‘I would like to encourage people to eat for the experience and the joy’
‘London is changing through gentrification and I feel it is important to tell the stories of people from different generations, cultures, and ethnicities’
She’s didn’t grow up in London, but at heart she is a true Londoner who is happiest when exploring the tastes and cultures of what the London food scene has to offer and capturing all of this with her camera. She is the voice and the lens which exposes and portrays, the hidden stories of origin and tradition from the food communities she speaks too.
It was such a pleasure to speak with Tara Rudd the creator of Routes and Froots, to discuss how she began her journey and how she aims to continue highlighting London’s unsung and talented people, who work behind the scenes of our hospitality industry.
What is your background?
I have lived in London for about 6 years now, although I am originally from St Albans. My mum is from India and was born in Uganda, my Dad is English and was born in Leytonstone. London is such an amazing place and I would say my love of London is what encouraged my love for exploring food and people.
I started a job about 4 years ago with Kerb Food who run many street food markets in London. I joined as a Marketing Intern and the exposure I had there helped to accelerate my passion for community, food, and people.
I was lucky to have the opportunity to be around food traders from lots of different backgrounds which I really enjoyed. I eventually managed Kerb Foods social media and marketing and the role was so aligned with what I loved, it felt more like a hobby than an actual job.
How did you come up with the idea for Routes & Froots?
I eventually left Kerb Food because as they grew, they became a lot more corporate, which resulted in less story telling about the traders.
After I left, as a hobby I started to write about the new places that I was exploring and I wanted to have a creative outlet to share with other people. This is how I started Routes & Froots.
London is changing through gentrification and I feel it is important to tell the stories of people from different generations, cultures, and ethnicities. There were not many people documenting these type of people and their stories and so I felt that this was something that I needed to do.
How do you choose which food businesses to visit?
I normally choose businesses that are on my list of places to visit. These normally tend to be less well known or places that are different and interesting. The restaurants I visit are not formal and are normally quite small and inexpensive in price. I also like to go to places that have been established for a while and are old. These typically tend to be run by people who have immigrated to London.
(Left) Tad in Hackney | ( Right) Taste of China – Greenwich Market
One of the reasons why I think London is so amazing, is because it has the opportunity for us to gain different perspectives from people, by having conversations and learning about their food and cultures. I therefore tend to go back to a lot of the same places, as I love building relationships and the familiarity gives me comfort.
What is your process for producing photography and content?
I bring my camera everywhere with me because I never know what I am going to see. With the content I produce, I love the spontaneity of it and most of time it is unplanned. When I produce content, people have told me that it is really distinctive and I love being able to express myself freely in the way that I want.
On my visits I am always keen to see who has cooked my food and if I am allowed, I try to visit the kitchen of the places I visit. I do not really feel comfortable eating somewhere I have not thanked the people who have cooked my meal. My photography tends to be a lot more natural and I like to talk whilst taking pictures so it’s a mutual exchange.
I normally ask permission to take my photographs on the day, because a lot of the places I visit are so small and there is no way to contact them in advance. Most people are very friendly and do not mind me taking their photo. A lot of the people I photograph are from older generations and I feel it is important to represent them, as they are not as documented in the media and do not always know how to platform themselves online. It is important to learn their knowledge and appreciate their hospitality before it fades.
What upcoming projects do you have in the pipeline?
At the moment I am doing some freelance work for people within the food industry. However, in addition to this I also have some goals I would like to achieve for Routes and Froots.
Before the Covid-19 – Pandemic, I used to plan trips all across London, however I now mainly focus on the area that I live which is Tooting. I like to do things deeply and un-forced which takes a lot of time, so focusing on one area has helped with that.
Tooting is incredible, there are a lot of interesting places and it is a great place for stories. I have been living there for three years and I feel like I am part of the community. Speaking with the local shop owners, I have learnt to what extent they have struggled or done well this year and I feel like I would like to help and give back.
Tooting Businesses – (Left) Adings Kitchen | (Top Right) Lahore Falooda | (Bottom Right) Shabir’s Mangoes
I want to think about how I can actually help them through writing in a better way. Who am I writing for? And if it doesn’t feed directly back to the people cooking, then it doesn’t feel justified in having a place. I can do this through articles and press, but this isn’t as photography led, is not always accessible, and quite structured and intellectual.
I have an idea of doing a little e -booklet for tooting as I have so much content. Hopefully, it will encourage people to have an open mind and to see things differently. I would like to encourage people to eat for the experience and the joy, and to also have respect for the people who have prepared their meals behind the scenes.
By the end of the year, I would like my writing to reach more people, in order to help and make a difference to the people I am writing about. I would also like to write an article reflecting over the year. However, this would not be looking through the lens of Covid-19 and would focus on and continue celebrating food businesses this year.
Although it’s good to engage and reference the current climate and topics, I feel it shouldn’t detract from or overshadow the beauty of what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it. Which is sharing good food and joy with people and adding so much value to the places we live!