On a drizzly Friday morning in June we had the pleasure of meeting Alex Hely-Hutchinson,
Founder of 26 Grains at her beautiful home in East London. We caught up to find out all about
Alex's journey and how her business has grown since starting out as a porridge pop-up.
Can you tell us about yourself and your business?
I'm Alex, I live in London and I run a small casual dining restaurant in Neal's Yard Covent
Garden. I got the idea to start the café after living in Copenhagen. They have such a lovely
attitude towards cooking, seasonality and simple food.
How did 26 Grains start and where did your passion for porridge come from?
26 Grains started as a month-long porridge pop up in Old Street Station. I wanted to focus
on porridge because I couldn't find anywhere else to eat a good bowl of porridge in the
evening and it was something I ate every day in the winter when living in Copenhagen. My
mum also used to make big bowls of porridge for us as kids as an easy, good breakfast for
all 5 of us kids.
What are the core brand values at the heart of 26 Grains?
Quality, simplicity and seasonality. Choosing the best quality ingredients, that are in season
and just cooking them simply. Tomatoes, olive oil, sea salt. Porridge, sea salt, butter,
cinnamon. Good quality food is so delicious and easy to cook.
Where do you find inspiration when creating new dishes and recipes?
Going out to eat, speaking to my team and friends about what they've been eating, listening
to what I'm craving when tired. So often I'll start thinking about what I'm going to eat as I
cycle home and start to get hungry and that can lead into developing a dish on the menu.
What is your favourite porridge topping at the moment?
Its summer time! So it has to be roasted honey and thyme peaches or gooseberry and
If you were hosting a summer dinner party what dishes would you serve?
Probably something similar to what I cooked my sister and her boyfriend the other day. A big
BBQ with spatchcock chicken and pesto, charred leeks and walnut butter, tomato, caper and
anchovy salad, and a big green salad with lots of herbs and a simple vinaigrette.
What advice would you give to someone starting up their own business?
Be authentic and do something that you really love. It will make things much easier than
trying to second guess what the market wants.
Can you walk us through a day in your life?
Wake up, run or yoga, cycle to work for breakfast, taste and finalise any new menu items as
they go onto the menu. Chat through everything that needs to be sorted for the day; events,
recipes, staffing, PR, planning for growth etc. Home, collect ingredients for dinner, usually
lots of roasted veg, maybe some fish and then maybe some gardening if it's a long light
evening and then maybe a movie or reading.
How do you make your clothes work for you and your busy lifestyle?
They have to be comfortable, soft, simple and easy to wear. Nothing too fussy, but
something that has a smart edge to it.
What are your go-to wardrobe staples?
Jeans, shirts, t-shirt, soft jumpers, linen dresses.
If I wasn't running 26 Grains I would be... travelling the world.
The best thing about my job... the people I work with and the people I meet.
My favourite holiday destination... Italy.
Words to live by... sleep is always a good idea.
My guilty pleasure... pizza.
My favourite London hangout... The Elderfield.