Social Pantry is an events and catering company that’s worked with the likes of Alexander McQueen, H&M, Adidas, Harvey Nichols, Rihanna and Gigi Hadid. Food-wise, there’s a focus on fresh, seasonal grub and root-to-stem cookery and in terms of personnel, over 10% of the workforce are ex-offenders. And Alex Head is the woman behind it all…
Where do you live in London and what do you like about the area?
I recently became the owner of a very cute puppy called Waffle so I’ve just moved to a new place in Clapham which is next to the park. I love the diversity of South London – I feel incredibly lucky to have so many brilliant bars, cafes and restaurants on my doorstep; Brixton Village, Peckham Rye, Northcote Road – they’re all home to some of my favourite venues and I can jump into Soho when I need a change of scene.
What led you to set up Social Pantry?
I was really naughty when I was younger and after being expelled from school, I started making sandwiches to sell to office workers at lunchtime. It gave me a taste of entrepreneurship; it was a challenge and I enjoyed it! Following cookery school and a LOT of hard work, Social Pantry was born. The café is at the end of my road and I sometimes used to work in there. The old owner really wanted me to buy it but I didn’t want it, I was set on catering. A few months later, after a few glasses of wine, we were talking and he managed to twist my arm! I was like “Yeah! What could be so hard?! I’ll take it!” and that was it.[easy-image-collage id=125283]
What’s the best party you’ve catered for and why?
The best thing about event catering is that each party is different. There have been so many amazing events over the years! I have worked on some incredible events for the rich and famous where the brief is wild giving you room to be creative, these events are fun but the pressure to get it right is ON! I also love elements of the smaller more intimate events, it is great to get to know a couple who’s wedding you are planning. I found myelf cooking breakfast for 20 clients 100 feet in the sky last June as party of London in the Sky, that was memorable!
You recently opened your first London restaurant Soane’s Kitchen, why did you decide to open a permanent space and why did you choose Pitzhanger Manor as the location?
In March I won the Pitzhanger Manor tender which is a three part tender. In May we opened Pitzhanger Pantry, a gorgeous kiosk in Walpole Park, in July we opened Soane’s Kitchen, a 100-seater restaurant and in November we open the Manor House, which houses nine stunning event rooms. Ealing is a great place to be situated and I am excited for what we can bring to the area.
You partner with young ex-offenders charity Key4Life tell us about that relationship.
Four years ago a friend mentioned Key4Life to me and I knew that I wanted Social Pantry to be involved so three years ago, I employed my first ex-offender and now I try to maintain 10% of my workforce being ex-offenders. I love this side of the business, it’s my real passion. I was given plenty of chances when I was younger, so now I offer chances to others who join Social Pantry. I go into London prisons and recruit behind bars ahead of, as well as on, release. Offering opportunity and supporting these employees has and will continue to change lives. I recruit through Novus and charities such as Switchback and Key4Life who are all doing great work. I’m so proud to employ ex-offenders as they are ambitious, hardworking, trusted and talented and are a great addition to the team.
Describe your perfect day in London.
I’d start the day with an early yoga class at Union Station Yoga or swim to help wake up my mind, then I’d head down to our cafe in Battersea for coffee and breakfast – we have got a delicious carrot cake granola on the menu at the moment. It is banging! From there I’d walk down to Battersea Park with my dog and along the river into town; Central London is still one of my favourite places to check out new restaurants and catch up with friends. I’m currently loving The Royal Oak, Little Kolkata, Bancone, Cora Pearl, Neptune and St. Leonards. After a day exploring, I’d invite a few friends round for dinner – something delicious, easy and with lots of wine. Nothing beats getting everyone round the dinner table for a good catch up!