Amie wearing a pink dress with her head resting on her hand
Nikki Wilson talks to Amie Wigginton
18 Dec, 2023
Member of the Month: Amie Wigginton

How would you describe what you do?

I started Parlour as a lockdown takeaway service serving traditional Indian dishes in Chelmsford whilst on furlough from my full time job in the music industry, wanting to bring a more authentic Indian taste and more of my heritage to people’s houses to enjoy during that isolating period in our lives and while I was not working it enabled me to have something to do with my time.

Lockdown takeaway - Hand holding naan bread ready to be dipped into bowl of food

Once life resumed back to some kind of normality, I was then able to expand into restaurants and venues across Essex to host pop-ups and supper clubs. Whilst also taking bookings for private event catering, networking and office lunches, hosting as a private chef and more recently starting up a new brand specialising in luxury events, workshops and retreats with my business partner Sam, called ‘The Wild Hearts Club’.

The Wild Hearts Club - Sun shining through a window across a table of women crafting christmas wreaths

When I first thought about what I wanted Parlour to be, it was an umbrella for more than one type of hospitality. I had so many ideas and I didn’t want to be tied into one particular thing – I know I am closely associated with traditional Indian food but I wanted to look ahead of where I was going to start and think about what it could be in the future. 

A “parlour” was somewhere you would host friends, business associates and family, dating right back to the 13th century. It was somewhere you held meetings, wined, dined and enjoyed time with your guests, and that is what I want Parlour to be – a home from home inspired by foods that I have been used to eating while growing up.

My Grandad was born and raised in North India and we’ve always had that influence at our family meals and I wanted to share some of those flavours with others.

Who or what gives you creative inspiration?

Home-cooks, chefs, books, friends & family, TV series – Masterchef, Chef’s Table, F*** That’s Delicious with Action Bronson.

Speaking to other people from different cultures and backgrounds about what they ate when they grew up or their particular food memories, favourite places to eat etc.

If you tell me you’ve been out for dinner, I’m asking you exactly what you ate and what you thought of it!

With easy access to being online, we are able to see into the kitchens of Michelin star restaurants, sit at the chef’s table, watch Nonna in Italy make pasta, Amma in India making chapati, we are able to see traditional and modern methods of cooking that can inspire us to try new techniques.

I’m always looking for ways I can adapt and evolve whether that be recipes or picking up new kitchen skills.

I get hyped up by Sam, my business partner for The Wild Hearts Club. We are on the same page all the time and it’s bloody brilliant.

It takes one morning of podcast-length voice notes from each of us rambling on as soon as we’ve woken up with different ideas we’ve got and that really helps getting my creativity flowing. I think it’s really helpful to bounce ideas and get advice and feedback from someone else.

The Wild Hearts Club - Menu describing foods on offer laid next to a bowl of food

I have a whole host of favourite chefs and Instagram pages saved on my phone that I can refer to when I am looking for something to cook at the weekend or plan for a supper club – Maunika Gowardhan is one of my favourite Indian chefs, and I have been cooking Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes for years.

Palm leaf thali tray set on a table filled with indian foods

If you could try any new creative or cultural experience or practice, what would it be?

In terms of learning a new skill related to what I already do, I would love to learn butchery next year – I work with an amazing butcher Farm 2 Table – they are based in Bishops Stortford and they host some classes there.

I’d love to learn some classic French cookery so that I can transfer some of those skills over to what I do now. Every time I watch Masterchef I am blown away by some of the techniques used – there’s something new that blows my mind every year.

Chefs, cooks and kitchens are really pushing boundaries with how they use kitchen equipment now. I’d love to learn more about open fire cooking too. 

Aside from cooking – I’d also love to try my hand at pottery and ceramics too – there’s so many things that interest me but I am terrible at starting something up and never finishing it … however I am happy to try my hand at anything.

What excites you about creativity and culture in Chelmsford?

Chelmsford has hosted some incredible events such as Gaia at the Chelmsford Cathedral, they also have some amazing talks and live performances there. 

I am so glad that we have places like Patch now – who are changing the high street for the better and supporting so many local and small independent businesses, they have also hosted some fantastic panel talks and workshops in their building in Grays Yard. 

Ignite and Chelmsford Council have also hosted some interesting think-tanks and workshops surrounding cultural growth of the city from local and small businesses on how they think we could adapt and evolve the city centre and what goes on in and around it to support a more vibrant culture.

Local businesses that do happen to have their own units, shops and restaurants are more than happy to collaborate with people like me in their space to showcase our own work. I have been lucky enough to work with the support of some amazing independent venues in Chelmsford.

I do a lot of my events with Voodoo Keller Bar on New Street – I can’t thank Hans enough for helping me start off doing pop-ups in the taproom at Chelmsford Brew Co and then more recently events at Voodoo Keller (watch this space for 2024 – every last Sunday of the month there will be a Parlour event there) had to plug that…

There is a lot of support for local businesses within our community in Chelmsford – and that is to be admired. 

It is just a shame that our high street is swallowed up by the larger chain stores instead of making more room for independents … it makes it so much harder for any smaller or micro businesses to start anywhere with bricks & mortar. However locations like Moulsham Street & Baddow Road are proving that there is space for us smaller ones!

And what would you like to see in Chelmsford that isn’t here yet?

I think there is a real need for a multi-use space here in Chelmsford, there isn’t many live music venues, we have Hot Box but we are lacking music venues for the birth town of Radio.

People between the ages of 30-60 don’t really have anywhere to go and hang out in the evenings and listen to music, hear talks, conferences, DJs, different styles of food, pop-ups, live comedy etc.

We really are missing more of those kinds of venues here. I think we could also use an indoor/outdoor permanent street food & drinks market.

Big up all of the pop-up markets that are running in Chelmsford, I am totally here for it and they’re bringing some great food to the City but we need a permanent space for something like that.

I think the Chelmsford Market space would be a great place to start developing as you’ve already got some amazing things going on there with the butcher, Leks Thai (incredible) & the noodle bar – if you could transform that concrete area outside of the market I think it could be a great thing for the city to have there to be able to support independent businesses. 

Find out more about Amie here.

Instagram: @parlour.homecooking, @thewild.heartsclub

www.parlour-catering.co.uk

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