Why you need to know about Mob Kitchen

17 October 2017 by
First published: 26 April 2017

Why you need to know about Mob Kitchen

Mob Kitchen may be less than a year old but its army is already fierce. With some 39k followers on Facebook and more than 12k on Instagram, the brand is on a mission to get young people cooking again, making food videos that showcase tasty flavours and cheap ingredients. The man behind it all is 24-year-old ex-Edinburgh University student Ben Lebus, whose story is one that will resonate with anyone who partook in the three years of sleeping, drinking and eating of ready-meals that is higher education.

‘In my second year, I moved in with four of my best friends,’ he tells us. ‘The girls were great at cooking. The boys were awful. They had no idea that they could cook delicious food on a budget; it was all bacon sarnies and beans on toast. I wanted to devise a list of recipes that showed them there was another way.’ What does his other way look like? Frugal, wholesome meals that are easy to make and yummy to eat. The idea may have been born in a messy student home, but it’s genius – and we’re totally on board. Here’s why.

The recipes speak for themselves

Jamie Oliver and Nigel Slater are Ben’s biggest influences – so you can imagine the kind of food he makes. ‘I love the way Nigel just rustles up his meals from whatever he has left in the fridge,’ explains Ben. ‘He manages to create something beautiful and delicious out of anything. Simple flavour combinations.’

Think homemade lamb burgers oozing with a feta and pomegranate yoghurt topping, pesto-stuffed sweet potatoes that pack a serious chilli punch and chorizo shakshuka, for no recipe arsenal would be complete without the latest Middle Eastern trend. Ben doesn’t believe in click-bait ‘food porn’ – the viral videos that can be found on Facebook, usually dripping in cheese or chocolate – but good food you’re actually going to cook and eat.

Every meal feeds four for under a tenner

Mob Kitchen’s recipe list may be varied, but there’s one rule: each meal will feed a household of four and always for under a tenner. At £2.50 a head – even less than Sainsbury’s meal deal – it’s certainly an attractive claim.

‘I wanted to encourage people to cook for their housemates and friends,’ says Ben. ‘I think four people is quite a common house number at university.’ And while £10 might not sound like a lot, Ben reckons it’ll allow you to buy ‘the perfect amount of ingredients’. Assuming only that you have oil, salt and pepper, Ben cooks with wholesome, healthy ingredients like butternut squash, kale, halloumi and avocado, and transforms them into dinner-party-worthy dishes.

It’s completely self-started

The Mob Kitchen’s popularity is certainly a marker of its success – but it hasn’t always been this way. Ben has grown the entirety of Mob Kitchen organically from the ground up. How did he do it?

‘Hours and hours spent on emails and social media,’ he confesses. ‘Constant sharing, linking, emailing, commenting. At the start, on Facebook, every time someone new followed the page who I had no mutual friends with, I would send them this long welcome email and ask them if they would consider helping me out by inviting all their friends to like the page. To my surprise, loads of people actually did it.’ He also acknowledges his best friends – aka ‘The Mob’ – but they were probably paid off in good food, right? ‘Their support has been overwhelming,’ Ben says.

It’s easy

Rooted in a desire to get students cooking again, Ben’s recipes are gloriously oh-so-simple. Many embrace the humble traybake – a load of yummy ingredients thrown together in a tray and roasted for crispy-on-the-outside, soft-in-the-inside, caramelised goodness – while others involve steps, like chopping, stirring and frying, that even the most amateur of cooks could master. Why is Ben so keen to get young people cooking?

‘Because it is so much healthier, cheaper and more enjoyable than just getting a takeaway or Deliveroo,’ he says. And why don’t more do it already? ‘Students don’t cook because there is a huge gap in education around cooking. At my school I didn’t have a single cookery lesson. I got lucky – my dad is a wonderful cook who taught me the ropes. But a lot of people don’t have that. By the time they get to university they don’t even know the basics. This is what I am hoping to change with Mob Kitchen.’ But perhaps it isn’t students alone who are looking for easy meals on a budget: Mob Kitchen is fast becoming a staple among families, too.

It supports organic music

You might notice something else a little different about Mob Kitchen’s videos. The catchy indie tracks that accompany all of their videos come courtesy of small-time British musicians who feature for free in return for exposure. ‘For me, music and food are intrinsically linked,’ explains Ben. ‘Whenever I cook, I always have tunes blaring out in the kitchen. It adds to the whole thing – it makes the food taste better. I wanted to somehow incorporate this connection within my videos, so I decided to reach out to up-and-coming bands and musicians to provide the sounds instead of buying some boring stock music.’

Head to mobkitchen.co.uk to check it out.

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Why you need to know about Mob Kitchen
Consider yourself a foodie? Here’s why you need to know about Mob Kitchen, the viral food videos with a twist!