Play Hard

Spanish supper clubs and ‘proper’ paella – there’s plenty of reasons why we’re obsessed with Tostada

Roxanne Toal describes herself as a ‘Spain-loving, flavour-embracing chef with a passion for food and the joy it brings’. Which is why we knew we were just destined to become best friends.

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 20.04.2021

Created in partnership with Tostada

Chef Roxanne Toal took a leap of faith during lockdown: to turn her lifetime of love for Spanish cuisine and culture into a business concept. Based in Whitley Bay, she launched Tostada last year – which started life as an Instagram account dedicated to sharing the recipes Roxanne loved making, and quickly evolved into a production centre for DIY meal kits after demand for her culinary creations sky-rocketed.

We‘ve already chatted to Roxanne, after her clear passion for her work, her authenticity and her down-to-earth approach to cooking quickly caught our attention. But now as we’re edging slowly out of lockdown (and having tried a good many of her at-home paella kits ourselves), we thought we were overdue a catch-up – to see just what the post-pandemic world has in store for Tostada. And not to spoil the surprise or anything, but… SUPPER CLUBS!

Remind us what Tostada is all about? 

I created Tostada as a celebration of my two favourite passions – eating and travel, (with a particular focus on Spain). Tostada has been in my head for a really long time, but it was a sequence of events that led to me really giving it a go as a business.

I just love bringing people together with food. Sitting around the table, chatting for hours is the dream. Ultimately, I just want to cook the food I love.

How did you start out? 

Well, I’m a trained chef and Spain has always been a big part of my life. I’ve lived in Madrid, Menorca and Salamanca so it was always my dream to do my own Spanish-inspired ‘thing’. I’d had the idea for a while and always talked about doing supper clubs. But the fear of putting myself out there and a lack of confidence meant I never took the leap. I’m naturally shy and quiet, which is something you might not expect from a chef!

At first, the idea was to share what I was making so people could make it themselves, especially as we were all at home more in lockdown. And I missed being in the kitchen so I made Instagram my restaurant. Lockdown was hard and food makes me happy. I also thought that if I couldn’t go to Spain for the time being, then I’d have to bring Spain to me!

What was the reaction like?

I got a lot of lovely messages from followers saying a profile like mine couldn’t have come at a better time, and that they’d needed a little escapism and inspiration. They told me to keep doing what I was doing, which felt amazing. So I did! Then I had the idea for At-Home Paella Kits, which blew up much more than I could ever have imagined.

What first inspired your love of Spain?

We’ve been going on holiday to Menorca every year since I was really young. Luckily for me, my parents bought their retirement house out there. My husband and I also got married there, and some of our best friends live there. So it’s fair to say that Menorca is responsible for a lot of landmark moments and memories in my life! When I step off the plane, it actually feels like home.

And what is it about the Spanish culture that you love so much? 

Spain is so beautiful; the coves, the architecture, the markets. I fell in love with the way of life, the relaxed nature and, of course, the food. Not just the ingredients, flavours, textures and smells, but the way Spanish people talk about food and the whole dining culture. It’s as if food is never just food – it becomes a moment and a memory, captured in a mouthful. They treat ingredients with a lot of love and respect, cooking simple dishes with incredible flavours.

There’s an integral part of Spanish food culture, referred to as “Sobremesas”, which literally means: “above the table.” Sobremesas is the art of engaging in conversation after enjoying a meal, sometimes for hours at a time. I love that!

Fresh, local ingredients and ‘menu del dias’ featuring the catch of the day, all while looking out to the sea – I honestly can’t think of anything better!

You launched during lockdown, so Tostada in ‘normal times’ hasn’t really existed yet! What are your ambitions for the business coming out of lockdown? 

I’d like to host regular supper clubs, pop-ups and events. I’m catering a few small weddings in the summer, which I’m super excited about. I’m also working on my recipes for some new Toast Toppers – jams, marmalades, sweet and savoury spreads – and I already have a few shops interested in selling these, so (hopefully!) I’ll get to work with some local, independent businesses in the North East and beyond very soon. I’m also looking into hosting some cooking classes too, and I’ll continue the At-Home Paella Kits as long as people want them!

What will your supper clubs involve?

I would love my supper clubs to have that Spanish dining culture I fell in love with and that is now in my heart. The dishes I cook at my supper clubs are special and personal, and are built around simple – but big – flavours. I’m really looking forward to sharing them!

You’ve already collaborated with a few other local businesses. Why are partnerships like these important to you? 

I love to collaborate with other local, independent businesses with a similar love for food and the joy it brings. It’s so nice to come together and have the opportunity to create something new, as well as working with and meeting such inspiring, talented people. I love that small businesses can support each other and really build each other up. I’ve made some really close friends already, it’s been amazing.

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Easy – fish stew. Fresh seafood and deeply-flavoured bisque, in Menorca, overlooking the port: bliss! The location, the memories, the atmosphere and the views hold a very special place in my heart, which only goes to make the food taste even more delicious. Even now, just thinking about being there and eating that meal makes me really happy!

Who’s your cooking idol?  

I have a lot! But if I had to just choose one, then I think I’d have to say, Jamie Oliver. He’s the reason I became a chef. I used to watch The Naked Chef when I was at school and that’s where it all started for me.

Where in the North East are you most likely to go for a meal out? 

Cook House in Ouseburn. I also really want to try The Patricia and Hjem.

 

What’s your life/work motto? 

Balance! Living in Spain, I noticed that the Spanish just seem more relaxed and at peace. There’s a contentment that’s palpable in the air. There is enough time (or rather, they make the time) for family, friends, themselves, and then work. In Spanish culture, food is also sacred. Taking the time to prepare a meal is sacred. Taking the time to relax, enjoy and share food with your friends and family is sacred…

That’s not really a motto, is it?! I’ll just nick these wise words from Dolly Parton, then –

“NEVER GET SO BUSY MAKING A LIVING THAT YOU FORGET TO MAKE A LIFE.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

If (like us) you’re keen to stay in the know about all things Tostada – especially with Roxy’s impending supper clubs coming our way once restrictions ease – then keep an eye on their website and Instagram for updates.

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