The Green Room

I run a sustainable event catering and pop ups company. AMA

Giulia Cropped

2020-06-30T15:00:00Z2020-06-30T16:00:00Z

Hi there!

I am Giulia Civello and, together with my business partner Kate Goodall, we are Gourmet Girls. We provide sustainable events catering and private dining services as well as hosting pop up food events in Brighton & Hove.

Kate and I met on our environmental masters course at Brighton uni and bonded over our mutual passion for food and the environment. I left the London rat race at the end of 2018 and from there Gourmet Girls was born.

We have both worked as environmental consultants for many years and therefore sustainability is at the heart of our food and our business. I have Italian heritage and I take a lot of inspiration from classic Italian cooking, focussing on fresh, seasonal and local ingredients brought together with a lot of love to deliver unforgettable flavours. Kate is passionate about making everything from scratch from bread to butter and halloumi.

2 Likes

Hi Giulia,
Thanks for doing this AMA! Do you find that there is an increased cost associated with sustainable menu options?

Hi Giulia

This is really important to me as I’ve started shopping more “locally” during lockdown. Are there any things we should look out for when shopping for sustainable food or researching suppliers?

Thanks
Jason

1 Like

Hi Giulia, how did you find starting your own business after leaving London?

1 Like

Do you have to change your menu a lot depending on the season?

1 Like

What’s been your biggest achievement so far with your new business and any tips for those who want to start up their own?

1 Like

Hello everyone, Giulia is live so please keep your questions coming!

It’s a pleasure to be here!!! Thanks for inviting us.

Yes and no! Of course an organic tomato will cost you more than a ‘normal’ tomato but choosing local and seasonal ingredients means that the food miles are significantly reduced which is reflected in the price of ingredients. We always plan our Gourmet Girls menus around what is in season because it is more sustainable but also because seasonal produce tastes so much better.

We also try and use lesser known ingredients, for example cuts of meat which might otherwise be wasted. These are often the tastiest cuts but they cost less because they need a lot more time and attention.

There are also lots of other ‘costs’ to think about when it comes to sustainability in the food chain – it is not always easy to get our heads around it, but some methods of farming which keep food prices low have a damaging impact on the environment which ‘costs’ us in other ways such as dealing with flooding events and cleaning up our drinking water all paid for through our taxes.

1 Like

Hi Jason. Great to hear you have been supporting your local shops during lockdown. Unfortunately I am not sure everyone has been able to do this, and certainly restricting the number of shopping trips has encouraged lots of us to use the supermarkets more as a one stop shop. But local shops and suppliers have been amazing at re-shaping their operations and delivering to us at home (shameless plug for our Gourmet Girls at Home boxes).

Where the ingredients come from is a good place to start – local food has a much lower carbon footprint as it hasn’t travelled so far. But choosing local and seasonable produce is even better. There are lots of seasonality calendars online which are super useful, and we certainly refer to a lot in our menu planning. The carbon footprint of a tomato grown out of season in an energy hungry greenhouse in Sussex in February is probably higher than the same tomato grown in Spain even though it has been flown over.

There are lots of standards displayed on food packaging which you can look out for too – Fairtrade, MSC (for fish), RSPO for sustainable palm oil.

In terms of suppliers, check out their websites - see where they’re sourcing from, what are they doing to reduce their environmental impact and what commitments / targets they have. If they are not saying it, they are probably not doing it.

1 Like

Hi Avril – Thanks for your question. It has been a huge change, going from commuting into London five days a week and working in a corporate environment. We are still working consultancy jobs part-time while we build up Gourmet Girls which has been challenging in terms of competing demands on our time, but it is amazing to be building a business we are really passionate about and something we have talked about doing for years and years.

We are learning that you have to become a master of all trades to run your own business – finance, marketing, events promotion, branding, dealing with suppliers etc. It is not just about the cooking! We have just launched our new website (gourmetgirlsuk.com) and website building was something neither of us had done before and we have learnt a lot and loving it.

2 Likes

We do change our menus for our pop up events and event catering to reflect the season. Seasonality is really important to us. But it also means our customers are eating our dishes when they are at their best. Of course we have a number of basic dishes which we can tweak with different produce according to season

2 Likes

The Gourmet Girls website looks great Giulia! We had Tom from Wholegrain Digital on here last week chatting about sustainable websites and the colour palette and web design you have used is less power intensive :slight_smile:

1 Like

Running our first pop up event for the general public and serving 50 people was a huge achievement. Neither of us have worked in catering before and so it was a steep learning curve, but the buzz was fantastic. Cooking for an event like that is completely different to cooking for friends and family in the comfort of your own kitchen.

The recent launch of our branding and website has been a huge achievement too and has really made the business come to life. It is very hard work but very exciting.

Gourmet Girls is still a very young business but I would say you need to have bags of self-motivation and resilience to make it work, and of course, really believe in your product and always listen to criticism (hopefully constructive!!!).

2 Likes

Power intensive! Wow. Yes we were very lucky to have friends who work in branding design our logo, the colour palette, illustrations etc, which really helped us put the website together.

2 Likes

I never considered that about power hungry off season local produce being that bad. Really interesting. Thanks!

You mentioned your lockdown service, what do you do now?

2 Likes

Hey Jason - we are currently offering 3 course Italian meal boxes and Ploughman’s picnic boxes delivered to homes in Brighton and Hove. Everything is made from scratch and with lots of love in our Gourmet Girls way! - https://www.gourmetgirlsuk.com/shop-c6yy7

2 Likes

Hey Giulia, what is your favourite dish to serve at events?

2 Likes

Thanks for the great responses so far Giulia. Apart from COVID - 19, what have been the biggest challenges you have faced so far?

1 Like

Hi Suzie – what a great question! I have Sicilian heritage, so a lot of our food is Sicilian inspired. My absolute favourite is Aubergine Parmigiana which makes the most of beautiful aubergines which are coming into season right now! A lot of people seem to dislike aubergine, which is such a shame, because when it is cooked well it is soooo delicious. We have it on the menu now for our Gourmet Girls at Home boxes as it is great to re-heat at home or to prep ahead and serve at events.

3 Likes

Hi Giulia! The Gourmet Girls at home meal boxes sound lovely. What kinds of challenges did you face in sourcing packaging for them that’s sustainable?

2 Likes