Interview Sophie André – ELYSIA Catering
Just to introduce you briefly, you are the founder of our new sister company Elysia catering. Elysia will be our main supplier for the events that require a catering service. Its values and sense of good food immediately seduced us and we are now proud at One To Wine to introduce Elysia and its founder Sophie.
Could you tell us more about Elysia?
Elysia is a food social business startup based in London. We prepare breakfasts and canapes with rescued food from local independent producers. For instance, we rescue a natural and organic granola with oats a bit smaller than the regular ones or British Territorial cheeses with a “little less than perfect” rind. We deliver to companies for events and meetings by bicycle in central London.
What is your background and how did you get the idea to start Elysia?
I am French, studied business in France and economics in the UK. After my master, I moved to the USA for a few months (in Columbus, OHIO) to learn more about entrepreneurship and eventually worked in startups for a few years in France and Senegal.
Early 2016, freshly arrived in London with the idea to sell high-quality breakfasts on-the-go for business people next to tube stations, I wished to create a transformative work environment for people with high barriers to employment. I was inspired by the American social entrepreneur, Joe Deloss, who founded « Hot Chicken Takeover » in Columbus (OH).
In the next couple of months, I had the chance to meet with talented social entrepreneurs and food specialists. They helped me to better understand the startup and food ecosystems in London and I discovered a whole new food world: the surplus. By talking with local producers, I learned that a small part of the production is sometimes wasted due to the size or shape of the product while the quality of the food remains unchanged. For instance, I met with Hedie – the founder of the fabulous organic granola brand Husk & Honey. She explained me that some batches may be a little too brown, may contain an additional spoonful of honey or may have overproduction of bespoke granola. As the granola looks a bit different, Hedie would not be able to sell it to the cafes she is working with and would then be looking for a new home for her handmade granola in order not to waste it. I thought that I could maybe help reduce food waste buying this delicious food surplus at a cut price, prepare breakfasts as well as canapes for events and sell them at a discounted price to make sure everybody can afford it!
Granola is one of the many products we source from independent producers. From marmalade made with “wonky fruits” to high quality British cheeses with a hole and tasty rescued coffee beans roasted in London, we now have a fabulous so many fabulous “naturally imperfect” food products. We are working with local producers and growers who make by hand their food products and exclusively with natural ingredients.
Could you tell us where the name comes from?
Elysia comes from the Greek mythology « Elysian fields » which means a blissful place, where Ancient Greeks went for a happy afterlife. The name refers to the second life of the food products we use to make breakfasts and canapes that would otherwise go to waste!
By using rescued artisan products and cycling to deliver breakfasts and canapes, Elysia is a business promoting high-quality food and sustainability. Could you tell us a bit more about it?
I truly believe in natural food. It is my conviction that we should all have access to good food which means for me handmade, without any additives and food that is not processed. However, those products are usually very expensive: quality ingredients cost more, local labour costs more, packaging costs more (often made without machine) etc. By definition, artisanal products are only available in limited supply, which drives prices up.
When I understood how much of those high-quality products were wasted, I thought that there may be a way to make everyone eat well through more affordable food by buying artisan “little less than perfect” food at a discounted price. I am very happy to tell the story of each product to my customers and see them enjoying their flavours!
In addition to catering, do you have new projects related to food sustainability?
I would really like to work with schools and organise workshops for kids about food sustainability. There is a rise of malnutrition in the UK especially during school holidays. By joining forces with local organisations, we could bring more awareness about initiatives to tackle hunger and balanced meals.
On the long run, we aim to develop Elysia with franchises in big cities all around the world. We believe we could help reduce food waste, promote good local food to more people and create a dynamic ecosystem around food waste for all our stakeholders.
One of the great things about Elysia catering is how you save products from waste. Can you tell us a bit more about this? How do you find the producers who supply you the food? Are you confident to always have enough food?
When I arrived in London, I visited markets in London and in the countryside and tasted many delicious food products! Sourcing the food is fantastic job!
After meeting with the producers, learning more about their fabrication process, the quality of the food, the ingredients’ sourcing and the surplus they may have, I then selected a range of products that I liked the most.
Can you tell us a bit more about the food you offer? What is your favourite cheese?
I have a range of natural British products for breakfasts with the delicious sourdough bread from Bread Ahead, granola, yoghurt, fruit compote, pastries etc. I also offer canapes for evening buffet with a colourful hummus by ChicP made from veggies surplus, sun-kissed “wonky” vegetables sourced from Teds’veg at Borough market, tapenade made with Oliveology’s Kalamata olive surplus, artisan handmade Italian pasta overproduction, British territorial cheese with an imperfect rind or a hole, fabulous cured-meat off cut from Cannon & Cannon…
My favourite cheese is a cheddar from Somerset – it is a complex cheese with a dry texture and strong flavours.
Can you tell us what kind of events do you do? For whom?
We prepare breakfasts and aperitifs for businesses. We deliver food for their meetings, launch parties and networking events as well as create special menus for every occasions. For this summer, we are also delivering picnics all around London for a lunch team treat! You can find out more about offers on the website of Elysia.
Quick question about wine, any wine in particular?
Red wine! Any time, any day!
Last question, you came to a Tasting 101. Team Ambitieux or Team Prestigieux?
Team Ambitieux for a weekly wine treat and Prestigieux for a special occasion!
Many thanks to Sophie Andre, founder of Elysia Catering