Style And Substance

Culinary artist Charlotte Forsyth discusses the inspirations behind her menus and tablescapes, and how lockdown proved the catalyst for co-founding HANDS, a supper club and food events business.

How would you describe your journey towards creating a supper club and food styling business?

My husband and I have always loved hosting and this has naturally evolved into everything I do now. We run HANDS with our two friends and, as a four, we work together seamlessly, encouraging and utilising each others’ skills. 

The four of us started HANDS during lockdown, missing being round a dinner table together. The sense of community and the energy; the magic basically that happens when people come together to eat. We initially started off as a supper club and it naturally progressed to us putting on events for brands, whether it be a food spread, event management, tablescaping or all of the above. 

Who, where and what inspires your recipes and tables?

​​Tables of times gone by, when the table was the heart of the home. When people took pride in setting their table, building up their silverware and linens. In other countries this idea still persists, but then again so does the time taken for long lunches or dinners. Greece and Italy come to mind. For food we’re inspired by old cookbooks – such as from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. 

What inspires your table aesthetic?

I guess it’s an amalgamation of many things – travelling around Italy and adoring the style of old trattorias, discovering beautiful silver pieces at Portobello Market, looking through old cookbooks and loving how the tables are set. It’s something that constantly evolves too, but I think it also stems from a return during lockdown to time at the dinner table being something to celebrate by setting the table and spending all day cooking. We all turned to food as a release and fell in love again with cooking. We already loved hosting and cooking of course, but this collective shift, and having so much extra time, created the space to indulge in the art of setting the table. 

How do you develop new ideas for recipes and designs? 

My creative process could begin by something I see when I’m out that triggers an idea, or it could be from looking at what’s in season, or heading to one of my favourite delis for inspiration. If I’m working on something for a brand, I may make a moodboard of ideas based on a brief/seasonal food/an aesthetic and then go from there. 

How do the seasons inspire your work?

​​The natural order of the seasons and regenerative food are essential to my tables, so nature is always present. Seasonal cooking is at the heart of the cooking we do at home and also for HANDS. At home, we have a huge seasonal calendar in our kitchen and this is our starting point for all recipe ideas and testing. If we all ate seasonally, we would get the nutrients we needed to sustain us through the current season. Food that is in season tastes better, it’s healthier and it sustains the local community. By eating seasonally, we connect more with the present moment, noting the food that’s available and why. This inspires everything I do. 

“Summer in London is heaven – the energy is incredible. Everyone is out all the time in our parks, soaking up the sun”

What makes a beautiful and balanced tablescape?

A plain canvas, which for me is generally white and silver in the form of a tablecloth and silver platters and props, against florals and food of the season. A mixture of food which is bright and bold – vegetables, fruit, fish, against more beige foods – butter, bread, always lends itself to a beautiful end result. 

Which part of the world is home to you? 

London is my home. I grew up just outside of the city and spent my weekends travelling in, yearning to live there. We’re very lucky here; the food scene is one of the best in the world and there’s always so much to see, to do. We celebrate all cultures, which lends itself to having excellent food from every corner of the globe available. I also feel inspired by our arts and culture scene and the people I meet. 

Summer in London is heaven – the energy is incredible. Everyone is out all the time in our parks, soaking up the sun, ordering pizzas and eating ice cream; meeting friends (old and new). We’re thankful for good weather here. We’re known in England for having a lot of rain, so when summer hits, we embrace it. There is nothing better than a long, balmy evening. The smell of summer; the sweetness of seasonal flowers, the smell of BBQs absolutely everywhere. And, of course, the produce. I can’t wait for English strawberries! 

Any favourite summer flowers?

I love peonies and carnations – these flowers remind me of pleats. Both my favourite clothing brand (Pleats Please by Issey Miyake) or pleating in classic restaurants in Italy. I also love the richness of the grass and wildflowers. Summer is so abundant. 

Describe your perfect summer gathering?

In our flat we have beautiful light from very high ceilings as we live in an old perfume factory. In summer we often have the doors open and it feels like we’re half outside. Having people over for dinner to enjoy one of the wonderfully long evenings we enjoy here in summer, watching the sun set, wandering in and out with a wine in hand, is my perfect summer day. 

What’s next for you and Hands?

I am planning Will and I’s honeymoon to Mexico in October. We’re travelling around and the main focus is, unsurprisingly, food. We’re planning to do a food residency with HANDS at some point this year, too, so watch this space. 

Follow Charlotte’s culinary adventures @charforsyth and

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