10 Minutes With: Jonothan Hope, The Bunyadi, London

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th August 2016

This summer London’s first naked restaurant, The Bunyadi, arrived in the city to rave reviews. Jonothan Hope, the head chef behind the kitchen at The Bunyadi, was at the helm of developing a range of vegan and non-vegan tasting menus made entirely of raw food. At The Bunyadi, watches and smartphones are confiscated and guests are encouraged to remove their clothing in order to immerse themselves in a whole new dining experience.

The Staff Canteen caught up with Jonothan to find out why he wanted to work for the controversial pop up, just how important the food actually is and whether or not people need to be naked to appreciate their food.

Jonothan Hope

Before taking on the role as head chef behind one of London’s most exciting pop up restaurants this year, Jonothan Hope was the head chef at the independent restaurant and bar, The Resident of Paradise Row. Despite leaving to join the Bunyadi, Jonothan still found himself helping out in the kitchen on the odd occasion.

He said: “I have a day off a week and on a Monday evening I was helping at the Resident because they were short staffed. I never really stopped working there until now.”

Jonothan, from Bow in East London, was initially drawn to the Bunyadi position due to the amount of freedom he was given when creating the menus and building his own team, as he explains: “I was just given completely free rein which you don’t often get as a chef, you’re usually boxed within parameters of what your employers or investors want to do."

Despite this creative control, Jonothan was still tasked with devising a menu that reflected the ‘naked’ theme behind the pop up’s concept.

He said: “There was some guidance from above with regards to the concept having to be naked so the food was always going to be as basic as possible. From source to plate they say, so without all the processes in between its origin and the actual product itself. Everything we did on site so nothing we brought in was tampered with or went to a factory.”

Initial plans were to create an outdoor vibe using fire, but this was later scrapped due to costing and obtaining the correct licences.

“The cost to build a normal kitchen would have been upwards of £10K," explained Jonothan. "So we thought why don’t we just buy a fridge and a chopping board and make it an entirely raw menu which was the theme anyway?”

Coming up with an entirely raw menu turned out to be an incredibly creative process, as Jonothan explained: “It was the
limitations that actually threw us into that direction which were daunting at first but it became a really creative process because if you are limited to a certain number of fields you are pushed to explore and expand that element much more.”

These limitations obviously paid off, with dishes including pickled rhubarb infused steak tartare with wasabi mayo, ratatouille and hickory stuffed beef tomatoes, and fig and dark velvet avocado cacao mousse, the menus are far from bland considering the raw or ‘naked’ conception.

And obviously with any restaurant the food is central to keeping guests coming back, this was even more important for the Bunyadi. With such a novel concept it was imperative the theme didn’t distract away from the food.

Jonothan said: “The food was the cornerstone in the business plan because if the food isn’t good it’s only a gimmick, it’s only people taking their clothes off which is nothing special so the food would be the vehicle to bring people back and the thing people would talk about on top of the concept.”

Having headed up London’s first naked restaurant since its much hyped opening back in June, the biggest challenge Jonothan has faced hasn’t been the restaurant being condemned as just another gimmick nor people’s dissatisfaction over the lack of cooking involved, but rather the running of a pop up restaurant.

He said: “Running a pop up restaurant as a chef is painful. There is a certain intangibility to it because you don’t feel like you’re grounded to that place, to create momentum and to motivate a team. It’s not even the physical limitations in the kitchen it’s that actual building of the culture.

"It’s difficult to build up a culture and say, ‘listen guys, we’re going to build a family here.’ In hospitality it’s all about the people you are working with and building a really close team is key to everything.”

He added: “You can create the best food in the world but if the waitress isn’t switched on to what she’s doing and it’s not up to your standards then there’s no point and you’ve lost that connection with the customer. It’s not the fact it’s a pop up kitchen, it’s the fact that it is temporary and everybody knows that so there’s never going to be that level of commitment you want to build a business.”

Jonothan has learned a lot about the experience however and says he wouldn’t rule out another venture like The Bunyadi if

Seabass Pomegranate & Lime

Ceviche

the time and terms were right.

When asked whether or not people really need to be in the nude to enjoy their food, Jonothan seems dubious but does realise how it has been a great marketing tool to grab people’s attention.

He said: “Whether or not it is necessary to get people naked in order for them to appreciate food is a good question. It’s certainly been a good vehicle to get a lot of hype about a restaurant in a short period of time. I really like the message we have been trying to deliver.”

Due to its success the Bunyadi is reopening between 12-13 August and there are also rumours of a similar pop-up in France as well as Australia and Japan.

By Michael Parker

@canteenparker

 

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th August 2016

10 Minutes With: Jonothan Hope, The Bunyadi, London