Sierra Leone | Food, Glorious Food!

April is Earth Month and Sewa News thought there was no better way to celebrate than with a wholesome spread from the new eco-savvy Homeshed Kitchens launched by Sierra Leonean transplant Jeanette Warne.

Warne loves creating delicious and surprising menus that overwhelm your senses--with food that hasn't been overly processed or tampered with. In Warne's world, gourmet is just a meal prepared with fresh ingredients requiring  little else to highlight its character and taste. Sewa News Stream caught up with the intrepid food goddess and business owner online.

Sewa News: Have you launched a bakery, patisserie, or restaurant?

Jeanette Warne: None of the above!  Homeshed Kitchens provides bakery, patisserie, catering and event services to  its clients.  We are partnered with several Maryland businesses and wineries to sell our signature pastry goods and breads. Our main concern is to foster the flow of food from the area where it is produced to the place where it is consumed, including the land it grows on,  route it travels, markets it passes through, and the tables it ends up.  To this end, we've developed our own in-house milled flours, with wheat berries sourced from nearby.  Our mantra is "Artisanal, Local and Eco-Savvy!"  We are a scratch kitchen and take pride in being good custodians of the environment in which we operate.

Sewa News: You sound like an up and coming competitor of a well-known flour making chain. Should they be worried?

Jeanette Warne: There is room for everyone on the playing field. Albeit good business practice to know what your competitors are doing, I always keep watch on what they are not doing!  After that, the final decision is to do what feels organic to me.  Because if you can't sell it, no-one will buy it!

Sewa News: How long have you been in the trade and what got you interested in baking bread, making cakes and upscale wining and dining?

Jeanette Warne: Not too long.  I enrolled in culinary school (pastry arts) in 2008/09.  But a couple of years prior I was already "cooking for pay." I owned a small company and catered a lot for corporate events.  I took on my first wedding as an in-house caterer for Linganore Winery in Mt. Airy, Maryland.  Back then, a baked pineapple accompanied by a brandy sauce was the only pastry item in my repertoire of desserts.  That simple dessert, which I got off the back of a Better Homes magazine (because in those days I was "baking by numbers"), became our signature dessert. Boy did it open a floodgate of dessert/pastry requests!  I spent half my time sourcing out dessert requests to other pastry professionals.  It made no sense that I was missing out on all that action so I signed up and went to pastry school.

So yes, I did it for the money.  But after having done it I can truly say, it was one of the best decisions I've made in my entire life. It was also one of the hardest things I've ever done in my entire life...The only thing that sustained me was my passion. I was like a kid in a candy store!

I've always known that because I enjoy food—real, good, home-cooked, true food—which I consider is any food that has not been overly processed or tampered with, I would ultimately have to be involved in its preparation. This quote from James Beard happens to be one of my favorites:

"The secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of food. ... If you're convinced that cooking is drudgery, you're never going to be good at it, and you might as well warm up something frozen." 

Words I can't help but live by.  The impression most people have of "gourmet" or "upscale" cuisine, is that it's inaccessible food, prepared with inaccessible ingredients, and served in inaccessible eating establishments.  This could not be furthest from reality.

On any given day, step into my mother's kitchen and partake of the meals that she prepares. It doesn't get more upscale than that I promise you. Or give me any bottom-of-the-ocean feeding fish and I'll show you the amazing ways in which I prepare it with just one or two simple ingredients.  I could go on and on about the foods I've sampled in my lifetime from the least inaccessible places or sources. For these reasons, I have redefined "gourmet" as I see it, to simply mean: a meal prepared with fresh ingredients requiring very little else to highlight its character and taste!

Sewa News: What did you need to set up a business?

Jeanette Warne: Passion, drive and commitment....and many other legalities involved in operating as a business. Whatever seed money you have in starting your business make sure to use on all the legalities involved in establishing your business.  To maintain a healthy business operation, I've always made it a practice to justify every single penny that I spend towards my business.  It'll help you keep your nose clean and your daily business processes running smoothly.

I'm also in the habit of diagramming everything out; even a dinner plate for a sit-down affair.  I also like to envision the big picture, and then work my way back from the big picture to the minutia.  Is it worth it?  If I can answer 'yes' then I'm in business.  If the answer is 'no' then I'll tweak my process little further.  I may or may not get there but then again, that's okay too.  I know to move on to the next thing.


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