diet in an inclusive and culturally appropriate way, and to provide opportunities and space to build community. During the height of the covid19 pandemic they pivoted their service to become a direct to door meal delivery service for households struggling to access food. By the end of July MIH has delivered over 45,000 meals, all by bicycle courier, and are looking at models to make this a part of the charities core offer for as long as the community needs it.
Photo by Tom Hains
Project Manager – Community
Veryan started her career as a production manager in magazine publishing, before discovering a passion for food, all things community and, more recently, healthy eating. In her previous role, she headed up a community project at Sutton Community Farm to encourage healthy eating, involving cook clubs, pop-up stalls and banquets. Veryan is a proud former member of the Crystal Palace Food Market team, where she coordinated the kids activities for this fantastic Transition Town project.
Veryan enjoys cooking for friends and family, often trying out new recipes and ideas. She had a stint a few years ago working as an artisan cake baker, trading at local farmers markets, together with her husband who bakes sourdough bread.
Veryan loves what Made In Hackney is all about, and is delighted to be part of an amazing team here!
Khin has finally found a happy melding in Made in Hackney of her passion for food, well-being and making a positive difference in healthy communities and a healthy planet. Her background is in Corporate Social Responsibility and volunteer management in the corporate and not-for-profit sectors. She is passionate about developing well-being and is a certified member of the British Association of Mindfulness-Based Approaches (BAMBA). Khin has worked in IT consulting and management consulting in America, and product marketing in Asia-Pacific. Khin’s underlying philosophy is evolutionary development of people, communities, and planet where we are all interconnected as One.
Photo by Kate Beatty
After graduating in Accounting and Finance in 1992 in Manchester, Jayshree completed her professional accountancy (ACMA) in London. Initial work included implementing the first digital accounting system for a bus manufacturers in Wigan, then onto London and gained financial analysis and modeling experience in start ups and projects in various sectors including events, retail, online retail, interactive television, media and the Government Department of Health.
In 2006 Jayshree stepped off the working wagon for motherhood and has never looked back (maybe odd peek over the shoulder now and again).
Motherhood got Jayshree interested in cooking at home and the use of good ingredients. Jayshree is a daughter of a cook and comes from a family of farmers in India so influence of food was always there. She likes the fact Made In Hackney is a new project about vegetarian food and regards Made In Hackney as a great re-introduction into the world of work.
Photo by Tom Hains
Fran has always had a passion for the environment and started her career in tropical marine conservation. She previously worked as Conservation Director for Blue Ventures Conservation working with fishing communities, in countries like Madagascar, supporting them to secure their livelihoods for the future. It was this passion for both people and the environment, and the desire to work more closely with local communities in London that made Made in Hackney the ideal organisation. She also has an unhealthy love of preparing budgets and financial reports which is perfect for this role. Outside of work Fran would most like to be whale watching but is more likely to be building her green credentials by attempting to garden, grow vegetables or cooking new recipes passed on from MIH!
Rashmi joined Made in Hackney to bring together her love of food, veganism and people. Rashmi’s career has focussed predominantly in the charity training and education sector, creating growth opportunities and improving social, education, employment and life outcomes for young people not in education, employment or training. She also has experience of working in the community sector developing programmes to increase community engagement and participation.
Through her work, Rashmi had the opportunity to observe at first hand the impact a positive community can have on the academic, personal and social development of young people and has developed various funded programmes to improve their propensity for future positive social mobility.
In her spare time Rashmi is an English Language Coach, she brings together her interests, skills and experience of working with people in a mentoring and coaching capacity to create an open, supportive and non-judgemental space where she can help students steadily grow in their ability, confidence and enjoyment of communicating in English. She is also a volunteer with The Literacy Pirates, where she coaches primary and secondary school pupils to improve their reading, writing and verbal communication skills.
Rashmi believes access to enriching community support has the power to transport people to new worlds of connection, laughter, knowledge and creativity and is so happy to be part of an organisaiton which makes this a reality for so many people in Hackney and beyond!
Community Meal Service Head Chef
Shaki spent a few years in the media and creative industries before realising her passion was with food. She loved spending time at her Uncle Billy’s restaurant and learning about all aspects of hospitality – napkin folding, bulk discounts – she found it all interesting and when she goes out to eat she notices everything from the ambiance to the furniture, whether the toilets are clean and if the staff are being natural or speaking from a script.
The best thing about working in hospitality is the diversity of people you meet and the variety of work. Having now worked in professional kitchens for 14 years she’s cooked in cafes, restaurants, for dignitaries, funeral parties, outdoor events and everything in between. The community meal service is a new adventure and an exciting place to develop her plant-based cooking repertoire and give back to the community.
Community Meal Service Manager
Growing up in Italy Monika has been passionate about food their whole life, relishing in the connection and joy it can bring. Monika studied Architecture and has their own design practice, always looking to incorporate creative systems-based solutions to problems. They have always loved connecting to nature in different ways; foraging, climbing trees, growing, and in recent years this keen interest in land, nature and food has found an intersection in their work in food sovereignty. Monika is a founding director of the National Food Service London, an organisation whose mission has many synergies with Made in Hackney’s, so it was a natural step to work at Made In Hackney heading up the Community Meal Service.
Cookery Class Teacher
Sara is deeply passionate about the power of food to nurture, bring people together and connect us to the earth.
She has worked in the charity sector for over a decade, with a focus on grassroots projects that work with young people, disadvantaged communities and vegan food. Having worked in wide range of community settings, Sara has seen first-hand the realities of food poverty in London and understands the value of Made in Hackney’s work.
When she’s not organising team builds, Sara works as a plant based chef. She believes in working with wholefoods to create nourishing, vibrant and delicious dishes that not only uplift, but inspire and educate. With a passion for raw desserts, her creations have been featured in Vogue’s Best London Vegan food list.
Photo by Casey Lazonick
Cookery Teacher & Special Projects
Growing up with an Indian chef as a father gave Sareta a passion for food and cooking from an early age. She specialises in food from the Indian subcontinent and enjoys using bold flavours that challenge people’s perceptions of plant-based food.
Sareta is driven by creating equality and positive change, and spent over a decade pursuing both of these through her work in the education and youth sectors, before embarking on a freelance career focussed on her core values of veganism and sustainability.
She moved into food professionally through running supper clubs, private catering, working in street food and teaching cooking – which is where she found Made in Hackney, an organisation that fully aligns with her key values. Whenever possible, in her work Sareta aims to highlight the links between food, culture, connectivity and community.
When she is not teaching or cooking Sareta provides business development support to small vegan businesses.
Plant Futures Programme Manager
Roshni began her career in fashion but always had a love for cooking and hosting passed down from her very talented mum. After volunteering as a project leader at Foodcycle and starting her own plant-based supper club, she noticed a disconnect in values between her work and extracurricular life. So, in an effort to seek more purpose, she transitioned to the third sector through the On Purpose Programme. Since then she has worked in tech for good and various community organisations.
She is passionate about promoting equality, diversity and community building and volunteers for organisations that reflect these values; currently Newington Green Alliance, The Girls Network and the Women’s Equality Party. She also loves cooking for friends, is a vocal advocate of second-hand fashion and a keen boxer. At Made in Hackney, Roshni has found an organisation that truly lives their values, and combines her love for plant-based food and community building. She loves being part of this wonderful, supportive and super talented team!
Photo by Tom Hains
After surviving an IT career in global business and corporate banking I felt a need for a fresh perspective. Having been a vegan for over 25 years and initiator of vegan catering projects it was time to follow my gut, literally. I studied for a degree in Human Nutrition and although I left university with a good degree my health deteriorated and I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
My career path now took a different course. In 2015 I started doing voluntary work for MIH working in the kitchen and helping with various projects such as Single Homeless People's project, people with visual impairments and local community centers. This allowed me to use some of my degree knowledge to help people to understand local, seasonal, affordable cooking. My aims in life are to use my knowledge and skills to educate people about food and well being to enable people to take control of their health.
Photo by Casey Lazonick
Community Meal Service Chef & Cookery Teacher
Ekowa was raised on a vegetarian diet in a Rastafarian family where he regularly cooked as a youngster for the entire family when he returned from school. His main influences include the eclectic food of Trinidad and Tobago which includes Asian and African influences.
For the last five years he has been a vegan and he has used these influences to guide his cuisine. He loves to experiment with different ingredients and cooks in a vegan style that combine produce and promote energy and wellbeing. As a father of two, he enjoys creating dishes that his children can both enjoy and be thoroughly nourished by.
On his journey to becoming a yoga instructor, Ekowa discovered the link between yoga and food and the benefits that the right combinations can have on the body such as promoting consciousness and wellbeing.
He often approaches his kitchen as if it is a lab and sees food as a science. Instead of using too many added seasonings, Ekowa uses recipes that enhance the natural taste of his chosen produce to balance each other. His use of minerals in his cooking means that each dish has added nutritional value and he masks the taste of some of the minerals with clever natural seasoning options such as ginger and garlic. He enjoys using a combination of tastes and textures that make every eating experience a memorable one.
His passion for vegan food, yoga and wellbeing meant a natural gravitation towards the Made In Hackney project and when he was asked to collaborate, did so without hesitation.
Photo by Casey Lazonick
Hannah is a registered dietitian with a passion for helping people to optimise both their health and happiness though good food. Currently specialising as a paediatric dietitian, she has always loved working with children and families and has been involved helping to lead several events for youngsters for Made in Hackney. After volunteering for over 2 years has now also started to lead community classes. Her favourite message is ‘eat the rainbow’ and she is also a big advocate for zero waste cooking. She is always keeping herself busy and in her spare time she also leads foraging and wild food cookery courses, where she tries to get people as excited as her about nettles and dandelions! She also has a background of being a semi-professional long distance runner, although now spends nearly as much time pursuing her other hobby of swing dancing!
Photo by Casey Lazonick
A keen recipe developer, Rohini is passionate about making healthy plant-based meals that are big on flavour. Having grown up in London, she then spent several years working for food startups in Mumbai and Singapore, which spurred her on to go back to university and study nutrition. While studying for her Master's degree in Nutrition and Food Sciences, she started volunteering regularly at a local allotment in West Yorkshire.
Outside her own practice, Rohini is an Advisory Board Member and Nutritionist for Plant-Based Health Professionals UK. This is a not-for-profit organisation that is dedicated to the promotion of a whole foods plant-based diet for optimal health and wellbeing. She also holds a Lifestyle Medicine Diploma from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, realising the importance of stress management, sleep and community alongside a healthy diet. Rohini is Brand Manager for Women for Women’s Health UK, a voluntary service set up to empower women of all ages to make lifestyle choices that will help improve their own health as well as that of their families. Rohini loves sharing the benefits of eating more plants and working with others to create delicious food.
Photo by Tom Hains
Mark loves showing people how to cook what is at its best at any given time. His passion is teaching people to cook with skill and enjoyment to create beautiful and tasty dishes that are good for our taste-buds, bodies and soul. Mark is a classically trained chef who believes that learning to cook together can bring communities together as well as improve people’s health and the environment. When Mark isn’t with us or working as a private chef, he’s usually in the kitchen at home tinkering with ferments and pickles.
Melissa started as a volunteer for Made in Hackney, soon to be discovered as a bit of a foodie with a robust scientific background, which turned into becoming a masterclass teacher and board member.
Forever a lover of cooking and more recently baking, Melissa could always be found inspiring others from as early as school days where requests would come in for her to make lunches for friends, through to university where she’d demonstrate how to cook quick, easy, cheap and healthy meals which would even get parents visiting halls in first year to learn ideas!
The main thing for Melissa is creating food that is nutritious, full of flavour, visually appealing and generally very healthy. She thrives off getting people to really think about their flavours and ingredients; loving the way people’s faces light up from relatively simple concepts that are easily creatable at home with everyday ingredients.
Joining Made in Hackney has been one of the most rewarding and grounding things to date for her, where she thoroughly enjoys bringing people together to learn new things both from a pure food and scientific stance.
Melissa works a project manager on global clinical trials and as a registered nutritionist, which includes working as a food consultant for businesses to analyse menus and develop recipes, paired with food styling and photography.
Photo by Casey Lazonick
Woin is a chef with a specialism in authentic Ethiopian cuisine. Always a passionate cook, she left a career in IT to pursue her dream of becoming a full-time chef. She travelled extensively around Ethiopia to research the authentic recipes and ingredients of different regions before coming home and launching her catering company Ethiopic Kitchen and taking her sumptuous buffet style feasts to clients such as Amnesty International. She teaches cookery at Migrateful and is a community class teacher and masterclass teacher at Made In Hackney. She is also a very busy Mum of three.
Nishma Shah is founder and chef of award-winning London-based plant-based food business Shambhu's. She provides plant-based catering and teaches plant-based cookery in a number of settings including to children and families. In 2020 she hosted the International Food Stage at Plant Powered Expo and has appeared at Veg Fest multiple times giving culinary demonstrations. She has been a masterclass teacher for Made In Hackney for a number of years with her most popular class being Gujarati Cuisine.
Photo by Tom Hains
Social Media Adviser, Artist, Chef & Cover Staff
Amy is Made In Hackney’s multi-talented in house chef, artist, social media adviser and cover staff. She is particularly fond and good at working at pensioners events, making mince pies and producing kale crowns for social media campaigns. Amy is a former music teacher and professional cake maker and continues to be a world traveller and communications expert specialising in social media and content creation for charities and inspiring causes around the globe.
Photo by Tom Hains
As well as being a much loved community cookery teacher Sharon is a naturopath, nutritionist and pilates instructor. She loves teaching classes for MIH as she gets to share her passion for all things plant-based with the wider community and meet incredible people. Her favourite part is, of course, “Eating all the goodies at the end of each lesson.”
Photo by Tom Hains
Zoe is a community class teacher at Made In Hackney where she likes to cook hearty, unpretentious and flavoursome food. She says working for Made In Hackney is the most rewarding job she has ever done. “I love the therapeutic and social aspects of cooking and the magic that happens when you bring different people together in the kitchen.” When she’s not leading one of our courses you can find her cooking at the Bonnington café - where she began her career as a chef 8 years ago.
Photo by Tom Hains
Teaching Assistant & Volunteer
Cary is one of Made In Hackney’s uber volunteers – starting his MIH journey as a class participant and then getting more and more involved as a volunteer host, assistant chef and assistant teacher. He signed up to our classes initially after being treated for cancer and wanted to overhaul his lifestyle. Today he is now a passionate chef, juicer and kombucha maker – hoping to turn this into a career. Here he represents over 75 volunteers whom without MIH would not be able to do the awesome work it does.
Photo by Kate Beatty
With a background in community engagement and environmental education work, Fi went on to work with Growing Communities - a community-led organisation based in Hackney working to create positive alternatives to the current damaging food system. Fi helps to run the box scheme at Growing Communities and also coordinates education projects teaching young people and their families about where food comes from. Cooking was an obvious off shoot from Fi's work and passion around food and the environment, and together with Ximena - also at Made in Hackney - and her partner Duncan, she set up the Hackney Growers' Kitchen. They run a weekly cake stall at Stoke Newington Farmers' Market and take on small catering jobs for community and environmental events. She loves to cook (and eat!) and loves to work with people...so as a result is particularly passionate about what food can do in terms of bringing people together!
Steve has been passionate about food since discovering an invisible recipe book at the age of 5. He has worked with food all of his adult life, honing his skills as a Chef in France, Greece and England. He studied the Sociology of Food at Bristol University then dedicated himself to launching exciting food start-ups. First, Dalston’s, a natural soft drinks company famous for its Dalston Cola. Then The People's Kitchen, a community food surplus kitchen project, and then the Russet, a community cafe and events space. His latest venture is Make Kit, a social recipe kit enterprise. He has worked for Made In Hackney as a teacher since 2016 and loves sharing and inspiring others with his passion and knowledge of food.
From a young age, influenced by my Punjabi mother’s knowledge of Ayurveda, I’ve been interested in the healing properties of food. While raising my own children, I realised how much I enjoyed sharing knowledge about food and nutrition with others and how important health and wellbeing are as a foundation in every family, despite their socio-economic and/or cultural background. This lead me to study nutritional therapy and set up Biba Kitchen. ‘Biba’ translates from Punjabi as decent and honest – the key ingredients you’ll find in my kitchen and food. Since qualifying as a Nutritional Therapist, as well as consultation works, I’ve worked as a chef, preparing food for supper clubs and events and creating menus for cafes. Delivering classes on healthy eating and cooking to diverse groups is something I’m experienced in and love doing, so working with Made In Hackney feels like an extended family!
After struggling with health issues Bruna found a nutritional therapist that showed her how to transform her life by eating the right food. This experience inspired Bruna to go back to college where she studied Naturopathic Nutrition and since 2008 she's dedicated her life to showing people how to become healthier by eating the most amazing and tasty food that not only fills the body with nutrients but nourishes the soul. When she first heard about MIH and its values she felt an instant connection and today she is very proud to be part of it’s amazing team.
Asa has over 20 years' experience in the medical and healthcare industries and is passionate about inspiring people to improve their health through nutrition. She started her career as a nurse around twenty-five years ago in Sweden, moving to England in her twenties to start a business manufacturing and selling natural organic health and beauty products. She trained as a Nutritional Therapist and a Naturopath with the London College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM), following three years of study and clinical practice. Asa now runs Linéa Nutrition and is a member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapies (BANT). She is one of MIH’s fermentation specialists and is the proud author of, 'Fermentation: How to make your own sauerkraut, kimchi, brine pickles, kefir, kombucha, vegan dairy, and more.'
Photo by Casey Lazonick
After her son was diagnosed with Autism in 2008, Shashi began her journey into holistic and alternative health to help her son and her whole family. This sparked an interest in self-sufficiency, ethical living, permaculture, activism that ultimately then led her to create her own skincare and homecare business which became a very successful international vegan brand, which she ran for over 10 years.
She is also a trained soap-maker, skincare herbalist, and cosmetic formulator. Shashi is now a serial ethical vegan entrepreneur, social media manager and content creator for BME, Refugee & Migrant causes and various charities. She is passionate about creating space and platforms for marginalised communities and educating people to take the power back into their own hands.
Dr Sunni Patel is the founder of Dish Dash Deets – a company and platform focused on health coaching, education, and food, with a mission to support corporations and individuals on holistic wellbeing. He has held several senior corporate roles in global corporations and led many E, D&I and Wellness initiatives across various organisations. Holding a PhD in risk factors for diseases as well as being a qualified whole-self wellness and culinary medicine coach, his specialism is in gut health, personal training, fitness, and eating addiction. He has been featured on the BBC, ITV, and is called for comment regularly on BBC radio shows with regular slots on BBC Stoke and BBC Wales as well as leading press outlets. He is available for speaker sessions, workshops, and coaching programmes and can be contacted directly here.
Wild Food Walk Leader
Kenneth (Ken) Greenway is the Manager at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, where's he's worked since 2002. Ken loves plants, is an experienced forager, wild food enthusiast, and a Come Dine with Me winner! He enjoys sharing the edible delights of plants you'll see when you step out your front door, whether it be sprinkling the petals of dandelions on your meal or turning stinging nettles into a pesto, there is much to be enjoyed (and eaten) right under your feet.