Lifestyle

Teenager launches lockdown food delivery service selling meat that he smokes in his garden


When Ruben’s pop-up in Brixton was cancelled, he decided to launch his business from his garden instead (Picture: Ruben Dawnay)

Before coronavirus hit the UK, 19-year-old Ruben Dawnay was planning to spend his summer in Brixton Village feeding hungry hipsters.

The teenager from London had secured a six-month pop-up in Brixton Village, selling his New York deli-style sandwiches, filled with smoked meats and fish that he cures himself.

Then Covid-19 decided to ruin everyone’s summer, and Ruben’s dreams were shattered.

Rather than give up, the resourceful teen adapted to the situation and, within weeks, launched a delivery service from his back garden, curing and smoking pastrami, salmon and chicken.

Once the meat – which he sources from Ginger Pig and Chapman’s of Sevenoaks – is ready, he will vat-pack it and drop it to his customers off via bicycle.

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Ruben also plans to release a sandwich kit for people to make his signature dish; a challah roll stuffed with 12-day cured salt beef, slow-cooked for 10 hours, topped with gherkins, Emmental cheese and latke.

‘So I had this idea and was meant to launch in Brixton Village, but obviously everything has been put on pause, so instead of giving up the idea and losing momentum, I thought I’ve got a smoker, a garden and all this equipment, so I just started smoking meats at home,’ Ruben tells us.

‘From the start of lockdown, I only really had about 10 orders and then 15, and the next one is about 20 – it’s slowly increasing.

‘Everyone’s inside and everyone wants to have something to look forward to, so it’s the right time to be doing it. ‘

To cope with growing demand, the self-taught chef plans to build a larger smoker, and he’s also been given access to the kitchen at the currently closed Agile Rabbit pub in Herne Hill.

Ruben gets his salmon from Chapman’s of Sevenoaks (Picture: Ruben Dawnay)

Ruben says: ‘I do the smoking in my parents’ garden and then use another kitchen space in Herne Hill where I used to work, for some of the more technical cookings.

‘I’m lucky that I have something that I really enjoy doing and can focus on in lockdown.

‘This situation has encouraged me to do what I love more.’

The inspiration for the deli business comes from Ruben’s Jewish and Polish roots.

He says: ‘Jewish people migrated from Europe and used all these methods to preserve food, not just because it tastes nice but they had to do that.

‘I taught myself how to do it, just kept cooking until I got it right.’

Ruben’s smoked pastrami, made in his back garden (Picture: Ruben Dawnay)

Prior to lockdown, the culinary whiz hosted pop-ups at the aforementioned Agile Rabbit, as well as 12:51 in Angel and Bayou Bar in Broadway Market, where his ‘Ruben’s Reuben’ sandwich has proven very popular with foodies.

Coronavirus has not only put a dent in his cooking plans, but Ruben faces a big decision once lockdown is over.

The chef was meant to head to Manchester to study economics at university after the Brixton Village pop-up had finished.

‘I’m really looking forward to the Brixton pop-up, which I think will still happen once this is all over, but I’ve got a place at university at Manchester and I’ve been battling in my mind whether to go or not.

‘I could give up my cooking, or wait another year and then go to university.’

But for now, he’s still cooking.

Shoppers who want to order Ruben’s meat for delivery should drop him a message on Instagram. He delivers all over south west London.

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