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In Conversation with Katie & Safia -
Cook & Baker

Katie and Safia

Last month we had the pleasure of meeting best friends and business partners Katie Brigstock and Safia Shakarchi, founders of Cook & Baker who run delicious supperclubs, workshops and cookbook clubs across London and beyond! We found out all about how they came together and the inspiration behind their foodie events.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and Cook & Baker?

We met on our year abroad from university, in the Spanish capital of Madrid. Safia was studying and Katie working for a restaurant communications agency. A mutual friend introduced us and we've been glued at the hip ever since. We spent that year travelling all over Europe, seeking out the best new cafes and restaurants to try, with our mutual passion for food, styling and interiors inspiring us to visit new places all the time. When we returned from Spain and finished our respective university courses, we both decided to take our passion for food to the next level and enroll in some professional training, Katie at Leith's School of Food and Wine and Safia at Le Cordon Bleu. During this crazy 6 months in London, we decided to join forces and finally create something out of our passion and all of the ideas we had been throwing around for months. And so, Cook & Baker was born, out of a joint enthusiasm and desire to share our love of bringing people together around a beautifully styled table for a delicious feast. The rest is history - we never expected to receive such a welcoming and willing audience who have helped us grow Cook & Baker to where it is today.
From our first event in an industrial warehouse space in Hackney, to hosting private dinners for fashion, beauty & travel brands, and presenting masterclasses at Taste of London 2018, we never dreamed it would allow us to meet so many wonderful people, young businesses and creatives.

Katie and Safia

Where does your passion for cooking/baking come from and have you always wanted to work in the food industry?

K: Since my childhood, I've always spent the majority of my time at home in the kitchen, either making a huge mess or hosting unnecessary large amounts of people! My family weren't particularly foodie but the likes of TV shows such as Ready Steady Cook and Masterchef influenced an obsession for cooking and a love of sharing food with others. I'd always wanted to work in the food industry in some capacity. Initially I focused my efforts on the food styling world, taking work experience placements in food magazine and starting my own online food blog. However, over time I became more and more involved in the events industry and the ability to delve into my creative side and collaborate with other like-minded individuals to produce spectacular events. Hence, Cook & Baker now combines both my passions- dinner parties and creative, seasonal menus with good, honest food.

S: My earliest memories go back to making sweet treats with my grandmother, but as I was growing up I was actually more interested in art and design. I would make my own clothes and design websites in my spare time... obviously like any normal 14 year old! I always knew I wanted to do something creative, and it wasn't until I was about 16 that I fell in love with baking again. I actually came back to it came through my love of website design and photography - I started a blog and loved to bake beautiful things to photograph for it. I found that the kitchen was the perfect place for me to channel my creativity, so I began to think - 'how can I turn this into a career?'. I spent my university summers working in bakeries and for food magazines, hosting afternoon teas and styling dinner parties, and I became determined to turn it into a job. I suppose Cook & Baker is the culmination of everything I love and have always loved doing.

All your supperclubs look delicious and beautifully curated, where does your inspiration come from when planning supperclubs?

Each of our events is inspired by travels and trips that we have taken together - from our first weekend away to Marrakech, sitting on a terrace at sunset and indulging in rich, spicy Moroccan dishes, to a long weekend in sunny Ibiza, and a freezing cold Winter getaway to Berlin. It's those memories and experiences and all the little details we encounter along the way that we want to recreate at our events.
We love to explore cities through their food, so we set out to bring the magic of all those beautiful cafés and restaurants we've discovered to our guests. We take inspiration from the interiors and settings of the places we have visited, and we start by creating mood boards from that. For each event we then work with different independent ceramicists, candle makers, florists and calligraphers to create unique, eye-catching tablescapes that bring those experiences back to life.

Katie and Safia

What is your favourite dish to cook or bake at the moment and do you have any exciting events coming up?

K: As the months draw closer to Christmas and the trees turn that gorgeous shade of golden orange and red, I'm drawn to comforting British classics - the kind of food I grew up on. At home, I tend to cook a lot of vegetarian dishes, showcasing a particular vegetable or herb.

S: I have always loved making loaf cakes but I'm particularly drawn to them at the moment. My family have never been fans of desserts with icing or cream, and loaf cakes are my mum's favourite. Their simplicity allows their few ingredients to shine, and you can't go far wrong throwing some seasonal fruit in with ground nuts and spices. My favourite combination at the moment is plum & black pepper - I tried it at a café in the Lake District earlier this year and I had to recreate it.
We're also in the process of planning our first birthday party! We've been running for over a year now and we couldn't have done it without the support of so many essential people and networks. We're planning a party like no other to thank those people who have made it happen! There's also lots of exciting plans in store for the new year, with a slight change to the structure of our events too to make them bigger and better, so stay tuned on our social media and be sure to sign up to our newsletter to know what we're up to.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting up a business with their best friend?

Be honest, open with each other from the very start. Going into business is a whole different ball game and sometimes it can put a lot of pressure on a relationship, so be honest with each other, work to each other's strengths and never lose sight of the real reason you started the business!

Katie and Safia

Can you walk us through a typical day in your lives?

We wake up at about 8am (Safia will definitely find this more difficult than Katie...), and we'll either head to a yoga practice or on a morning run. If we're on one of our research trips though, then it's off to scout out the best breakfast and coffee in town!
From 9-5pm we knuckle down with our day jobs. C&B is very much a passion project and something we put our heart and soul into, but we still have our normal jobs to fulfil too. We both work in events, and Safia also works on her food photography and writing when she can. In the evenings, we catch up on C&B events planning alongside some sort of delicious (probably Middle Eastern) dinner we've cooked up around a big family dining table. Or you'll often find us trying out one of London's latest restaurants. We have a never ending list!

How do you make your clothes work for you and your busy lifestyle?

K: They need to be kitchen-proof, event-proof and yet ready to tackle anything and meet clients non-stop!

S: I always try to go comfortable but stylish. I do a lot of running around and am often carrying a huge backpack (very glamorous), so I want to make sure I'm wearing something that can get me through the day but that can also work if I'm going out for dinner or seeing friends in the evening.

What are your go-to wardrobe staples?

K: Long white shirts and colourful jumpers - glam yet super easy and practical paired with skinny jeans and over the knee black boots. I'm in love with my Wrap Odessa Sweater from our shoot!

S: I have too many pair of culottes for my own good. Whether they're loose and floaty or sturdier workwear culottes, I mix and match with different tops and jumpers, and love that I can dress them down with some chunky brogues or glam them up with a pair of heels. Although I won't lie I do love wearing my Bianca Skirt too...!

Katie and Safia

And finally...
If I wasn't running Cook & Baker I would be... K: Running a yoga studio in Bali, spending my evenings on the beach!
S: Baking sweet treats to sell in my own café... which would have a yoga and photography studio attached to it.
My day isn't complete until I've... K: Had various cups of tea and switched off my phone to have just a few precious moments on the yoga mat.
S: Had a cup of really good coffee. Living in Melbourne a few years ago and writing for Caffeine Magazine, I've become pretty passionate about coffee and I make sure to pass by an independent café at some point during my day.
Words to live by... K: Be a nice human, it's simple. Respect that everyone is on a different, amazing journey of their own.
S: Every challenge is an opportunity. It's definitely the biggest lesson I've learned over the last few years. Whenever I'm finding something difficult, it reminds me that I will grow and learn from it, and it will lead me onto bigger and better things.
My guilty pleasure...K: Dairy milk chocolate, Hobo Soy candles and a 90 minute yin class. All at once if possible.
S: Supermarket hummus and crackers... is that really bad? Oh and watching Suits, but I'm totally not guilty about that.
The best thing about my job... K: Getting to see the results of months of hard work and organisation. It's one of the few jobs in the world where you get to work with such a variety of different people, suppliers and venues and then get to see the results right before your own eyes. It's fast-paced, creative and fun!
S: The fact that every day is different. When I left university I was determined not to follow a traditional path. I wanted to do lots of different things, and over the last few years I've carved out various jobs for myself that allow me to do that. Being your own boss gives you that freedom, and I'm very grateful for it.
My favourite London hangout... K: The Ham Yard Hotel - it's so effortlessly chic, glamorous and yet homely. I could spend a whole weekend in there sipping cocktails!
S: Benk & Bo. It's a co-working space with a café, events space and yoga studio. I'm currently on a residency there and I love cosying up on one of their sofas with a cup of coffee, surrounded by plants and lovely, creative people. I love that I can sneak in a yoga class in the middle of my work day too. It's also where we did our Wrap shoot!

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Photography by Jutta Klee @juttaklee
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