Welcome to our brand new series Who’s The Boss? aiming to highlight local bosses, find out what makes them successful, and talk to them about how/why they got started. We’re kicking off the series with two of our favourite girl bosses.
Let me introduce you to Anna Hafsteinsson and Emma Long who run The Bean Pot. A local supper club which aims to bring strangers together, sharing stories with new islanders over the best local produce Jersey has to offer. A three-course meal in a beautiful home setting cooked for you by two lovely ladies… what’s not to like!
We find out more about how they got started and what goes into an evening with The Bean Pot.
1. Firstly, what made you want to start The Bean Pot?
Anna: I lived in London for a couple of years after University and co-hosted a supper club called the Clapton Pot (Clapton was my old stomping ground). My co-host Violaine and I had so much fun shopping at the local market, cooking up a storm in the kitchen and meeting an impressive assortment of East Londoners. When I moved back to Jersey last year I really missed the dinners and thought that something similar could go down well in Jersey. It’s easy to hang out with the same people all the time – especially on a small island. The Bean Pot dinners are a great chance to meet new people, tuck into some home-cooked grub and enjoy some good conversation around a proper table. We’ve got such incredible produce here too, so with The Bean Pot, I wanted to make sure that we set out to use as many local growers and suppliers as possible. One of my best friends Gracie runs The Farm School Initiative. She gets kids growing their own veggies to help them understand more about where their food comes from. We’ve been lucky enough to use lots of their delicious produce at The Bean Pot and we’re hoping to build more partnerships like this with other producers.
Emma: I’d heard about The Bean Pot last year and was really interested in going along to a dinner, but the timings just never seemed to work. By chance, Anna and I met at the beginning of this year when we started working together. We bonded pretty quickly, mainly over our love of food and music! At that point, Anna had been co-hosting with someone different at each dinner and asked if I’d like to do one with her. We had great fun (and the cooking even went pretty well!) so we had a chat and decided that we’d keep The Bean Pot going as a double act. The rest, as they say, is history!
2. Hosting The Bean Pot, you meet a lot of people who you don’t know well and who often, don’t know one another. Do you have any advice on how to break the ice?
Emma: Alcohol is usually a pretty safe bet when it comes to breaking the ice! … All jokes aside, we usually just make sure that everyone gets a really warm welcome when they arrive. Greeting guests as if they’re old friends (even if you’ve never met them in your life!) usually does a good job of making guests feel at ease. If we have the time after we’ve finished food prep, we make a little welcome drink that’s got a good few shots of something strong in it! At the start of an evening everyone usually loves to hear about how The Bean Pot came about etc. so we can generally rely on that as a good topic of conversation. Another ‘tradition’ that seems to have arisen is asking everyone around the table to say ‘That’s not a knife, that’s a spoon’ in various different accents. It’s a great way to get everyone laughing together.
Anna: I try to make sure that the space is looking nice and the table is set well in advance as that makes me feel much more prepared to do the hosting bit. I’ve also got some interesting tales of the supper club I hosted in London which usually go down pretty well and are good conversation starters. We once hosted a dinner in the basement of my house in London and it turned out to be a pretty riotous night!
3. You cook for a larger group than most are used to. Do you have any kitchen essentials you couldn’t be without?
Anna: We’re pretty minimal when it comes to gizmos and gadgets in the kitchen. I’d say the best thing I’ve invested in is a good set of knives. I’m also a bit of a collector, so I’ve got loads of big platters and pretty plates that I’ve picked up from charity shops and car boots over the years, they’re great to have when you’re serving up as they can really bring a dish to life.
Emma: We did do a Mexican cooker that relied pretty heavily on slow cookers. We had to beg, borrow and steal a few! However retro they might be you can’t really knock them. We did a mean pulled pork and some refried beans with ham hock that were both a real hit! You just can’t beat stuff in the slow cooker in the winter. You can chuck everything on the night before, hit on before you go to work, and you’ve got a hearty casserole – or whatever – to come home to after work. Cosy perfection
4. Is there anything you keep in mind when putting your menus together for a Bean Pot supper club?
Anna: When we’re putting the menu together, Emma and I usually try and find some time where we can sit down, leaf through some cookbooks, and get on Pinterest to get a feel for what we might want to do. Sometimes we’ll have a theme in mind, like the Mexican night we did, other times we’ll just plan something we fancy!
Emma: We try to build our menus around what’s seasonal and we try and keep things pretty simple too. We’re not restaurant-trained chefs and as much as we love cooking for our guests we try not to pick dishes that are overly complicated so that we don’t land ourselves in a stressful situation!
5. We’ve seen you smoking your own fish and putting together all sort of amazing dishes. You seem to like a challenge when it comes to cooking. Where do you get your inspiration?
Anna: I follow a lot of ‘foodie’ people on Instagram so, day to day, I guess I’m always sort of unconsciously gathering ideas and inspiration from there. If I like the look of something, I’ll screenshot it and then try and look it up in more detail later. When we moved into this new house, where we mainly host the dinners, we inherited the big smoker. At first, I thought it looked a bit terrifying! But it’s actually surprisingly easy to use and it really does give an amazing flavour to meat and fish. We just like to cook with fresh ingredients, use interesting flavours and present our dishes in a nice way so our guests think ‘yeah I wanna eat that!’
6. What are your 3 favourite cookbooks?
Ottolenghi – Plenty More
Delia Smith – Complete Cookery Course
Madeline Shaw – Get the Glow & Ready, Steady Glow
7. What women in the industry inspire you the most?
Anna: We’re big fans of Laura Jackson and Alice Levine who together run the East London supper club, Jackson and Levine . They’re both just super-cool ladies who’ve managed to establish themselves in the world of food, fashion, and journalism whilst running their supper club as a side hustle. They often work with brands who want to put on dinners to launch new lines or products. To do something like that would be a real dream for us! The Meringue Girls are really great too. They started out selling little meringue kisses on Broadway Market and have expanded their empire and are now doing everything from food styling to meringue masterclasses!
Emma: I’d say Helmsley and Helmsley for the role they played in making healthy food cool again. We don’t really align The Bean Pot with any particular ‘school’ of thought when it comes to food but I think they’ve done a great job in building a respected brand around a way of eating that seems pretty sensible – and tasty too. For us, it’s all about fresh, seasonal ingredients, and eating pretty much whatever you fancy – in moderation, of course…! Generally, any confident, driven, and ambitious women are someone who would inspire us to just keep working at what we’re doing.
8. What do you think is the biggest benefit of working as a partnership?
Anna: For me, it’s really motivational. Working on your own, it can be easy to put off doing something or to make excuses. When I didn’t have a permanent co-host it took me a long time between each dinner to get my act together and plan the next event. When you’re working as a team everything feels easier – you can split tasks, bounce ideas off each other and it just feels like a lot of fun!
Emma: I think the night of planning that happens before a dinner is always fun for two. We’ll whip up a one pot dinner and go through all of the cookbooks and recipes online, which always turns into a really fun evening. On the day of the dinners, I’m generally running late, so it’s a good job Anna’s more reliable on that front. Ha-ha! But, on a serious note… I think being able to share the experience with someone else is the best thing – from when things go a little bit wrong in the kitchen (!) to taking silly selfies and sharing that high together when your guests leave after another successful evening.
9. Where’s your favourite place to eat in Jersey?
Anna: I think El Tico have done a great job with their menu. It’s imaginative and there’s always too many things I want to choose. Their specials are generally a good bet. It’s 100% worth the hike down the stairs (and back up) to Portelet Bay Cafe for the best sourdough pizza. Or we’ll sometimes go the cheat’s way – in on our little boat!
Emma: I really love the fresh fish BBQ at Faulkner Fisheries in the summer with some just-out-the- ground Jersey Royals and salad. Somewhere cozy like Seven Angels for the amazing Beef Wellington in the winter. My all time favourite, though, would probably be at my parents house on a Sunday afternoon with a table full of my favourite people, something made with a lot of love and a really nice bottle of rosé.
The next Bean Pot supper club will be on the 3rd December, tickets usually £20 and available HERE, hurry as they don’t last long. I’ve laready got mine! Follow Anna and Emma on social to keep an eye on upcoming events: