I have been wondering for a while how I am going to approach this interview for the blog. I have known about Chloe Edwards of Seven Sister’s Spices for as long as I have lived in Lewes, I knew about her amazing Friday lunch business for Lewes people and I knew of her brightly coloured Silvercross pram that she carries her deliveries in. I have admired her from afar and bought many of her delicious treats at the varied and wonderful foodie events in Lewes across the year. I also knew from a mutual friend that Chloe and her family had suffered some unimaginable hardships all before I met her properly for the Lewes Home.
What I didn’t know was that I would be so unbelievably humbled by Chloe when I would come face to face with her. I didn’t know that I would break down in tears at her kitchen table, or that I would also start crying again as I finally sit down now to write this post. However it is important to say that this blog post is not one of sadness – it is about the incredible woman that is Chloe, her inspirational business, her drive and her enormous talent.
It was a very different visit for the blog to Chloe’s home which she rents in the Southover area of Lewes. She greeted me with great warmth and gentleness. We headed straight into her kitchen, which in this house – perhaps more than any other I’ve been to – really is the heart of the home. It is one of those kitchens that envelops you with an immediate feeling of warmth, belonging and comfort. It is a very calming space that looks out onto the garden, the smell of spices is amazing and the total peace that Chloe clearly feels in this room is wonderful – and I feel it too.
Rather than my usual house tour Chloe and I talk. We talk and talk, we talk and I cry and we talk. She has such humility and humbling inner-strength, I would say I was in awe of her but really there are no words to explain how I felt towards Chloe that day (and still feel about her). However, once the conversation turns to where Chloe is right now and what she has in store for her business she is happy, full of life, buoyant and excited. She has so many plans for her future and can’t wait to share them with everyone.
Chloe absolutely loves her business Seven Sisters Spices – it is a passion and an obsession as well as a career for her. She doesn’t have a dream of world-domination or infamy, she just wants to do well enough to be able to, comfortably, keep doing what she is doing. It is inspiring to see that it is the love for her craft that motivates Chloe and not the riches that it may bring – and she is really, really motivated. If the Friday lunches, Spice Club, food markets and hampers aren’t enough Chloe can also be found leading talks and holding cookery workshops and events, sharing her expertise and passion for spices and cooking with the world. She is one busy, forward-thinking and happy lady.
After exchanging life-stories of the past and of the future Chloe, her gorgeous labrador and I headed out to her allotment in Hope-in-the-Valley on the outskirts of Lewes, but before I take you there let’s hear a little from Chloe herself in this interview for The Lewes Home:
Tell us a little about yourself
I am a 45 year old mother of two teens, who lives with them and their dad, my partner, Charlie Palmer and our black cat and black Labrador.
I am a happy home bod, blessed with many friends, I love reading and singing, music, gardening, walking and of course cooking!
A born and bred Londoner, I studied Fine Art Textiles at Goldsmiths, worked as a designer maker for a few years, had my son, retrained in British Sign Language, worked as in-class access support with deaf adults in education, had a life bomb and changed to cooking. I love running my own small batch food business as it incorporates many of my skills, particularly on Instagram and other social media platforms.
How would you describe your home style? What/who/where inspires your tastes?
We are life-long renters, which has given us a slightly transient attitude to where we live. Buying furniture pieces has seldom been a possibility or an aspiration. We aspire to live more minimally than we do, but both me and Charlie seem inextricably linked to our collective ‘toot’! We are lucky to have friends and family who are artistically creative and so we love the prints and pictures that hang on our walls. I like environments that are soft and welcoming. Homely and gently rough and ready.
What do you most look forward to when coming home?
The warmth of the Aga in the colder months. Stepping into the garden in warmer times. Seeing the animals always.
What is your favourite room in the home, why?
The kitchen, it’s where we entertain friends and have our family time. It is spacious and leads onto the garden. It is of a size I never thought we would be able to have, and it has an Aga!!!
What interior décor is a big turn-off for you?
I really don’t enjoy environments that feel contrived and staged. Or themed with everything matching.
What makes living in Lewes special for you?
The wonderful friends we have made, the smell of woodsmoke in the winter. The accessibility of the South Downs and the sea. The scale of the town and its independent shops, and of course its excellent pubs. Being moments from Brighton and an hour from London is great too.
Tell us a bit about Seven Sisters Spices – what is the history of your brand and what spurred you on to start your own business?
I used to work with deaf adults in further and higher arts education in London, as a language support tutor, until our daughter was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 – she is well and happy now – but she was on chemotherapy for 2 and a half years. During this time working in London became an impossibility for me.
When Agi was diagnosed I lost control of everything, except food! Food became an even more important manifestation of joy and love and family life.
I had worked for a caterer many years back when I had a very small business working in textiles as a designer maker. My Friday lunches were a thing I could do at home that would generate enough ‘work’ to stop cancer being the only thing that was happening for me, but without the stress of committing to working for someone else.
How would you describe Seven Sisters Spices to someone that has never shopped with you before?
Seven Sisters’ Spices is all about making spices understandable and accessible to people. I think it’s an area that is often a bit mysterious, perhaps a bit daunting. Everything I make is ground in small batches, so when you buy from me you are getting spices pretty much as fresh as they come. Cooking with spices adds a wonderful aromatherapy aspect to cooking. It can lift spirits and mood, invigorate and enliven. The smell of toasting spices certainly gets the taste buds working! Sustainability is also a really important part of my ethos. I grow as much as I can, buy local and organic as much as possible when doing catering work. All of my packaging is recycled/recyclable and/or biodegradable.
What’s next for Seven Sisters Spices?
That’s a good question…. Next year I would like to expand the Seven Sisters’ Spices Larder range to sell wholesale to outlets. This necessitates a cash flow injection….not sure yet how this will manifest!
I would love to grow the Spice Club to 100 members.
The allotment will provide more food again for the business (this is building year on year) and also flowers to add to the Friday menu – I love the whole ‘something for the weekend’ idea – that I deliver to you on a Friday a salad lunch, ready meal supper, box of sweet treats and a bunch of flowers.
And of course I would LOVE to produce a book!
Before I leave this blog post it is so important that I talk briefly about Chloe’s allotment – I have never had an allotment or really connected with why people love them so much but I really ‘got it’ for the first time when I went with Chloe. I don’t think she stopped smiling the whole time we were there, she is so proud of all the amazing food and flowers she is growing and clearly finds every moment there nourishing and calming. It is soul-food for Chloe and she is in her element.
After taking a few photos and oohing-and-aahing over her produce she cuts some beautiful Dahlias – my favourite flower – and gives them to me to take home. A perfect end to the morning.
Chloe is an amazing person, she has a deeply soulful and radiating presence. Yet again The Lewes Home has brought me to a person who I am so grateful to now know and to call my friend.
If you haven’t tried one of Chloe’s amazing Friday lunches or signed up to her Spice Club then I urge you to do so – you won’t regret it!