**Last updated on 5 November, 2011**
How well do you know you deli? You might know the food and drinks they serve. You might even have a favourite seat. But do you know the story behind it? As the first of the Behind the Scenes series, I talked to Amoul, chef and owner of a popular deli Amoul’s. Here is her story in her own words:
Amoul’s is a different space to different people that frequent the place, some treat it as a coffee shop, some as a takeaway, others treat it as their home. There are some that think of it as their sanctuary and are very protective over it. For me I would like to think of the place as an extension of my home, in the sense that I cook exactly the same as I cook at home for my family and friends using only the best ingredients. Paying attention to every detail that goes on at the place from the hygiene to the quality and consistency of the food.
I started Amoul’s deli and catering in 2003, because I love good food and I enjoy cooking. I was disillusioned by most delis selling food with the label of home cooked, while it was prepared at industrial kitchens somewhere far away, and distributed by vans all over. Inspired by the slow food movement which is about preserving traditional ways of cooking I set out on my Journey. I wanted to offer a service where the customer would know the exact source of their food, everything locally sourced and seasonal.
Has it turned out to be how you initially would like it to be?
Yes I think I have achieved what I set out to have a place that people can trust, a transparent place. There are a lot of mothers that depend on my food to feed their little ones, and that is a huge compliment for me.
The most challenging part of the experience was at the beginning when we first opened our doors to the public, getting people to come to an independent place, not run by a famous chef, but by a mum that loves cooking….. it took a lot of patience and persistence to get the approval and the repeated custom.
What is the most memorable experience for you so far?
The most memorable experience so far was when one of my customers, a very famous author asked me to cater for her 50th wedding anniversary. She was a very stylish lady. I say was, because she passed away three years ago.She asked me to make a dish that is very elaborate and at the same time, one of my hometowns authentic dishes, that you won’t find in any other part of my country. The dish is really three dishes in one, it has stuffed chicken, stuffed baby marrow and vine leaves, all slow cooked for around 2-3 hours in the same pot. She came the second day to thank me for she found the dish was the most amazing dish she had ever tasted, and continued that her guests who were very well-traveled, and have tasted all kinds of different dishes, but nothing as flavoursome and delicious as this dish.
That was my first catering order, after that every party she had at home I was asked to cater the food.
A typical Friday starts for me at 8am when I start making the croissants and Danish from scratch, then I progress to making the muffins and cakes, by 9:30am the meat would have arrived, so I start preparing lunch, the menu on Friday is Fish pie, steak pie, steak and kidney pie, and Moudardara. While the different pots are cooking on the hob, I prepare the mash for the fish pie, and the puff pastry for the steak pies. I mix the salads, and put the final touches on the different dishes and all the food is sent upstairs at 12:30pm. I then take a break from 1:00pm.-5:30pm. I usually go home which is round the corner from Amoul’s. 5:30pm-6:30pm is prepping time, we reopen our doors at 6:30pm. All the food is then prepared to order. My day on Friday finishes between 10:30pm-11:00 p.m.
It is very demanding being a cook and an owner at the same time. It is totally consuming, but I enjoy what I do so much, and I do not mind it at all. For me it is such a pleasure to watch people enjoy what I cook for them, that makes the hard work worthwhile.
What makes Amoul’s special? What do you treasure the most about Amoul’s?
The thing I treasure most about Amoul’s is the beautiful and wonderful people I have met over the eight years I have been in business. Most of these people have become friends. There would have been no way for me or for my family to cross paths with them. Amoul’s is special because of the people, the ones that work there and the ones that walk through our doors every day.
My great inspiration is my mother, she taught me that less is more in cooking.
How has Amoul’s evolved? How did it become the centre of the local community?
Amoul’s evolved organically to become part of the community. It is again the people who frequent it most of them became friends at the place, some met and fell in love and became lifetime partners.
What’s next for Amoul’s?
I hope we will be able to continue offering this service.
Click here for Amoul’s latest blog…..Amoul’s Deli and Hideaway
14 Formosa St
London W9 1EE
Tel: 020 7286 6386