Words by Christina Dean

There’s eating local, and then there’s eating hyper-local, and that’s what Emily Gussin and Sarah Smith are doing with 10 Miles Club, “a supper club where the ingredients used are grown, reared and milled within ten miles of the venue.”

The pair both work in the food industry – Emily is a recipe writer and editor at Delicious magazine and Sarah develops recipes for commercial food brands – but they wanted to share their cooking and their passion for sustainability and local ingredients with more people, so the supper club was born. And they are selling out, so clearly the appetite for local food is there. 

10 miles isn’t really a big radius at all (the length of the Victoria Line is 13 miles and that doesn’t even take you out of the city) especially when that circle covers a city like London and not lush countryside filled with farms.

The pair take the restriction seriously, sourcing almost everything from within ten miles of their chosen venue, and they “love how surprised everyone who comes to the supper club is when we introduce the dishes and explain how we sourced the ingredients.” The core ingredients for each menu are grown and produced within the namesake radius, so they use a lot of seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs, alongside organic eggs and high-welfare meat from small farms, with honey and spices being used to add layers of flavour. In the instances when the pair can’t get the raw ingredients they need in the area (like flour grown elsewhere in the country), they source from producers who share the same ethical outlook, like regenerative farms and community projects. 

“It’s amazing what can be found on your doorstep in a busy city with limited space”

For all the challenges caused by working within such a strict framework has meant that Emily and Sarah have been able to partner with some incredible producers, and as the pair say, “it’s amazing what can be found on your doorstep in a busy city with limited space.” There’s Pearly Queen Honey, “a collective of urban beekeepers who work on a small co-operative scale to protect the bees and support the ecosystem of the city. We use their honey as the main sweetener in our desserts”; Crate To Plate, “who grow all their produce vertically in shipping containers using hydroponics technology, saving space, yielding perfect crops with no fertiliser and also using 95% less water than traditional farming”; and Stepney City Farm, “a small-scale farm growing seasonal produce and rearing animals with high environmental and animal welfare standards, community outreach and education is at the heart of everything they do. And Sitopia is an incredible regenerative farming project in Greenwich that work with volunteers and are really changing the outlook of what can be grown in an urban space.”

As well as connecting them to great suppliers within the city, the ten-mile limit also forces the duo to think and cook creatively. “The very nature of working with small producers with a seasonal model means we have to be flexible. We always have to be prepared for last-minute changes. We can plan our menus around what our suppliers think they should have on a certain week, but the weather might change and that ingredient won’t be ready. We don’t have the option to just buy it from somewhere else, so we have to be creative about adapting our menu,” explain Emily and Sarah,” but it’s all part of the fun!” Hackney has been the location of choice for their recent events but they have plans to try a different area of London next year, so that means a new radius and new menu possibilities. 

“The very nature of working with small producers with a seasonal model means we have to be flexible”

The pair’s attitude to waste – both keeping it to an absolute minimum as well as reusing products that would typically end up in the bin – is key to making this style of hyper-local, hyper-seasonal cooking work. If some of your ingredients have decided not to grow and you’ve got paying customers to feed, you can’t very well be throwing perfectly edible bits of food away.

Whey custard is one dish made from waste ingredients that has become a failsafe for Emily and Sarah. “We did develop a whey custard recipe that we keep coming back to and try to incorporate into a lot of our menus. Whey is a by-product in the cheese making process and usually a lot of it goes to waste,” they explain. “So instead of making custard the traditional way with milk, we created a recipe using whey. It makes a lovely tangy custard that compliments both savoury and sweet dishes.”

It’s clear that creativity in the kitchen is essential for 10 Miles Club but Emily and Sarah believe that taking a similar approach at home is a great way to keep your own cooking sustainable, “whether that’s using the whole vegetable or fruit, keeping the skin on or using vegetable peelings to make stock or crips, or making more of the meat you buy – try rendering the fat from cooked meat to incorporate into your next pastry dish, or keep the bones for stock.” And get into the habit of doing fridge raid meals, as they say, “it’s easier than you think to make a chuck-it-all in pasta, fried rice or soup and means you won’t let the odd ingredients lurking at the back of your fridge go to waste.”

Once you’ve worked with everything in the radius of your kitchen, get out and explore what else is on your doorstep, because as Emily and Sarah are showing, there’s a lot of local treasure to be found.

Local Heroes is a series where we big up the people, small businesses and neighbourhood spots that make London great, you can see more from our series here.