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June 9, 2023

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Why hospitality?
When I was younger, after I was kicked out of school… I used to get on my bike and sell sandwiches to my neighbours. This love for entrepreneurship and food led me to undertake training at Ballymaloe Cookery School and gain experience at Michelin-starred kitchens, where I fell in love with cooking using the best local, seasonal produce. I always loved throwing a party and inviting people over for dinner, I got a bit of a reputation as ‘the hostess’. Friends and family soon began to ask me to cater for dinner parties and events which led to me setting up Social Pantry in 2011, as a way of gathering people to share memorable experiences about great, sustainable food.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
At the beginning, I put up with way too much in professional kitchens before realising I could create a much better environment for myself and my brilliant team! Shouting in kitchens, and that stereotypically masculine, aggressive, hierarchical culture, isn’t needed to run a great kitchen and brilliant team. At Social Pantry, we operate a ‘non-shouty kitchen’ with clear, effective communication, and where people hold themselves accountable to high standards because they’re proud of their work.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants?
I find inspiration in all sorts of restaurants and love eating out and seeing how other people do things. A recent trip to Paris was really fun and I discovered a few gems including Maison by Sotta Atsumi which I cannot wait to head back to!  But here in London we’re truly spoilt with some incredible places. Rochelle Canteen is a timeless classic and epitomises the idea of simple food done brilliantly, with hospitality and a beautiful setting to match – and Margot Henderson is a truly iconic restauranteur, along with Fergus Henderson. The River Café has a special place in my heart – I was given the cookbook by my Mum when I was 12 and Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray are both legendary.

What motivates you?
Growing an incredible and successful business! The number one thing that gets me up in the morning is the chance to impact someone’s life for the better. For example, the social impact side of the business. We work with ex-offenders and give opportunities to people who have either been written off by society, previous employers, or by themselves, and we show them there is a way out and a way forward. The transformation in the young men we’ve worked with is so rewarding.

What keeps you up at night?
My two small children?! Only kidding! Over the past few years we’ve been thrown all sorts of challenges – the pandemic, Brexit and its impact on our food system and hospitality staff, rising energy prices and cost of living, global warming and the increasingly urgent environmental situation – it’s been A LOT! Especially for an independent business committed to being as sustainable as possible. It definitely has been stressful at times! However I’m lucky to have an amazing team – as well as a brilliantly supportive partner who is now involved in the business too – who I trust completely. I really believe in what we do at Social Pantry and the strong foundations and principles the business is built on. So that helps!

Coffee or tea?

Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
What about a night sat around the table with friends?! Something in between! I love hosting people so setting the table, wearing something a bit glam and sharing great food and wine with people I love, whilst still getting to bed before midnight, is my idea of heaven.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
Don’t tell anyone but, when I’m not hosting, I bloody love a fully loaded jacket potato! Not only can you load it with all sorts, including a fried egg, but it is so easy when juggling kids and the perfect mid-week comfort food. 

Typical Sunday?
I’ll often start the day making pancakes with my daughter Roxy, there will always be a park walk and they mostly always involve a roast chicken (which I love as much for the stock and Monday leftovers as I do the actual roast). It’s all about relaxing and enjoying quality time together as a family.

What was your dream job growing up?
I wanted to be a butcher or work at the tills in Tesco.

What’s been your best business decision?
To approach and bring back my marketing director, Charlotte. Charlotte worked for Social Pantry back in the early days and is accountable for the brand conception, its journey over the years and now its continued development, strategy and success. I was always told to surround myself with the very best people and she is definitely one of the best in the industry.

And the worst?
I have made so many mistakes, the list is long, very long! The worst is probably thinking I needed senior team members from other catering companies in order to grow my business. The reality is that I was best placed to grow it and just needed the confidence to do it.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Work really hard, keep learning, be humble and open to anything – you learn so much by going in at the bottom and working your way up, plus you’ll develop the skills and confidence along the way which will truly help you rise to the occasion as you reach the higher ranks. There are no shortcuts but it doesn’t have to be super complicated either.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
There are still a lot of outdated attitudes and inflexible ways of working that act as barriers to people working and rising to the top in hospitality. I’m incredibly proud that 2/3 of my leadership team is made up of women, and we have women in top roles in the kitchen. I’d like those in the restaurant industry to be more open-minded, inclusive and think outside of the box when it comes to they hire and how they can retain staff by ensuring they’re happy and thriving.


Born in Australia, Head came to the UK before attending university where she studied Business and Hospitality. She also trained at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland. Her early career included stints as assistant restaurant manager at The Admiral Codrington pub in London’s Chelsea, and Devonshire Terrace in the City. Head launched Social Pantry in 2011, which she continues to run as owner and director. The business incorporates a catering arm that serves events, weddings and workplaces, as well a restaurant and café division that operates four sites across the capital. 

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