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Thrive In Food event, 23rd May

On the 23rd of May, we launched Club Thrive with a ‘Thrive In Food’ event at Bloomsyard, Liverpool Street. We were joined by an incredible panel of industry leaders, and over 70 attendees from a variety of careers within the hospitality and food sectors.

To kick off the launch and first strand of the Club Thrive initiative, ‘Thrive in Food’ brought together industry professionals from across the sector. After arrival drinks, the event was kickstarted with an insightful discussion from panellists Mussa Fati, Melissa Thompson, Ixta Belfrage and Lateef Okunnu. All panellists discussed the importance of self belief when pursuing any career endeavour, and not allowing yourself to be held back by self-doubt or fear of failure. In fact, all spoke openly about the setbacks that they had experienced along the way; Musa shared his experience of his first head-chef role which didn’t work out, and Melissa discussed how being made redundant helped her to take the first steps in forging the fulfilling career that she has now. Perseverance was also a theme of the evening, as Lateef discussed the process of honing his skills with time, and Ixta spoke openly about previous roles held that left her feeling frustrated and unhappy. 

One important pillar of their careers that rang true for all panellists was the support of others. For Ixta especially, she praised co-author Ottolenghi for his kindness and support whilst working in his test kitchen. That ethos has been adopted by the panellists too, who all spoke of the importance of mentorship and bringing people up with you. 

After the panel discussion, there were two ‘fireside chats’ with Lateef and food critic and broadcaster Jimi Famurewa. These intimate and supportive conversations were followed by networking, which saw community members coming together for some fruitful conversation over some caribbean canapés, and drinks.

This successful launch of our Thrive In Food initiative marks the opening of the 21 scholarships, which are now available to apply for.

Thank you to our drink partners Clije, Eko Brewery and Enotria&Coe, and Keshia Sakarah for the delicious Caribbean inspired canapés.

Our panellists were:

Melissa Thompson, founder of Fowl Mouth Foods

“A London-based food & drink writer with a love of ice cream, fried chicken and anti-racism”

Melissa Thompson is an award-winning food writer and cook who has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller, Stylist, Waitrose Magazine and others. She is a columnist for BBC Good Food, and co-director of the British Library’s Food Season. She’s appeared on Saturday Kitchen and BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet. In 2021, Melissa won the Guild of Food Writers’ Food Writing award. In September 2022, her debut cookbook, Motherland, is due to be published.

Mussa Fati, Executive Chef at The Ned London

“Mussa’s ultimate goal is to write a new chapter in gastronomy that has its roots in Africa, flying the flag for Senegalese and West African cuisine loud and proud

Mussa Fati is the executive chef at The Ned, a hotel and members club from Soho House & Co, with ten restaurants that Mussa oversees. After leaving Dakar for Portugal as a teenager, Mussa began his soon-to-be thriving career at Epic Sana hotel in Lisbon. Following that, Mussa worked at a number of top London institutions such as Claridges, the Royal Academy of Arts and The British Library. Known as an expert in multi-outlet operations, Mussa joined The Ned team in 2016, rising ranks to executive chef in 2019.

Ixta Belfrage, Recipe Developer and Cookbook Author

“I didn’t want to go to culinary school because I don’t like rules and didn’t want to be taught how to chop. So I started a market stall selling tacos and later a small catering business”

Despite always loving food and cooking, Ixta didn’t consider a career in food until her mid-20s. Having tried her hand at art and design degrees, being a travel agent and even a door to door sales person, Ixta’s love for food would culminate into her career when she started her market stall selling tacos, and would later get a job at Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Nopi’.

Less than a year later, Ixta joined Ottolenghi in his test kitchen, where she has been for five years. In 2020, Ixta and Yotam co-authored the New York Times bestselling recipe book ‘Flavour’. In 2021, she was named by Code Hospitality as one of the most influential women in food. She is currently working on her first solo cookbook.

Lateef Okunnu, Photographer and founder of Peppercorn Media

Lateef Okunnu is a renowned London-based photographer specialising in food, drink and people. Lateef is also the founder of Peppercorn Media London, a content creation and social media management company. He specialises in food and portrait photography, alongside social media and art direction. Lateef has photographed for a number of notable restaurants across London. He’s photographed dishes and chef’s at Michelin star restaurant ‘Paul Ainsworth at No.6’, as well as Swift Bar in Shoreditch, Cornerstone by Tom Brown, and the Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel.

In joining Club Thrive, you will be eligible to apply for one of the 21 scholarships that are now open. Scholarships include group mentorship and a professional course. For more information click here.


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