Better Living Interview: Miranda York, Editor of TOAST

Tuesday, 13 January 2015


I know Miranda from when I edited an arts and culture website back in London - she came to an event I was helping to organise and we clicked. After working as a freelance food journalist for various publications, she launched her magazine, TOAST, at the end of last year. What began as a conversation about food with a friend, quickly became a turning point and the start of a life changing project. First they launched TOAST food festival - inviting some of the UK's best food journalists, writers and chefs to talk. Off the back of that they continued to organise food events, but felt the need for something more tangible. A magazine was the best solution. It's a beautiful publication aesthetically, as well as beautifully-written, interesting, intriguing and inspiring. Instead of covering food trends, she (along with Assistant Editor, Sophie Dening), chose a carefully selected number of contributors to write what they wanted about food - there was no brief, it just had to be interesting. It's a celebration of food and ideas, and articles range from one in praise of crisps, a conversation about wine between Sager & Wilde owners, Michael and Charlotte Sager-Wilde, to a photo essay on the South West of England. It comes in the wake of a burgeoning British food revolution that is not only changing the face of food in Britain - putting fresh, locally-grown, organic products at the front of people's mind - but also altering its reputation on a global scale. I shot Miranda a couple of days after the magazine's launch, at a great French restaurant, Casse-Croute in Bermondsey, South London, just around the corner from where she lives and works. 

Scroll down to read the interview!


What inspired you to work with the food industry?
I stumbled upon the food world accidentally. After working at the BBC in current affairs I started writing for an indie food mag and became fascinated by the people I was interviewing and writing about. Everyone I met was so passionate about what they were doing, and so generous – I just wanted to be part of that world. I then worked for various travel and lifestyle magazines before going freelance and starting TOAST – which came about after of one of those crazy conversations with my good friend Sarah Chamberlain. We were longing for food events which delved deeper into food culture – and after speaking to a few people with encouraging words we decided to go for it and create our own!

How did the idea of a magazine come about?
The events we produce at TOAST are fun but fleeting. We wanted a way to gather our values, interests and ideas into something more permanent. With my background as an editor, a magazine seemed the obvious choice. Plus, after speaking to so many talented friends and colleagues frustrated with the industry, I wanted to create a space where people could write/photograph/talk about what really interested them – no restrictions, no subject off limits – if it’s a good story, we’ll print it.

They say Britain is going through a food revolution, how do you think the food landscape has changed in London in the last 5 years?
London is a really exciting city for food right now. There’s so much innovation, so many talented chefs opening restaurants and entrepreneurs starting new businesses. I’ve lost count of the number of restaurants opening each year (or each week!) but there’s no doubt London is a better city to dine out in. I love all the food markets popping up all over the city too – it’s an indication that people want to eat better at home as well as in restaurants.

The restaurant business is often fuelled by the next big trend, what made you steer away from the hype in favour of ideas?
For a long time I got caught up in the whirlwind of new openings and the latest up-and-coming chef, but after a while it became tiring. I stepped away from the hype and started to seek out genuine, talented, creative people who are striving to make something the best it can be – whether that’s a restaurant, bar, event, or a beautiful handmade ceramic bowl. Nowadays I’m much more likely to be looking around a tiny factory in Bermondsey where they’ve made stylish anodised metal trays since the 1930s, or searching for a railway arch in Peckham where they make fresh Mexican cheese, than trying to attend five launch parties in an evening. Though that’s still fun every now and then ;)

What piece of advice would you give someone wanting to start their own business or launch their own magazine?
Do it! It’s hard work and it’s a little bit crazy but if you have a great idea, then go for it. Surround yourself with people who support and believe in you and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

What was the inspiration behind the magazine’s design/front cover?
We wanted to steer away from the perfect shots of food you see on most front covers – food is messy, fun, communal, everyday – so we asked illustrator, Lara Harwood to create something that represented a meal just eaten, a conversation shared: the leftovers. Also, as we publish independently we weren’t tied to current magazine conventions – so there are no taglines, not even a barcode or price (we hid them inside the back cover), to allow the beautiful illustration to shine. I also liked the idea of the main image being on the back cover, just creeping onto the front – a reason to pick up the magazine and feel the thick, tactile GF Smith paper and discover what’s inside.

Foodies, chefs etc.. who inspire you?
My friends. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some truly talented people while creating this magazine and they have all encouraged and inspired me.

Last cookbook you cooked from?
Made in India by Meera Sodha. I’ve always been a little apprehensive about cooking Indian food at home (so many ingredients, such a long time cooking onions!) but Meera’s recipes are wonderful and never intimidating. The Keralan fish curry is my current favourite.

Last good book you read?
Ask the Dust by John Fante. Brilliant. Read it.

What’s in your magazine pile at home?
So many! There are magazines EVERYWHERE in my flat. I’m a little obsessed. At the moment I’m loving Cherry Bombe, an American food mag focused on women. Also, Cereal, Noble Rot, Lucky Peach, Vogue, Elle Decoration, Ernest, Lagom, Alquimie…I could go on forever!

Evening drink of choice?
Champagne. Or anything with dark rum in it.

Bedside table essentials?
Kiehls Crème de Corps, Plush Balm from & Other Stories, a good book and a glass of water.

Favourite London places for coffee, lunch, dinner, drinks?
Where to start… I live in Bermondsey and my favourite locals are Jose for tapas, Casse Croute for divine French comfort food, 40 Maltby Street for wine and sharing plates, and Bar Tozino for jamon. I also love Lyle’s, Som Saa, Quo Vadis, Tonkotsu, Sager + Wilde, Gymkhana… I’m very much looking forward to Bao opening in Soho (I’m obsessed with Gua Bao) and I’ve just joined Blacks members club – the perfect place for cocktails by the fire.

And finally, what is your definition of living better?
Eating good food with the people you love.

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