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10th Jan 2019

We chat to Ben Lebus, author of the newly-published MOB Kitchen

Mob Kitchen: Feed 4 or more for under GBP10 cover photoWhere does the name MOB Kitchen come from?
There was a gap in the market for food presented in a style for students, and to make it fast. I wanted to get away from food porn. Brand identity was really important too. I was after a group movement/feeling and I didn’t want it to be The Ben Lebus Show. I thought of ‘Kitchen’ because lots of people are involved with running a kitchen, though ‘People’s Kitchen’ was already taken. I thought of ‘Mob’ – a group rising up together – though the last time I wrote the word ‘mob’ was at school and it was to do with a mob storming the bastille. ‘MOB’ is a strong element. It’s a forceful, loud and brash thing. It says ‘Let’s stand up and say we want to cook amazing food!’

What have been some of the key inspirations for recipes in MOB Kitchen?
In the book there are different chapters - Speedy MOB, Fakeaway MOB and so on - so the style of recipe came first. For example, students don’t want to wash up loads of dishes the next day, hence Fuss-free MOB which features one-dish dinners. I wanted clear ideas – that you can eat delicious meals, and cheaply. I started with breakfast first [the chapter Brunch MOB in the book] then organised the recipes by chapter. Also, when I go out to restaurants and have something good I think to myself: ‘That’s delicious! Can I do that? And under £10?’ I used to cook for my family – Dad cooked steak salmon when I was growing up – and I’ve been running my [YouTube] channel for 2 years and have got to know what people like.

You're really active on social media. How does it feel to see people share their attempts at your recipes?
Immensely rewarding. It was just my family at beginning. Then it was mobilising not just family and friends, but a wider circle: friends of family and friends – people with no connection to me.

The book has an emphasis on affordability. How have you managed to put recipes together with that in mind?
I’ve adapted the recipes, and I rely on fact that if the ingredients are under £10 in Tesco they’ll be under £10 in the other major supermarkets. Plus my channel doesn’t just focus on the £10 budget, and that gives me more leeway.

Your book has suggestions for music on each recipe, what do you feel that adds to them?
It’s wonderful that MOB Kitchen is open to collaboration and it’s not just about the food.

What can you tell us about your next book, MOB Veg?
It’s coming in August 2019. It has 60 recipes and they’re all vegetarian. They’re also relatively ‘vegan-able’, meaning they can be adapted to be vegan fairly easily. I’ve seen the MOB moving towards trying not to eat meat during the week and only having it at weekends. There’s definitely a trend now for vegan and vegetarian offerings.

A dedicated MOB following, and a second book coming next year - you’ve made it to the big-time!
We’ve taken massive steps. We got our first studio in London in January [2018] and MOB Kitchen has now sold over 30,000 copies. It’s a Sunday Times Book of the Year ‘despite its shouty style’ - according to the newspaper!

Did you know that when we started selling MOB Kitchen at a special price we sold 100 copies in one day?
Brilliant! I’ll spread the word with my MOB as soon as we’ve finished...

MOB Kitchen is available on our website here.