Erin and Jo launched The Edible Flower

Enterpreneurial couple Erin Bunting and Jo Facer have turned a passion for cooking, entertaining and catering into a novel business venture on their small farm near Saintfield in Co Down.

By Sam Butler
Saturday, 10th July 2021, 5:00 pm

The couple launched The Edible Flower, a small business which introduced their first artisan supper club in Northern Ireland in July 2016, after a stint living and working in London following first meeting at university four years earlier. They ran informal and successful supper clubs at their Leytonstone Brewhouse and Kitchen at their London home together and decided to move to Erin’s Northern Ireland homeland to get closer to nature. Both are keen conservationists.

Erin and Jo, both 40, who have been in a civil partnership for more than a decade and have two young children together, have also diversified the supper club venture to provide outdoor catering for events such as weddings and parties and to create their own craft beers, grow salad leaves, herbs and edible flowers for sale on their small holding. Salad bags were developed for retail to help generate cash during the lockdowns.

In addition, the craft business offers bespoke celebration cakes decorated with edible flowers from the farm. They run workshops for small groups on brewing, food matching, cooking classic Asian dishes, wood-fired pizza making, and on growing vegetables. A wide range of their own recipes has been created for home cooks from their website.

Edible Flower grows range of vegetable and edible flower on the farm at Saintfield

Their mission is “to enrich their lives and the lives of their customers through the joy of delicious, inspiring, surprising and sustainable food” and have their sights set on developing a cookery school. They’ve been relieved that the lifting of Covid restrictions on hospitality has enabled them to resume the small supper clubs that are the backbone of their business and were halted by the lockdown. They continue, of course, to abide by social distancing, face coverings and other safety guidance.

“We love cooking for people and we love eating with our friends and participants,” Jo, who has a keen interest in craft brewing and growing flowers and vegetables, says. An organic gardener and teacher, Jo is passionate about encouraging others to grow their own food. She is keen on sustainable food production and regenerative agriculture. Alongside vegetable-growing and compost-making, Jo loves cooking with fire, brewing beer and even the spreadsheets that keep the small business in the black.

Originally from Hillsborough, Erin is a skilled cook, teacher, recipe developer and edible flower enthusiast. She graduated from Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork in 2015 and is now the Edible Flower’s head cook. She describes her food as “fresh, unpretentious, beautiful, vegetable-focused and inspired by the seasonal produce grown by Jo in our kitchen garden”. She also worked as a chef at the Skip Garden Kitchen, a London-based urban growing project focusing on education with a vegetarian cafe.

The original meals the couple cook and the beer they brew are usually inspired by local and seasonal produce, wild food and from their travels across the globe.

Erin Bunting and Jo Facer, the enterprising couple behind the novel Edible Flower supper club business in Saintfield

“Supper clubs are a great chance to try things you wouldn’t necessarily order in a restaurant. If you’re hosting it means not having to worry about the cooking and if it’s your birthday, for instance, it’s nice being able to relax and not have to do the washing up,” Erin says.

“There’s something really special about the whole communal eating experience - everyone is experiencing the same flavours and it gets people talking.”

Their relaxing and informal evenings often take on themes based around their travels such as “Asian street food”, “Mexican feast” and “A taste of Marrakesh”.

What can participants expect at one of their popular supper clubs? Erin explains: “Obviously, the food is important. And for us, a supper club is an ideal experience for people to try something new – everyone is eating the same, you get to hear a wee story from us about what’s on the menu. At our supper clubs we hope that there will be something surprising or new for everyone who attends.”

The chat around the dinner table is also immensely important: “We love talking to participants about the food that we prepare and serve. We always allow time between each course to let everyone know what they are about to eat or drink, why we’ve chosen to cook it or something interesting about the recipe, the ingredients or the process involved in getting it to their plate. Everyone, after all, loves a good story,” she adds.

They see the supper club as “the modern world equivalent of those joyous family food-based gatherings in the past I think we should all value”.

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