Meet the GlowgetterAlex Hely-Hutchinson, Founder of 26 Grains

By Ophelia Froud, Glowcation Founder
2 March '18

Alex Hely-Hutchinson, 28 is the founder of London’s most delicious and Instagram famous porridge hotspot, 26 Grains.

Tucked away in the rainbow coloured Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden, Alex and her team serve over 875 bowls of porridge a week.

We caught up with Alex to hear her story of how she became a porridge Glowgetter.

What is your bestseller?

Nordic Pear is our best seller – oats cooked in coconut milk, a pinch of salt, turmeric, cardamon, ginger and cinnamon. We top it with pear, cacao, crumble, Greek or coconut yoghurt plus maple syrup for £6.

What led you to opening 26 Grains?

Copenhagen was where my love of porridge really came into play. I was really blown away. I studied Economics at Trinity College Dublin and then I spent a year on the Erasmus Scheme studying in Copenhagen and I fell in love with food there.

The Danish are effortlessly simple about food.

They season everything so well. They are clever about using lemons and vinegars to get the right flavour.

It was really cold in Copenhagen and eating porridge became so habitual. Every day I’d wake up wanting something comforting. Porridge felt nostalgic and it’s good for you- packed with magnesium, zinc, protein, iron and fibre. The porridge bar, Grød was a huge inspiration.

When I got back to London I was frustrated that I couldn’t eat like that. So I decided to launch my own porridge bar. I tested it on family, at a few Farmers’ markets and then started a month long pop-up in Old Street station in July, 2014 and people started to come, some became regulars.

We are a nation of porridge eaters so it was easy to grow a community.

We spent a year doing pop up’s and then were presented with an opportunity for a permanent site.

How important is social media to your business?

Instagram helps us build a brand and it gives us instant feedback from our customers. It helps us capture and grow a community outside the shop and and helps showcase what goes on behind the business.

We can document supperclubs and events on site to tell the story of what else we’re capable of.

How important was healthy food to you growing up?

I’m one of 5 and so porridge was always on the table as it was quick and easy. I grew up outside of London and recognised seasons by what the local farms had to offer – plums, pears and other fruit which we always ate in season.

I always had a passion for food. Everyone came round the table and it was where we socialised round the table.

What are your porridge hacks?

• Soak your oats overnight. With oats, I like one part oats and one part your choice of milk and one part water (or just two parts water if you prefer). Soak in the water overnight. When you soak oats it releases beta glucan which slows down the absorption of sugar to the blood stream which in turn is a slow release of energy. It also makes it much faster to cook in the morning so you or like us at the shop, operate more quickly. You can keep the soaked oats in the fridge for five days.

• A good pinch of flaked sea salt is important for flavour.

• Cook slowly

Why is London fast becoming such a city for plant-based eateries?

I think we now have better knowledge of ingredients and such great suppliers,

so eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables as well as other types of food has become such a joy

What 5 things make you glow?

• Spending time with my family- my four siblings are all my favourite.

• Eating out I love, a good glass of wine and a great atmosphere.

I like places like Duck Soup in Soho or Salon in Brixton that have a menu of creative seasonal food.

• A great bath. Rose oil if I’m feeling fancy.

• Cycling my bike around London and getting in early to work.

• Reading cook books. At the moment one of my favs have been Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat.Listening to BBC Radio 4 – sitting on the floor with Desert Island discs and the food programme on.

To buy 26 Grains by Alex Hely-Hutchinson click here. 

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