The first time I spoke to Michael Thompson he was on Mersea Island foraging for fodder, his independent pop up restaurant.

Michael, 26, from Edgware, and his culinary team will be returning to Borough Wines & Beers’ Brewery Below in Essex Road for three nights a week throughout the whole of September, after a sold out debut in June.

A new addition to fodder, made up of Michael and co-founders Louise Stapley, 26, from Friern Barnet and Jenny Novitzky, 27, from Dulwich, is Ollie Downey. The 26-year-old, from Chiswick, worked alongside Michael in his previous role at Fera at Claridge’s.

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Michael had many a foodie accolade under his belt prior to the pop up and Fera, having worked at The Millennium Gloucester Hotel in Kensington, Grosvenor House Hotel and then with Jason Atherton at Pollen Street Social, both in Mayfair, where the focus was on fine dining British cuisine.

However, the idea to foray into the food world rather than stay within academia was not met with encouragement in his final year at Mill Hill County High School.

“Obviously it was such a great school and always did really well with grades so there was a lot of pressure for them to keep percentages of students going to university high.

“I had quite a few meetings when it was clear I wasn’t going to apply for university and my parents were called in. It seemed quite pushy but I think it was done with the best intentions.

“When you’re in academia that’s what you know. M my parents were the main ones that asked ‘what do you actually want to do?’. My dad fits domestic kitchens and has always made his money with his hands so he was very clear with me that you can do that, you can pick a profession not a subject. It was the best decision I ever made.”

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He went on to study at Westminster Kingsway Catering College but it wasn’t until he joined the team at Fera that foraging became his forté .

“It taught me so much about produce and the importance of where your food is coming from – growing your own and foraging was such a big part of it, it was very inspiring. I have learnt independently but also with great advice from people like the executive chef, Dan Cox. He’s been a great mentor for me and still is, same as Ollie who is also working with us now.

“I’ve been researching, reading, going out and exploring and there’s no better way to do it then just roaming around a green patch and seeing what’s out there – as long as you’re careful and you do your research. If you don’t know what it is then don’t try it.”

The idea for Michael to turn his hand to an independent pop up came after his girlfriend, co-founder Jenny, attended a literary themed evening and suggested they could do something similar.

“It started off as just a bit of fun that we joked about,” he explains. “But then we started to get more serious about what we could do.

“We both have a certain ethical stance and we think there are things to be done environmentally through cooking, so that was our main inspiration. We then just knocked on doors asking if people were interested and eventually Borough Wines were very open to letting us try it out.”

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The September residency will serve seven courses of wild, seasonal, and locally-sourced food from the team for just £45.

The wine flight, curated by Borough Wines founder Muriel Chatel, focuses on low-intervention natural and organic wines. The beer flight - by Brewery Below Head Brewer Tash Vine - showcases local producers and includes her limited edition ‘fodder’ brew, made using foraged ingredients.

The pop-up runs alongside Urban Food Fortnight, an annual celebration of London’s best food and produce, which is helping to connect the team with top local and independent suppliers.

Michael adds: “September brings a new season and with that a new menu, the hedgerows are brimming with goodies that we’ve been picking and preserving.

“We want to get as many people as we can down to see what we’re doing.We’re really trying to develop a community, not just of people but independent suppliers, producers, services and craftspeople.”

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