Hungry Mondays is a service providing slow cooked take-home meals for busy people to eat at home on a Monday night.
The idea is simple – restaurants pay rent, even when they’re closed and there’s no one eating in. This eats up profits and doesn’t account for the fact that early in the week people are busy and everyone needs time at home. It’s something that restaurants are constantly trying to offset.
For Ben Sampson, the answer became clear: use the kitchens even when the restaurant is closed and make slow cooked meals that people don’t have time to make themselves. It’s a win-win – there’s food on the table that isn’t from a fast-food chain, the chefs are stretching their creative muscle and the kitchens that are otherwise dead space are cooking for 10 hours plus, while the rest of us sleep.
The idea grew out of a conversation Sampson had with a colleague and was then fleshed out when chef Omar Andrade (previously of El Capo in Surry Hills) came on board.
“So one Sunday night Omar put on a big stew. He had chefs and kitchens and so we tried it out to see if it helped with the Monday to Tuesday night issues. We did a Facebook page to let everyone know what we were doing. We cooked slow and overnight and then we said nine bucks for a vac-pack of hearty home-style stew. We packaged them up early in the morning and we ended up doing 100 portions and sold out that day.”
As the take-home meals became more popular and the team started to make larger quantities to cater to the demand, it soon became obvious that this was something that was going to work.
Hungry Mondays is now bigger than ever, rotating through a slew of kitchens around the city, paying to use their spaces overnight and serving up home-style meals for those of us who don’t have the time. The chefs involved come from some pretty swanky backgrounds – but we can’t name them or the kitchens the team uses here. After all, we don’t want to upset the apple cart, but what we do want is more Hungry Mondays meals.
“We didn’t even have a name for it in the beginning. It made itself obvious that busy people wanted good food but didn’t want to dine out on a Monday or to cook. Those days are when the fast food giants have a big laugh. Pizza places are famous for the Tuesday special and the fast food outlets get away with a lot because Mondays haven’t been catered for. So I said, ‘Let’s call it Hungry Mondays’ because people are hungry on Mondays.”
At the moment, the word is getting out, but it’s still a little bit underground.
“We get to do our stuff everywhere, but in the pictures we post on Facebook we’re conscious to use ones where you can’t tell whose kitchen we are in. And it’s fun because we do a shift on Saturday night until 3am, pots get put on at that time for 17-hour pulled pork and it has that sneaky kind of feel.”
Better yet, the rotating chefs who take part bring their own recipes and suggestions to the table, with everything from jerk chicken to Aztec beef kabik on the menu. And some of the chefs love the creativity so much that they donate their time free of charge.
Hungry Mondays is strictly pick-up and delivery. Pick-up points are Surry Hills, Redfern and Ultimo (check the website for addresses) and it’s a win-win for the pick-up points too.
“The pick-up spots picked us in a way. We were having a beer in the Hollywood and the manager had heard about what we were doing and even eaten it and so he asked to put some bags in his fridge for pick-up. It’s a guarantee people that will turn up for them too on those quieter days.” So the cooking has a fantastic community knock on effect.
The team are still developing Hungry Mondays ideas, like how to meet the high demand without selling out, or cooking a kid friendly bolognaise so that whole families are catered for. But for now, all we can say is bring on Mondays, because we’re not going hungry anymore.
Menus go up weekly and you can see all the sneaky action on the Facebook page.