THE FOOD MOVEMENT, KILIFI
As told by Warren Wilson.
The Food Movement (The FoMo) opened in February 2018 in an abandoned building surrounded by ancient baobabs and expansive farmland. Months before, after leaving the family agribusiness in Kilifi, Kenya, I found myself at a crossroads in my career with uncertainty as to what I was going to next.
Around the same time, I started a weekly yoga and breakfast experience at my house. I led an early morning yoga class and then cooked breakfast for participants afterwards. It gave me immense satisfaction and joy to combine my passions for food and fitness, but it never crossed my mind that I could create a business from it.
More and more people began to encourage me to consider doing something with this passion, and I decided that it was better to try than to go through life thinking “what if?” With the last of my savings and my personal fridge and stove, I made the decision to give it a shot. My house was empty and the FoMo was born.
Coincidentally at the same time, two friends had opened up separate fashion-related businesses in an abandoned chicken factory on the farm, and I saw an opening to start a small restaurant cooking local cuisine in a neighbouring building.
There were many moments of doubt when day after day no one came to this abandoned warehouse buried deep in the farm. I told myself that I would give it to the end of the year and then I would pull the plug if it was not working. The business was losing money each day, and I could not see where the break was going to come.
Despite the uncertainty, each day was also filled with fun and excitement. Here I was doing what I loved most with an incredible team, and I had to pinch myself to make sure it was all real. At least I had tried. I guess people saw the passion and love in what we were doing and slowly the tide began to change.
Originally I just started shopping in Kilifi — I’ve always loved going to the local market, just seeing what fresh produce came in: peas, broccoli, leeks, pumpkins — all the time just changing in variety. It was just such a vibrant place — such a joy. So then when I took the Food Movement further and opened the restaurant, it just increased the amount of the quantity that I was buying, which was great but it was costing me money, so I traced back to the bigger markets in Mombasa, and that blew my mind. Food from all over the country piling in lorries of onions, lorries of avocados, watermelons — whatever was in season. So then I began to look for local farmers, and that’s been much more difficult. I’m already asking myself, “Well, what can I grow around the Food Movement, they’ve got this amazing space?” This is my inspiration — in the next five years to be producing 50% of all of the food that I use in the kitchen in my own gardens.
I’ve always loved going to the local market, just seeing what fresh produce came in. It was such a vibrant place — such a joy.
The coast environment is slightly restrictive in terms of what we can grow. But I’ve been lucky enough to find one or two treasures along the way. I get my eggs from this lady that has the most amazing free range chickens. I go to the piggery, I meet the pig farmer, and often I’ll get a whole pig and then I’ll break the whole animal down and store it in my freezer and then use it in bits. I’m always trying to backtrack — with the fish as well — I’m always trying to get a little bit closer to the source. For fishing, you can go down to Taku Creek — an ancient fishing village that has been here for hundreds and hundreds of years — and every morning, the fishermen come back and you get the catches you like as much as possible. So I love exploring, I love digging in — nothing gives me more pleasure than being at the source of where food is because it’s unadulterated and very pure and beautiful. I get honey from a local supplier — I don’t buy it from the shop, which is exciting. I want to support the guys out there who are genuinely hustling or trying to do things well. I want to start digging up, going back a little bit further. I just finished reading this incredible book called The Third Plate and it really resonated with me, so it’s given me a lot of inspiration, but it’s definitely a work in progress. The next step is foraging from the ocean, which I’d like to get more into and is where I’d ultimately like to end up.
The FoMo is light years away from those early days. We have been featured in numerous eatery magazines, hosted a professional chef-in-residence from Ireland, created a small retail point for fresh produce that we ourselves are sourcing daily, hosted numerous farmers markets and events, and have steadily built a loyal customer base that keeps growing by word of mouth. Two more artisanal companies have moved in, and the space has been transformed into a hub of creativity. The idea and the concept that I had when I initially opened has grown and given way to something very different from what I imagined.
Today the aim of the FoMo is to create a vehicle for creative expression, to host collaborators looking to find a space to pursue their passion, and to promote local capacity building, encouraging all residents to share and teach their gifts. Within the restaurant, we are working to create a platform where chefs from all over the world can engage in a residency program that will impart real and practical skills, to offer courses which will create opportunity and possibility for those looking to work within the industry, and to foster and nurture creativity at every possible level and to keep innovation at the forefront of our culture.
Our collective vision is to promote smaller, community-based living where creativity and craftsmanship are valued and practiced and where residents share a commitment to support local capacity building initiatives through a skills-based education platform.
Keep up with the Food Movement: IG | @the.food.movement