Hello, it's Sonal, the owner & founder of Freska!
I'm a self-taught chef, raised in the North East. Here is a little more info on what Freska is, how it all began, future plans, and more on my cooking background...
Freska is all about creating dining experiences for people to remember. We have hosted a number of successful supper clubs across the North East centered around different cuisines. These have allowed people to enjoy sharing dishes from around the world in a relaxed and informal setting.
Freska was born out of my love of traveling and experiencing food from all around the world. I have been lucky enough to travel far and wide. While in these countries, I soaked up every bit of culture and cuisine. These skills are now reflected in the food I cook every day.
The concept of sharing food is also something that has been central to my life, for as long as I can remember. My grandparents are from India, so I grew up with meal times always being an occasion. Bowls upon bowls of food to indulge in every meal, with something different to suit everyone's tastes. On top of this, I have spent the last year living in Barcelona where tapas culture is everywhere and that same experience of sharing small plates is resonated everywhere.
Another big passion is to showcase more vegetarian dishes and highlight that meat doesn't necessarily have to be the "centerpiece" of a meal. There have been countless occasions where we've had people come to our supper clubs and say that they've never liked an ingredient in the past or they would never choose the dishes on a menu but we've totally changed their opinion on it which is what we love to hear. This means that the vast majority of people can also enjoy the same table full of food together and we're always striving to accommodate for more dietary needs.
There is no better feeling than sitting around a table with my loved ones, surrounded by delicious food and we hope to share this experience with you.
The Journey So Far...
Freska actually began back in March 2020 as a food blog, a portfolio shall we say to showcase the dishes I was cooking after coming back from a 6-month traveling trip around Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. After 3 months of posting, we were coming out of our first lockdown and more people were contacting me about trying, so the process of turning Freska into a business began. By October 2020 we had a pop-up in the works and we were ready to go, however little did we know that just a few days before we were ready to announce we were told we were going into our second lockdown. Instead of putting everything on hold, we went with the flow like everyone else did and adapted to the situation. We began selling our food as a takeaway in order to get our name out there and get people trying our food. By Christmas we had customers contacting us to do occasion menus which all came personalised and bespoke to them. This gave us the idea to do set monthly menu boxes which were a different cuisine each month and allowed people to get a special dining experience at home.
After coming out of lockdown in May 2021, I made the big decision to put Freska on hold for a little while and start putting plans in place for moving to Barcelona. This had been one of my biggest goals, and in September 2021 I made the big move and started working and soaking up all the Spanish lifestyle. In June 2022, we did our first ever pop-up in a gorgeous little restaurant in the Gracia district of Barcelona. This gave us a real taste of what we'd always hoped for with Freska and with plans to come back to the UK for the summer it was time to get some supper clubs in the works.
I came back for Summer 2022 and was lucky to host a string of successful supper clubs at The Forge in Washington Village and another at Flamingo Cafe in Seaham which were an absolute dream come true. To see a room full of people who had come to try Freska was incredible and it was so amazing to meet every single one of you who came along.
We have SO much planned for Spring and Summer 2023, lots more supper clubs, new menus, private dining events and collabs. In Autumn 2023 we will be having a short break as myself, Sonal, will be spending a few months travelling around Asia with my sister (or we could call it research). If you've been holding off booking for the future, my advice would be to get in before I jet off again! Please stay up to date on any future plans by following our Instagram and Facebook pages.
My Cooking Background
I am a self-taught chef who started cooking at the age of 12. After a trip to Sorrento, Italy I was blown away by how such simple dishes could reap the most incredible flavours. Once I arrived home, I obsessed over replicating those same qualities in the dishes I cooked. I attended pasta-making classes, read cookbooks, and researched online in order to be as authentic as I could to the cuisine.
In addition, growing up food was always an occasion with bowls upon bowls of food always being cooked in the kitchen. Coming from an Indian family, I have been understanding the complexities of spice for as long as I remember. However, I didn't ever cook the food my family cooked until I moved to Liverpool for university and realised that I had been so fortunate to have grown up eating this beautiful food. Throughout these years at university, I cooked for my flatmates and found my confidence and skills using the spice tin my Mum had sent me off with.
As previously mentioned, I have been fortunate enough to travel to many countries and experience many different cultures & cuisines. Living in Spain, traveling around South East Asia, and visiting family in other parts of the world have all contributed to my culinary journey and curiosity to know and learn more (basically I have the travel bug and can't stay in one place for longer than a few months haha). All of these cuisines I now research and strive to understand the fundamentals of how dishes became what they are to this day and try to tell that story with Freska.
During lockdown, I gained a PGC in Food Science & Innovation which enhanced my knowledge and understanding of the industry as a whole, including studying modules in future food sustainability and new product development. This has helped me with the recipe development with menus and it's something I would love to do for other brands and companies in the future.
After years of building up my skillset, I now understand the simplicity of quality ingredients in dishes from European countries versus the balance and depth of spice in dishes from countries in Asia and other continents. I was always taught that when you put care and passion into your food, the flavours will always shine through. The beauty of food and cooking is that it's limitless. No matter how much you think you know or how many things you try there will always be something to learn and a new flavour to discover. This is something that keeps my passion ever-growing and will keep me cooking for years to come. One thing that stopped me from pursuing Freska sooner was that I always felt that I wasn't qualified enough to start a food business because I hadn't been to culinary school or worked in commercial kitchens but I couldn't have been more wrong. Freska has evolved and developed as my skillset has and that is what makes this journey even more exciting, the fact that you're on it with me.
I just want to finish this by saying a huge thank you to you all (especially to those that have managed to read this far haha). Your support never goes unnoticed and honestly, none of this would be possible without you so THANK YOU THANK YOU THANKYOU!