At Work With: Anna Jones
Food is a very important component in our day to day at Tala. Whether it’s hosting banquets for partners or swapping recipe ideas among the team, it brings us all together and facilitates the sharing of skills and ideas.
Last year we introduced a meat-free catering policy to bring positive awareness to the impact of meat consumption on the environment. Anna Jones, a fellow East Londoner, has long inspired us with her vegetarian cuisine, and we were thrilled that she chose our Porcelain range to light up her new studio space. We spoke to Anna to find out how vegetarianism, interior design and sustainable lighting all intersect to create a healthy lifestyle we can all learn from.
As a chef, stylist, mum and published author embarking on your fourth book, what does your routine look like, and how do you make time for your wellbeing?
A boringly predictable answer, but no two days are the same for me, which I love. I work with a couple of freelancers part-time who are with me every Monday, so the beginning of the week is normally spent catching up on whatever projects we’re working on.
At the moment I’m testing a lot of recipes for my next book, so the day will be a mixture of writing and testing in the studio or my kitchen at home. In London especially I feel like it’s easy to get caught up in quite a chaotic pace of life, but I do my best to slow down and spend as much time with my little boy as I possibly can.
What’s your home like, and what do you love most about it?
I live in Hackney, an area of East London which I have always loved for its vibrancy and diversity, with food especially. Our Victorian house is bright and minimalist (although less so since our son Dylan arrived three years ago). Two Swedish friends used a lovely Swedish expression to describe our house, they translated it as having the feeling of clean air and freshness–like having all the windows open. If I can make people feel that way in my home and with my food, I’ll be very happy.
You went meat-free after years of working as a chef. What is the most valuable thing that vegetarianism has taught you?
After a few years as a chef and then working as a food writer and stylist I became a little jaded with food and realised my body wasn’t feeling the way I knew it could. As an experiment I decided to move to a vegetable centered way of eating for 6 weeks, giving up meat, fish and all but a little dairy. That was 7 years ago and I haven’t looked back.
When I started eating this way two things happened. The first was I felt amazing. I finally got it – the food we put in our mouth literally turns into the flesh and bones we walk around with each day. It was like I had been going through my life without ever reading the manual. It was a revelation. I worked out that the food I ate determined how my mind and body felt and this determined my whole outlook on the world.
The second thing that happened was that a whole new world of cooking opened up. I had already been cooking for many years but when I took away the usual constraints of how I put a dish together around a piece of meat or fish I began cooking in a totally different way, focusing on flavour, texture, colour and layering flavours, citrus and spices to create amazing, joyful, satisfying food, led by the new amazing way I felt but also my deep love of food and the knowledge I’d gained through years in the kitchen.
Your recipes borrow from a wide range of influences, bursting with colour and texture. Does this translate into your design sensibility too?
I love bright, vibrant, joyful food. And because of that, my aesthetic is more pared-back, as I always want the food to be the focus. I love what’s happening in East London with ceramics at the moment – Turning Earth are really championing some amazing makers which showcase food beautifully. I love a more natural palette too. Rachael who works with me dyes a lot of linens using foods – avocado stones and onion skins – and I love the tones they come out with.
You recently opened Narroway Studio, after years of searching and weeks of renovation. What was the design intent and what are your plans for the space?
Narroway is a creative food space and photography studio in the heart of Hackney. It is a collaboration between photographer Issy Croker, stylist and art director Emily Ezekiel and me. We’re great friends and have been working together in food and the visual arts for over a decade.
As well as using it as our home, where I write, test and develop recipes, we also host creative workshops with us and friends we love – like Charcoal, which is a life drawing supperclub – and supperclubs from me and other chefs from London and beyond.
What are the vital ingredients for hosting a successful dinner party in the home?
When I cook for friends most of the time I end up cooking something sociable – usually Mexican or Indian. I love having a few dishes you can put on the table that everyone can dive into. Rotis to tear, and pickles to serve alongside warming bowls of dahl. Choose something you can make most of ahead and you can’t go far wrong.
What makes you happy?
It might sound cheesy but I am always happy. Everyday is a new adventure and a total gift and opportunity, sure some days things don’t go right, or I have to work really hard, or I get rained on but I don’t let that be the focus. I feel incredibly blessed to be doing what I love and what’s meaningful to me. The daily meditation I do helps me a lot to keep on track when things don’t go quite to plan.
Keep up with Anna at annajones.co.uk.