Home Food and Drink How Hackney chef to the stars Leon Rothera is adapting to the...

How Hackney chef to the stars Leon Rothera is adapting to the post-lockdown industry


By Victoria Gray

Businesses all over Hackney are now adapting to the ‘new normal’. Leon Rothera runs Honest Foods, a catering company based in Hackney that specialises in providing food for film and TV crews. “I’ve done filmset catering for 10 years, feeding 300-400 people a day. It’s tough work, starting at 3am, spending all day in a field serving food.” 

He tells us, “I’ve learned a lot from film and TV, and working with celebrities. It is a hard core industry – especially now because people are so hooked on Netflix and the like. I was speaking to a producer a while ago, and he was saying film and TV people will be considered key workers from now.”

And those key workers might include a few famous names: “we’ve cooked for every British film and TV person you can think of! The most famous person I’ve ever cooked for is Johnny Depp probably. Olivia Coleman is everyone’s favourite to hear about though. Billy Bob Thornton raved about our food and gave us a hand-written thank you. ”

So what do they eat? “We do everything from granola fruit pots in the morning, smoked salmon, kippers to deli lunches, really high-end vegan stuff, five different types of milks. We basically used to set up the sort of upmarket restaurant you find in Hackney on the set. There aren’t many other industries where they get fed that well but demand that much.”

Lockdown ground that to a halt. Leon says “we went pretty much straight into hibernation, but as the film and TV world has raced to repopulate Netflix, we’ve been rushed off our feet. Everything comes pre-packaged nowadays.”

The team are currently working on sets from The Great British Sewing Bee to RuPaul’s Drag Race. Leon tells us “we implemented a system where crew members pre-order everything for the week. We create bubbles on the set: one person for each department comes up to get the pre-packaged food for all of their crew, instead of all coming up to a food truck and ordering there.”

“18 months ago, we had a plan to start doing pre-boxed food to send out to smaller shoots” says Leon. “The pandemic ironically worked massively in our favour, because we had a head start in changing how we do things. The way we provide food now is more affordable and less wasteful too.”

Leon who previously worked at the Lanesborough, focuses on the quality of the food Honest Foods supplies from its Hackney base. He says “East London has been my stomping ground for years and it’s great to be surrounded by so many other foodie enterprises.”

“I love everything fermented. My fridge has some homemade Kombucha and Elderflower champagne in the door right now.” The sort of dishes he cooks include curried mussels with cider and celery leaf, shakshuka, tuna tartare with rye and fennel crackers and summer beef Stroganoff.