Sabi Phagura speaks to the co-founders of Hakuna Foods to get a brief glimpse into their lives.
Ditching a career in finance and property, duo Annabel Wray and Victoria Knight turned their focus to food and took the monumental step to retrain at Leith’s School of Food and Wine. After completing the course, they took additional vocations in nutrition to fully understand the science behind the ingredients and provide the best possible service to clients.
They eventually set up Hakuna Foods, and today, the esteemed qualified private chefs, nutritional advisors and food consultants prepare food for Hollywood A-Listers, athletes and to those on film sets.
LM: You both come from the finance and property sectors. How did you then suddenly find yourselves in the food industry?
HF: We both loved cooking from a young age, I (Annabel) asked to go to Saturday cooking classes when I was ten years old, while Victoria grew up experimenting in the kitchen with baking for her family in the country. Growing up, you have no idea how many different types of jobs there are, but we both ended up in the corporate world, and it gave us the most incredible experience and understanding of how businesses are run. Although we didn’t know each other at the time, we both felt that there were jobs out there better suited us.
We both wanted to run our own company in an area we were passionate about. For both of us, this has always been food. We undertook the Leith’s Food and Wine Diploma in 2014, and this was the pivotal change in our careers – we were in the same class and spent a year learning everything about produce, seasonality, cooking methods and presentation. It was an incredible year, one of our best ever and it gave us the most amazing springboard into the food industry and where we are today.
LM: We are often told that what we put in our body forms the building blocks for the rest of your life. What is your philosophy on food?
HF: We totally agree with this and use it as the overarching philosophy on our attitude towards food. We have three main philosophies on food: Firstly, a healthier you is a happier you. It is vital to be healthy both in body and mind, so we focus on foods that make people look and feel amazing. Good mood food is the focus of our menu development, and it helps minimise the level of stress inside and outside our bodies.
Secondly, we provide delicious and innovative food to all our clients, and it’s the way we like to eat too. We pride ourselves on continuously creating new and exciting dishes, full of flavour and nutrient-dense.
We love to eat in restaurants all over the world, and these experiences have a huge influence on our cooking. Thirdly, we really believe it’s important not to be too restrictive. We recommend following the principle of eating very well 80% of the time, whilst allowing more indulgent treats the remaining 20% of the time. Life is for living, and for long term sustainability, this is really important to us.
LM: There seem to be a plethora of TV programs on diets and how to lose weight. Why do you think so many people are uneducated on a healthy diet?
HF: In the UK, at least, we believe that this stems from the education system. People generally pick up bad eating habits from a young age because they don’t know any different.
They’re not taught about it at school, and so their unhealthy habits continue with them throughout their lives. It’s not only a lack of education, though. There are a whole host of other factors which result in people being misinformed about what is healthy, from packaging to advertising and convenience, which can all make unhealthy foods seem more appealing.
LM: Now, you feed some of the top Hollywood A-listers and professional athletes’ bellies, tell us how did you stumble into that?
HF: We predominantly cook on film sets to help actors look in shape for their roles or musicians who want to look and feel their best for their promotional tours. We have worked really hard to build a business that specialises in this and have both undertaken Nutrition and Weight Management Diplomas to better our understanding for our clients.
LM: How big of an operation is Hakuna Foods?
HF: Our operation is relatively small, as we only cook for a few people at a time, so they get a completely personalised service. We pride ourselves in providing exactly the same level of service wherever we are in the world. The trickiest part of our operation is shipping our equipment all over the globe, setting up trailers and moving them to remote locations.
LM: Let’s talk a bit about the food. Where does it come from? Is it organic?
HF: We use suppliers of the highest quality wherever we are in the world. We focus on organic, ethically sourced produce and love to cook seasonally. In terms of meat, we use pasture-raised animals that are free from antibiotics and hormones. We like to use a variety of cuts because they are all nutritious and delicious, and as for fish, we choose sustainable stock, which is wild and ethically caught.
LM: How do you come up with recipes and menu ideas?
HF: We get inspiration everywhere we go. When we’re on the road, we love to go to local markets, eat out in restaurants and enjoy the local street food. We draw on all our experiences of travelling and living in other countries to come up with delicious and innovative menus and recipes. When we’re at home, we have a huge collection of recipe books which we love to trawl through over a cup of tea!
LM: What does your own daily food intake look like and do you ever eat anything naughty?
HF: We live by our philosophy that we eat really well 80% of the time. We create fruit and veg-centric dishes for ourselves in our everyday lives, and we love to champion seasonal produce on our plates. When we do eat meat and fish, we make sure it’s the highest quality we can afford, and ideally share it amongst friends and family!
We don’t like to categorise food as ‘naughty’ but, in line with our Hakuna philosophy, we aim to indulge in less healthy options 20% of the time. Chocolate, cheese and wine are without a doubt our favourites!
Hakuna Foods – Where and How?
For more information about Hakuna Foods, visit www.hakunafoods.co.uk.
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