My Early Hour: Sophie Andre, founder of Elysia

Sophie Andre Elysia

Wonky vegetables and imperfect cheeses that wouldn’t usually make it to market become artisan breakfast toasties, whipped up by Sophie Andre – founder of Elysia – and sold to offices. We talk food waste, collaborating with Emily Roux and mornings…

Sophie Andre, 26, is from France but has been living in London since the beginning of 2016 with her partner, Victor.

What’s your home like?
It is a little studio in central London, very cosy with many green plants.

What time are you up in the morning?
I wake up at 6.30am (except when I have an early breakfast delivery – then I wake up much earlier).

What wakes you up?
The sunlight and the music my partner turns on – the perfect atmosphere to exercise a little bit before breakfast.

How do you feel?
I may feel a little bit tired but very motivated to start the day after a run!

What’s for breakfast?
Sourdough bread with salted butter and marmalade as well as a large cup of coffee with a little bit of milk.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Peaceful, joyful, efficient.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
I either prepare breakfasts for offices and deliver them on my bike or directly go to the office. I will then have a few meetings, reply to emails and in the afternoon meet with the producers to buy the food and prepare the “aperitif” ready to be delivered in the evening.

What’s your workspace like?
It is a beautiful co-working space (Impact Hub of Islington) for freelancers and entrepreneurs, next to Old Street. There is a family atmosphere with very friendly people. It is a real pleasure to start the working day there.

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Tell us about your business
I started working on the business idea when I arrived in London a year ago and really started trading last summer.

I run a company called Elysia, the name comes from “elysian fields” which is a blissful place in Greek mythology, where Ancient Greeks went for a happy afterlife. It refers to the second life of the delicious rescued food we handpick from local independent producers that would otherwise go to waste because of their shape, colour or last minute cancelled orders. They are all natural, made with the finest ingredients and artisanal care.

I prepare breakfasts and evening buffets for businesses/events and deliver on my reliable bicycle across London!

Why is the subject of food ‘waste’ so important right now?
I think food waste is a very important topic because it can concern everyone. According to WRAP organisation, 1/3 of the food wasted in the UK is thrown away in our home. There is a huge amount of potential to have a massive, positive impact.

By impacting on food waste positively, we can impact positively on some key issues of our time such as climate change, water security, food security, soil degradation, deforestation…

I buy the food that is naturally “imperfect” at a cut price such as British cheese with a hole or “wonky” vegetables. The products come exclusively from small independent producers who use natural ingredients. I can help reduce food waste and give access to more people high quality food at a reduced price.

You’re working with Emily Roux, daughter of Michel, how did that come about and what project have you collaborated on?
I had the chance to meet with Emily at the food accelerator of Echo (Economy of Hours) where I pitched my business to have feedback. Emily was in the judging panel and she told me that she really likes the business model and would be happy to offer me her mentorship. I am super lucky to have her support! In addition to being a talented chef, she is dynamic, super nice, creative and really supportive. I know that I count on her – it is absolutely priceless.

Emily has created a special recipe for Elysia which is a savoury “tartine” (open-faced sandwich) exclusively made with natural ingredients from surplus. This recipe makes use of several wonky vegetables that have been pickled, roasted or turned into a delicious hummus. Served on a thick slice of toasted rye sourdough bread, accompanied with British cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
I think it is sometimes the instability of not having fixed hours or a fixed salary. When starting a business, this can be a stressful.

What makes it all worthwhile?
It is just magic to be able to give life to ideas and develop a business culture. Keeping in mind the vision of developing franchises and working with independent producers across the world is definitely worth facing the challenges.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others?
At the moment, I don’t delegate any aspects of the production. At this stage of the business, I think it is important for me to experience all the supply chain operations and develop a strong business culture around it. Then, I would be happy to recruit team members to deliver and display the food for events.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I enjoy a quiet workspace but love to be surrounded by people for a cup of coffee – the co-working space I am based at is just perfect for that.

What’s the secret to career success?
I don’t know but will definitely keep going to find out.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
Yes, I think it is sometimes difficult to set boundaries between work life and personal life. I am really lucky because my partner really understands my challenges and supports me at any time of the day and night. It gives me a good motivation to work efficiently during the week but keep as much as possible my weekend free of work.

Describe an ideal weekend?
We would wake up around 9.30am after a good night of sleep, take a quick breakfast on Saturday and go for a long run – come back and prepare together a huge lunch. In the afternoon, we would explore a new part of London and then meet with friends in the evening for a good dinner and wine. Sunday would be very relaxed with a good book.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
In Italy. I love the country, the people, the food and atmosphere.

Visit the website: Elysia Catering

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