I met Amy Jowers a long time ago. When she was little; a crazy, energetic kid as I recall. Fast forward lots of years later to a (sort of) chance encounter on social media and a shared love of food threw us back together.
Amy is a very likeable, very interesting and driven young woman. She has a love of food that stretches back to her childhood. She writes evocatively on Instagram of memories relating times and places to the food she has eaten and who she shared it with.
Little wonder then her passion has led her to create Gutsy Girl and Co. Feeding faces that want feeding is the tagline, a simple enough message and a simple ethos behind it. ‘I want to create an event that feels like you’ve been invited round to my house for tea,’ Amy tells me and I fall in love with the notion instantly.
Gutsy Girl and Co had its inaugural supper club at The Ship Inn in Eston, Middlesbrough in November. I was asked to go along and grab some photos of the dishes going out to paying customers. For their hard-earned cash, diners got a pre-starter of homemade bread, olives, preserved tomatoes and, get this, homemade cheese. Now a girl who is making her own cheese is a girl who knows what she’s doing. The starter of crab arancini was served on a pumpkin veloute with a delicious apple salad. The star of the show, the main course, was belly pork, apple sauce, roast potatoes, baked onions, and brown butter cabbage. All finished off with a chocolate terrine, sliced oranges, and a malted crumb. All, very much, excellent value for the price tag.
This feast was knocked out of The Ship Inn’s tiny kitchen by a team of four. Amy prepared and cooked all the food herself while her husband Andrew sorted out the front of house, friends Melissa and Vicky worked on service and sous chef duties. The kitchen was run with precision and all meals were served hot and bang on Amy’s schedule.
I met up with Amy a few weeks later to chat about the path that led to Gutsy Girl and Co and the plans for more Supper Clubs. I was interested to find out what her journey was to get to the start of what feels like something really exciting.
‘Being a mum gives you more of an emotional connection with what you’re doing.’ Amy told me. And I get that. ‘I want to create something that my son is going to be inspired to join when he grows up.’ Having such a love of food and the food industry seems, to me at least, like Amy is bursting with energy to create something that she herself wants to see on her doorstep. ‘I’ve eaten in loads of nice places, places with Michelin stars, I’ve eaten in places that I think could do better too and sometimes I have found myself thinking ‘I can make food taste and look better than this'‘. We have planned holidays around places where we want to go and eat at. Our honeymoon was a tour of Spain and based on the food we wanted to try.’
Amy’s passion for what she does is infectious. The support she received for the first Supper Club from her friends, family, and colleagues was overwhelming. The event sold out fast and got rave reviews both on the night and for long after. The second event in December sold out just as fast.
‘It’s important that I build up a good relationship with my suppliers.’ Amy tells me. Low food miles, supporting local and independent businesses, traceability and finding excellent quality, are all on the agenda. ‘Sourcing good local suppliers is important, I have a good relationship with a local fishmonger and kind of want to keep him a secret! He’s so knowledgeable about his produce. I buy my meat from a place in Kirklevington, the eggs come from a farm at the foot of the Eston Hills, and my chocolate is from a place in Saltburn.’ These are all specialist providers within their field, and knowledge of the produce, along with provenance, is key for Amy. The most important and possibly the most we chatted about was her fruit and veg supplier. A trio of guys who own allotments in Middlesbrough, the allotments they call ‘The Empire’.
‘Tom, Bernie, and John are so generous with their produce, and Tom especially is so knowledgable about the different species of fruit and veg.’ We started our day at the allotment and I briefly met Tom, who was a little camera shy so I won’t share the photographs I took unwittingly of him. Amy speaks so affectionately about the guys at the allotments and seeing the space and variety of things they’re growing there it’s understandable that the fruit and vegetables make such a statement in Amy’s menu.
I asked her what inspires her menu choices and she found it difficult to answer. I suspect everything leading up to this event inspires the food she cooks and the way she presents it. Amy described it as a ‘meet in the middle of all influences’.
Her ambitions are laudable. ‘I’d love to be featured in the Observer Food Monthly for running an unpretentious shack, serving good food with no gimmicks.’ Amy and husband Andrew’s favourite place to eat is the Sportsman in Seasalter near Whitstable in Kent. ‘It’s the kind of place you could drive by and not really know it was there. The food is no nonsense, there are limited ingredients to each plate and it’s beautiful.’
Gutsy Girl and Co offer catering as well as Supper Clubs and the hope is for potential new venues. For now though, on the agenda is the next Supper Club at The Ship Inn on the 16th December. The menu is salmon, beef, and toffee. And diners will have to wait and see what that exactly that is! What’s down the line? ‘Andrew DJ’s and it would be nice to run bigger events, like if you had come to our house for tea then you would stay after you’d and break out the vinyl’ Amy says. I say watch this space.
Gutsy Girl and Co can be found on Instagram. Check out her feed for news of upcoming events and photographs of past ones.