Interview with Jamie Spafford (Sorted Food)

Interview with Jamie Spafford (Sorted Food)

First of all, who are you and what got you into the hospitality industry?
I’m Jamie Spafford and I’m one of the co-founders of Sorted Food, which I started with a group of old school friends over 10 years ago when we wanted to learn more about cooking. We’ve now built up a global community of more than 2.5 million people who want to learn more about how to cook and explore food from around the world.

How accessible do you feel cooking is as a hobby or profession?
As a hobby, cooking has never been more accessible – there’s so much information and inspiration available online, both from culinary experts to beginner cooks and everything in between. As a profession, it feels like there’s been some great work in making apprenticeships more readily available, which should give young people more of a leg up into the industry. This, matched with the rise in street food markets and stalls, is doing a great job of lowering the barriers to entry.

There is a lot of talk about how ‘fast food’ and instant meals are taking over from ‘home cooking’, do you have an opinion on why this is?
Cooking is an essential life skill that is just not being taught to young people in the way it used to in the past. It’s why my friends and I started Sorted Food in the first place – we left school at 18 and ventured off to uni with no cooking education, which left us to find our own way. 

Fast food and instant meals are an easy solution that means people don’t have to cook from scratch any more – the issue is, we don’t know what’s going into them and so making sure you’re eating a balanced diet becomes much harder.

I personally feel this is due to the increased price per item resulting in lower income households being priced out of the upfront costs of cooking a meal (for example spices which realistically will last a long time, are £2 upfront but less than 1p per serving.) Do you feel there is any validity in this theory?
Definitely – it takes time to build up a store cupboard of ingredients such as stocks/spices etc, due to the upfront investment you need to make. This is also where education can play a big role – if you know how to substitute certain ingredients (such as spices) for other ones you may already have, it can remove the fear of ‘getting the recipe wrong’.

Do you feel it is the case that the difference between the price per serving and price per item affects people in lower income areas or people first getting into cooking?
In all honesty, I think the biggest issues revolve around the cost of ready-made foods versus the costs of fresh meats, fruits and vegetables. This, mixed with longer working hours and a lack of education around cooking is providing the negative results we’re currently seeing.

Do you feel there is a way of resolving this issue?
How can we educate young people around food and cooking? How can we lower the costs of fresh meats, fruit and veg?

Recipe box services have made a rise in recent years – do you feel these services which provide the exact ingredients and measurements would make a difference to this issue?
Recipe boxes are wonderful for a variety of reasons – the convenience, the choice, the inspiration etc. However, they’re still very cost prohibitive for lower income families, plus a very inefficient way of buying store cupboard ingredients such as spices.

In my area of Scotland a local charity is running cooking classes which provide people with recipes and kitchen skills to implement them as well as providing a Food Hygiene Level 2 qualification at the end. They’re running this for free and use ingredients donated from supermarkets. How do you feel this impacts lower income areas and do you think it should be implemented more often?
This sounds like a fantastic initiative aimed at improving peoples’ skills and providing them with more opportunities within the food industry. We should be looking to roll these sorts of initiatives out nationwide.


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