Anybody Everybody Tottenham

Cooking, Creativity and Community - Tanya, Neozentee Encore

April 13, 2023 Jamila Season 2 Episode 38
Anybody Everybody Tottenham
Cooking, Creativity and Community - Tanya, Neozentee Encore
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

We have our first foodie (as in someone making it, we had some great top tip food recommendations over the years). I think what struck me most during the interview with Tanya is how intentional and mindful she is in everything she does. I like how she talks about putting the team together, getting the produce, giving back to the community and connecting to nature.
Go check out her Instagram, it is going to make you hungry though.

Tanya Instagram:
Eat Genisis Instagram:
Go Grow with Love Instagram:

pod instagram:
pod website :
pod twitter:

If you fancy supporting my hobby - buy me a coffee :)

Jamila  0:10  
Hi, I'm Jamila and anybody everybody Tottenham is a bi monthly podcast, introducing the good people of Tottenham to you. Hello. So today I'm talking to Tanya, who is a plant based chef. And she had to explain to me she currently works as the executive chef for eat Genesis, which is the restaurant that's going to reopen in Palmers green. And an executive chef, she said is like developing recipes, putting together the team, and more this kind of organizational side of things. Okay, so I hope you enjoy our conversation our first food person. Today on the pod i've got, Tanya Marie, a plant based chef from neozentee encore. Thank you for joining me today, Tanya. Thank you, Tanya. Tell us first of all, we always starting with the connection to Tottenham what's yours?

Tanya  1:04  
Okay, so I've lived in Tottenham, most of my life. And I've been in and out, I left at quite a young age, I think it was around the time when I was going to college so I always like to venture out. And then I lived in South for a number of years, but I would always dip back into tottenham always had a place at home. When I say home, my mom's home. Although I moved away, and then it was only when I had my daughter in 2003. Or just before Yeah, so it was early 2003 -I decided to move back to be closer to friends that I've grown with and family

Jamila  1:44  
so that she also gets the Tottenham experience.

Tanya  1:46  
Yeah, she loves it. Although she's not here at the moment, she's at uni.

Jamila  1:51  
So what have you noticed over all these years, the changes in Tottenham? 

Tanya  1:57  
I would say there's two things that stuck out to me, that stand out to me. And that was like, when I was growing up in Tottenham, we could quote unquote, play out. Like as kids, we could go out freely without there being that sense of danger. You know, so when I was a lot younger, I don't know, let's say when I was about 10 years old, for example, I could go out with my friends, and we could move beyond our local area and feel safe, you know, safe in numbers and explore. And we had that form of exploration in feeling safe. And I think that changed now where I don't see not that I want to see 10 year old kids on the streets, walking, but that's something that resonates with me, that's something that I identify with in terms of that change where there is no longer that sense of safety. You know, sometimes I might see, or I know of children that are a lot older than 10. But their parents are still taking them to school, helping them cross the road and things like that. So

Jamila  3:08  
do you think it's technology? Or what do you think what brought about the change?

Tanya  3:14  
I think there's a number of factors that come into play, I think one technology, I think, generational changes, as well, systematic changes, there's a lot of things that come into play that so that's one of the changes. The other change is I will say, gentrification. So I feel that a lot of people are being pushed out of Tottenham. And I think a number of us had seen it come in for a long time. So just pricing everyone out. And whether it's with housing, whether it's with business, I used to go to a hairdresser that used to be on west green road. This was many years ago, this is - so my hair is natural. It's been natural for a number of years, for many years. When I didn't have natural hair, when it was relaxed. I used to go to a hairdresser on west green road. And he shut down, you know, so it's something that had been in the making for a long time. Regular people like myself, like locals, unless you've got insight. You won't even know what's going on. You see the changes, but you don't know how deep it is. So now I see the changes within Tottenham in terms of gentrification and people being pushed out and priced out. And I feel that they're constantly going to raise the price whether it's with your home or business. So people have no choice but to move. So it's something that's always been making.

Jamila  4:49  
So let's talk a little bit about your career. I've been trying to put it a little bit together. So you've been a chef for a long, long time. So 11 years, how did you how did you get into it? Were you always a foodie? What was your path into?

Tanya  5:07  
Okay, yeah. I'll try and make this a bit short. So how I got into food I, I've always been a foodie. I think I didn't realize I was a foodie till a little bit later on in life. So how I came into food I was - there was a gap where I needed to make money. And so I went to work for m&s. And the position that I was given was as barista. Now, I didn't know anything about coffee or anything like that. And I was so out of my comfort zone, when I joined. And then I was front of house I felt very uncomfortable. And I said, this is not me, as a creative. I said, this is not me. This is what I'm saying to myself. And so the manager pulled me to aside, pulled me to one side, and he said, like, what's going on? Like, you're usually really bubbly and you've got all of this energy. But I'm not feeling that when you're in front of and I said I don't like it. You know, there's no creativity. And he said, What would you like to do? And I said, I see what the chefs do back of house. I wasn't a trained chef or anything like that. I see what the chefs do back of house put me on trial for a week. And if I'm rubbish, then either I'll leave, or I'll go back to making coffee, he was like, Okay, and so I started, I went into the kitchen, and I flourished. So that's when the magic the magic happened. But I had always been into food before then. But it was more kind of like survival, as opposed to because we need to eat, you know, so in terms of like, when I moved away from home, needed to cook for myself but I wasn't cooking for taste, trying to find the taste, but not really into it as such, you know, just to fill that gap in the stomach.

Jamila  7:11  
So how did it go from from the m&s one because I'm also interested, I always feel like chefs, it's a very stressful environment, and also quite a male dominated one. How was that for you during that time?

Tanya  7:25  
It's hard yeah that's a very interesting point. It's very male dominated it is male and white dominated as well, challenging at times. Most definitely. I think a lot of egos come into play, whether whether you're as a chef, whether you're male or female, I think the ego can at times override what it is that you want to accomplish. I found it difficult at times, to where I would just leave,

Jamila  7:57  
because also you were a young mom then. So that must have also been very hard. 

Tanya  8:02  
Yeah It was it was definitely a learning curve.

Jamila  8:06  
What kind of places did you work at?

Tanya  8:09  
I've worked in a lot of kind of like gastro pops, kind of like modern British, worked in sushi places it was like East Asian, that's my favorite, cuisine - East Asian. But I really do think it's about the team and their head chef. And what they bring forward in terms of not only about what you can learn, but the energy that they bring. And I go back to egos. And that's something that I've removed from where I am with Genesis where I'm creating the whole team.

Jamila  8:43  
Did you have some good role models? Like, did you have some good headchefs where you were like, this is something I'm gonna take?

Tanya  8:50  
I wouldn't say I ever had. And it sounds sad, it sounds really sad. I don't think I ever had a good head chef. I always said when I have my own business, I will never treat people in that way. I will never look down on people and speak to them in that way. You know, so I think I needed to go through that I needed to have that experience in order to be where I am today. And build a team, a team where they're also used to that kind of experience but showing them it doesn't have to be this way in terms of people coming into the kitchen. And you know, people effing and blinding that doesn't need to happen. It really does not but people just it's I feel that it's people just taking out their own level of frustration. They're bringing it into the work and maybe work Is frustrating as well, you know, but then they're, putting that on their on their team. So then no one's happy.

Jamila  9:50  
So what was the next step then for you? Was it because of the pandemic that you started your own business or how did that come about?

Tanya  9:59  
I'm very entrepreneurial. So I've always had, I've always been business minded to a certain extent. And I think it's kind of like expanded as I've gotten older - just focusing on neozentee -I think it was just a little bit before the pandemic, and I was going through, it was kind of like an awakening. It was a new chapter in my life. And I was also about business as well. And then something clicked in terms of the name neozentee do you want me to tell you about it?

Jamila  10:31  
I mean, I know, but the audience doesn't know. (tanya laughs) Yeah I have done some research.

Tanya  10:43  
Okay, so, the name, the name Neozentee they was just kind of like a new chapter in my life. It was very freeflowing it felt very light. And I wanted to come up with a business name. People know me like on socials, they know me as someone that's a foodie, someone that's plant based, but there's more to me. So I wanted to come up with a name that was fitting, and I didn't want to food title attached to that. I was thinking Okay, this arena is very new to me. But I didn't want to use the name new. What's the alternative to new or not alternative, but a different name for new. So neo park that to one side, and then how do I feel in this present moment? I feel at peace, I'm present. I feel very zen. Obviously. My name is Tanya, people that know me well, they call me Tan, or T Neozentee. So neozentee just means new beginnings for Tanya. That's it bringing that all together. That's what it means. And then later, yes, I added encore, because I think when people taste my food, they want it again,

Jamila  11:50  
I like how you make it a statement!

Tanya  11:55  
(laughs) Maybe some people don't, maybe some people. But that's what I've been told. Yes.

Jamila  12:03  
That was all just before the pandemic. So what happened then with this business, because, again, were you working as a chef, because that would have all closed wouldn't it?

Tanya  12:12  
i was partly self employed, and partly employed. And then when everything's shut down, so I used to work for a university doing catering for a university. And then I got registered for cooking at home. And I used to sell food from home. So I was doing online delivery. I was also doing catering. 

Jamila  12:36  
How did you like that? 

Tanya  12:37  
I liked it at first, because it was just myself, you know, I didn't have anyone to answer to or anything like that. But then it became it got a little bit lonely, you know? Yeah, it got a little bit lonely. And sometimes orders were a lot. So I didn't have enough capacity. So I'm thinking I need to change things moving my home, find more fridges and things like that. It was good. But I knew that within myself there needed to be a change. I couldn't just be a homecook there needed to be other things that I needed to do. Yeah, it was kind of like a lonely place.

Jamila  13:15  
What happened then? So during the pandemic, you're a bit lonely, and you didn't have enough capacity. What was the next step?

Tanya  13:22  
Yeah, so I was doing catering, and then eat Genesis reached out to me, and they were looking for a new head chef, I didn't want to be a head chef. Because I've been in that environment before, which is really hectic and things like that, kind of like been there, done that. But then in terms of being made the executive chef that set well, you know, so when I spoke about that, that kind of like alignment, just kind of like tapping into yourself and seeing what feels right with you in terms of ??? So in terms of becoming the executive chef, I knew that I can still hold on to my business and what I'm passionate about, but still work with another business and help to build that. So it sat right with me. So that's literally what happened. And that's where I am now. So I'm helping to build Genesis, so I'm just helping to kind of like redesign the menu and create a team and then flourish from there.

Jamila  14:25  
You said East Asian cuisine as your favorite. What is it about East Asian cuisine that strikes you that your love?

Tanya  14:33  
It is very fresh, I find this Asian cuisine to be very fresh, it's vibrant. My favorite beinh Thai. (Okay.) So it's very like the flavors there's I don't in terms of like going to a really good like East Asian or Thai restaurant. You can taste the galangal you can taste the I don't know if it's just me because I'm a foodie, and a chef. But those vibrant flavors with the ginger, the garlic and you can pick up though and it feels fresh. You know, I like the feeling of eating, and I feel full in terms of feeling nourished, but not feeling heavy when I walk away. And I feel that with certain East Asian cuisines that's, that's what I get. Even in saying that with eat Genesis it's more Korean so that the combination is kind of like Jamaican Korean cuisine with a touch of Thai. So it's a combination of cultures that I'm using.

I was gonna ask about the transition to plant based because you have not always been plant based. So what was that like? Was it gradual? Or were you privately plant based, but as a chef, you were still doing other things? Or how did this go?

No, I think it was, originally it was a thing whereby I wanted to change my diet. And I wanted to incorporate more vegetables into my diet. But because I've worked in places whereby it's been predominantly meat based, and seeing what they have on the menu for people that eat meat, and then seeing the alternative, I'm thinking this is like really lame. There's no love going into the non meat

Jamila  16:26  

Tanya  16:31  
Yeah, it's like just things that you just think that people are aware of, which can be - risotto can be good, but it's like, we want more than, you know, it was literally retraining myself. And that's kind of how I got into the whole plant based thing. Because I'm thinking, I haven't been trained on plant based cuisine. And when I started out, and I jumped on Instagram, I'm like, This is amazing in terms of what people are doing on there. And, you know, it's like, I'm looking at what they do. And I'm thinking, how could I not know this as a chef, you know, so it was really like, kind of at that point of just kind of like retraining myself,

Jamila  17:15  
and how was that? Was that easy? Was that enjoyable? Like, you are a little bit of a curious and you're like developing, don't you?

Tanya  17:22  
Yeah, yeah. No, it wasn't, it wasn't easy. There was many errors. Yeah, there was many errors, I think as well, I think when you feel that, not that you know it all. But being a chef, you feel that you're used to it, you know, so going into the kitchen and trying to create a dish and I'm thinking this isn't really working. You know, there was many errors sometimes now and I'm gonna be open. There's still some errors that I make and many chefs do make but not everyone speaks about it.

Jamila  17:55  
Did your daughter join you in your in your switch to plant based?

Tanya  18:00  
No, absolutely not. (laughs)

Jamila  18:04  
And your mom, what about your mom? How is she embracing it? 

Tanya  18:08  
Yeah, she's very open. She's not plant based. But she's very open about anything that I cook. But she will let me know if it's not right by being silent. No, no, no. That's it. We'll talk if I if I give her a dish and  she's talking while she's eating. I know. She's not enjoying it. If she's silent, she's enjoying it (laughs) (okay.) Yeah.

Jamila  18:34  
You talked about using vegetables and fruits from allotments. And also I know that you give part of the money that you make with neozentee to local community initiatives, like food banks, or you were supporting and that's what I was just looking up, go grow with love. I think

Tanya  18:59  
I'm using go grow with love as one of our suppliers for fresh fruits and veg, like we're in season. In terms of giving back to the community. That's, that's very much my - so that's got nothing to do with the Genesis restaurant. I've put that on hold for now. But something that I will come back to, which is something that I had started.

Jamila  19:26  
Can you tell us a little bit about your connection to go grow with love?

Tanya  19:30  
Yeah, so go grow with love. I can't remember when Sandy started. So Sandy is the CEO. And I reached out to her. That was when I was doing my home business, from home business. And it was about giving back to the community. So every month what I would do is seek out small local business and with a percentage of the money that I made from sales, I would donate that to like a local business. So Sandy was, she was the first person that I reached out to. And that's how I got to know her. She's expanded, and she's got a whole, she's got many plots on the allotment. So we'll be working with her in terms of the produce that we use for eat Genesis, like I love when. So the other day I took the guys when I say the guys - my team up to Sandy's allotments. And I always say that it feels one, it feels very therapeutic, so even if you're not taking anything back, in terms of like produce, just to be on the ground in terms of even knowing that you're leaving from A to go to be to the grounds of go grow with love. Already, that - for me, I find it exciting, you know, because it's so calming, it's like no matter what you have, sometimes your mind can feel a bit busy, and it doesn't mean that it's a negative thing,  and then it's like when you know that you're going to this space of go grow with love, you know that once you hit the ground, even in terms of that, that transition in terms of that movement, in terms, your journey of going there, and when you reach the ground, whatever it was that you would think it just is gone, you know, you will come back to it. But it's like, I feel it as being a form of grounding, without even realizing some people might say, Oh, it's just an allotment. No, but it's far more than that, you know, greenery and feeling. And being around people that are very light, you know, I think there's a transition that happens when you go to the allotment. So for me it was, it made sense to incorporate that into the cuisine, you know, so when you were talking about the flavors from and the quality from supermarkets as opposed to it being homegrown, you really do feel that and I think more people need to go to an allotment because you appreciate the produce.

Jamila  22:24  
Another thing I was gonna ask you is your Instagram is just so beautiful, and it is not easy to photograph food. So what is are you actually photographing at what's what's going on there. It's so beautiful.

Tanya  22:39  
Thank you. I bought a camera many years ago now I don't use the camera, it's just sitting in my room. Now I just use my phone, but it's a whole process. And I go like even with the guys at work it just explaining that in terms of capturing that moment. It's a lot so in terms of the plate so I may create a dish like people see the end product, but they don't see the preparation behind that breakfast then becomes dinner because it's taken so long for me to photograph (laughs) to photograph this plate and I could use almost every color plate that I've had in my cupboard taking it off putting the plate in, taking the food off, using a different plate, the angles, the lighting, everything but when it comes to food photography is a whole mission, it takes a long time so when you see something that I've posted online chances are it took me a good few hours (good to know)  yeah, oh yeah, it's a process and sometimes you might see the lighting and so I will navigate between the pictures like the pictures that you see on Instagram that I've either taken from my bedroom or my front room and it's just about finding the right lighting so if I see - if the sun is shining bright from the front room it could literally be a moment so I'm plating and then that can instantly change oh my goodness all right now I need to move to the bedroom but then the bedroom is not set up so now I need to put down boards and set the scene and and then that light could go you know and it's turning the plate around 50 degree angle and 190 So yes.

Jamila  24:50  
Let's talk about Top Tips Tottenham from Tanya. We've got a t t t 

Tanya  24:56  
top tips in what way? 

Jamila  24:57  
So what do you say for example, grow with love. Can anybody go and buy some produce from there?

Tanya  25:03  
Oh, okay, so go grow with love is in Enfield. So you would need to contact Sandy and let her know. Like she does a lot of workshops, she does a lot of stuff and just not on the land. She does stuff outside of the land. So I would recommend that people just tap in the name onto Insta and then they can contact her that way so no you can't just rock up. Yeah, you can't do that because there's just so much going on she does things with - it's all community based and she does courses as well, free courses and paid courses. I would say the other places ocmewell foods. So Comewell, he does coffee he's based in Tottenham Hale does amazing like lattes and things like that. And then he also does patties like charcoal patties, tumeric patties, uses fresh ingredients and things like that. That's my new hangout spot when I'm not on site, and I need to do admin, instead of being at home. I'll go to comewell. And then my other favorite spot is I love  greenery Downhills Park in terms of like keeping it Tottenham Downhills Park, when you pass the tennis ground, they've got this, like, they've got this little path. And then it's like a garden. Like they've got so many like flowers, they've got like, (the rose garden) benches, and yeah, and it's so therapeutic. And whenever I go there, I will always take my journal and I would just park myself on a bench, or like when it's warmer, have a little blanket and sit on the grass. And what I find with that plasc is that it's so peaceful, and that everyone that's within that, that space, I feel that they feel the same way. Like there's no noise or anything like that. It's kind of like cancellation, like you're aware that things are happening. You've got the tennis ground, you've got people that are on the other side of the field and whatever. But within the Rose Garden, it's kind of like a little sanctuary. Yeah. And even if kids are coming through it's just still really, like be talking. But it's still really zen   it's really zenful. 

Jamila  27:34  
So those are your top tips?

Tanya  27:36  
Those are my top tips. And then also with nonono, I think, I think that's it. (laughs)bthe canal I can't remember the park there by gladesmore school and if you walk through, I think it's part of lea valley, you know, because Lea Valley is a long strip, it goes all the way round. But the canal is very narrow. And you find a lot of cyclists. I don't know why, because it's so narrow. That's a really nice space, as well. And I think even if you sit, even if you find a spot where you sit at the edge of the canal, and you're not, you're obviously not dipping your feet into the canal, by just taking that spot, you know, allowing your legs to be free, and just taking in the flow of the water. I think that's very therapeutic as well

Jamila  28:31  
about Genesis, so they are gonna open at one stage and you posted I think yesterday, that the date is going to be published soon. So Should people keep an eye on your Instagram? 

Tanya  28:44  
Yeah, there's a lot that's happening behind the scenes. I'm not posting so much now just because so much is going on. But yeah, I would say anyone that's interested, just keep an eye on my feed on Instagram. 

Jamila  28:59  
And so I'm looking forward to that opening. So to get some of your food. I'm always a big fan of vegan food even though I'm not vegan myself. I really like vegan food. Yeah, I think it's very underrated, like people are sometimes ignorant if they if they have no experience.

Tanya  29:19  
I think a lot of people just think vegan food is either really heavily based alternatives or is salads, like basic salads, and that's why I've created a change in that I'm not saying that. It was just, it's just me. You know, I think a number of people that are trying to have been trying and moving towards that in terms of creating the change, but it's kind of like making plant based foods more accessible, more enjoyable. So the foods that you were having, by becoming PLANT BASE, making healthy and tasty. So I will say like with  Genesis, what I've thought is I call it a little bit naughty, a little bit nice. So there's something for everyone. So if you're someone that you're transitioning or whether you're not transitioning, you will get the alternatives to a burger, like the meat based burger, but then you get some stuff the healthier side of a burger, where is vegetable base, you know, if you're someone that where you're gluten intolerant, you can have the alternative to that. So we have naked burgers, the naked burger is kind of like roasted vegetables, weave all the sources that you would get with a burger. And it's very fresh, and it's very fulfilling. So you walk away, having that feeling very nourished and light.

Jamila  30:48  
Thank you very much for this interview. (Thank you), and I'm looking forward to eating some of your food in the near future. (I look forward) to welcoming you. Okay, so thank you and speak soon. Bye. Thank you. Bye. So I don't know if you're the same, but feel like I really want to go into nature after Tanya's talk. And to be one with nature. And in the shownotes, I will put in her Instagram. And I will also put in go grow with love and eat genisis. And I think that will be very exciting coming up so we can go and eat. All right. Have a lovely day. Bye everyone. I hope you enjoyed today's episode, learned something new. And let that Tottenham love grow. Take care. And until next time, bye

Transcribed by

Connection to Tottenham
Getting into Food
Being a Chef
Own business
Plant based
Go grow with love
Top Tips