5 Minutes with Mam Sham: The comedy cooking duo bringing great grub to London’s young foodies
HUNGER sits down with best friends Rhiannon Butler and Maria K Georgiou as they spill the beans on their high-concept dining events, which are inspired by comedy acts.
Comedy and cooking duo Mam Sham are bringing high-concept dining to the next-gen of London’s passionate foodies. Rhiannon Butler and Maria K Georgiou are known for their comedy and radio, as well as for whipping up some of the buzziest event nights across the capital. With three courses of bespoke feasts inspired by the comedy acts performing in between, their most recent event was held at North London’s Big Penny Social — which they described as an evening of “good grub and lols”.
With an impressive culinary line-up for the supper club that spanned from Turkish-Cypriot chef Big Has to Hackney-based Lucky + Joy’s flavourful Chinese cuisine, the pair host, design, produce and curate the menu entirely themselves according to the night’s performances. Comedians like Jamila Maddix and Babatunde Aléshé have graced the stage previously, with other cooking collaborations including Sup Ya Ramen, Black Axe Mangal, and Acme Fire Cult. Profits are donated to a variety of charities to offer support to those facing youth homelessness, as well as those working with female refugees, male suicide prevention, and period poverty, with their latest Big Penny Social bash sent all proceeds to the DEC Turkey-Syria Earthquake Appeal.
Here, Mam Sham sits down with HUNGER to chat all things supper club cravings, the London food spots you have to try, and where their taste for palate experimenting all started…
How did you first meet and start Mam Sham?
Mam Sham: We met at the tender age of 11 on the first day of secondary school. Rhiannon looked like a toddler and Maria was taller than the teachers. We picked out the person in the room who made us stand out the most and have been doing that ever since. We started Mam Sham six years ago when it was originally just a one-off supper club that gave us the opportunity to do two of our favourite things: laughing and eating. We wanted to create something interactive with quality at its core and so the concept was born – three courses inspired by three comedy acts. The rest is history!
What was your first experience with food, and how did that shape your career?
Maria: Growing up, food was always a huge part of my identity, from conveyor belts of lychees and pomegranates from my Yiayia to being in the kitchen with my mum. It was when I started working in hospitality in my late teens that things really changed for me. I was lucky to work with some amazing people. Big shout out to Luke Findlay (who now runs Supa Ya Ramen), we worked together about 10 years ago and he really showed me the way.
Rhiannon: I’ve always loved food and been curious about it. I worked in a gallery under a restaurant in my early 20s but started sitting in on the chef’s briefings. They’d talk about the ingredients in each dish, how the different elements were made, and also the business side of things. It became quite clear that I wanted a career in food.
Why do you think it’s important for young people to be involved with the high-concept food scene?
Mam Sham: It’s a great thing to experience or to be involved in anything creative, regardless of age. There’s such a huge emphasis on achieving things by a certain age, so as long as doors can stay open for those who want to make the most of it, they should!
How do you infuse your kitschy aesthetic into your ideas for food? Where did this idea come from?
Mam Sham: We’re highly influenced by nostalgia as 90s babies and a lot of that stuff is making a comeback. When we design the props that we package the food in, they’re either inspired by comedians or, if we’re working with a brand, can be inspired by an ethos or narrative so we always have to fit it into something but with our own personal spin.
What’s your favourite bit about the amazing supper clubs you run?
Mam Sham: Definitely getting to collaborate with all the amazing people! From the incredible stand-up comedians, chefs and restaurants, to photographers, designers and the front-of-house team. There are a lot of people involved!
Your night at Big Penny Social was so fun! How did you pick the performers and what was it like matching comedy to food?
Mam Sham: We’ve been doing the Mam Sham format of 3 courses inspired by 3 comedy acts since the beginning so we’ve got a bit of a repertoire and are constantly asking around, plus we go to a lot of comedy shows and always reach out to comedians we admire. It’s always a really fun experience sitting down with the comedians, running through their sketches with them and coming up with weird and wonderful ways we can bring their performance to the plate.
How does being a duo in cooking differ from doing it alone?
Mam Sham: We do everything together but have different strengths. Much of our work spans across so many different elements, but it’s great to have a soundboard to bounce ideas off each other and, more importantly, to back each other!
What is your current fave food spot in London and why?
Mam Sham: That’s a hard question! There are always the club classics, like Mangal 1 or Norman’s Cafe, but at the moment we’re loving Tsiakkos & Charcoal.
Where is your favourite spot to go in London for entertainment/a fun night?
Mam Sham: Well, most of London’s venues are slowly being forced to close down so this question is getting harder to answer. Nowadays, we’re more likely to go to specific nights, whether that’s a supper club or gig. For example, we love the food that Diarmuid Goodwin (Sager & Wilde) cooks and he did a pop-up at SnackBar with Closing Ties last Friday, so we loved going to that!
What is one food you think everyone should try at least once in their lifetime?
Mam Sham: Not so much a single ingredient or dish, but a state of mind baby! Just be open-minded to whatever you feel comfortable putting in your mouth.
If you could pick one food place in London to go to for your last meal, where would it be?
Mam Sham: We would want the full works spread across a huge lazy Susan at Dumplings Legend, with ALL the trimmings.
What can we expect to see more of in terms of London’s food scene?
Mam Sham: More pop-ups, more supper clubs, and more ways to make it work. We’re so happy that Dara Klein of Italian mega-dream Tiella now has a home at The Compton Arms, plus we’re loving Hannah’s pizza from Dough Hands at Three Colts.
What’s next for Mam Sham after this event? Are any more comedy nights lined up?
Mam Sham: We’ll be putting on more ticketed events this year. They sell out fast, so the best way to get a ticket is to sign up to our mailing list (via our website) or by following us on the ‘gram. We plan on doing some more brand collabs, and on creating some nice things for you to watch on our ‘gram and for you to listen to on our monthly show on Foundation FM. Plenty of good grub and lols to follow!