Custom Food Lab is a food and art organisation led by food activists, artists, researchers and community-makers. We are committed to exploring the entangled web of care and support that feeds into the systems of life that in turn feed the planet.

Through our work with artists, academics, scientists, environmentalists and activists, we redefine the terms of institutional imaginaries, creating and commissioning work that addresses the strategies we need for survival beyond times of virus and climate change and into the realities of a new green deal or post climate collapse social orders. We engage communities creatively with food systems, making opportunities for creative change and transformation.

Working mainly from Folkestone, Kent, we began in 2018 as Custom Folkestone C.I.C., a restaurant, garden and art space. From our mobile kitchen we offer a creative catering service, using locally and ethically sourced ingredients to make extraordinary stories and landscapes in food.

You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller

Custom Folkestone was created to take the known model of a restaurant and operate it as if the world was how we wanted it to be: equitable, generous, expansive and intersectional. We explored the food economy through art making, set about creating a bartering system to minimise cash flow in the commercial setting of a working restaurant and made opportunities for learning in our kitchen garden – established from nothing on a building site on the edge of a car park with 50 mph winds in winter!

Custom Folkestone made liberal use of the term ‘Locavore’, with the firmly held belief that a localised food network was the only feasible methodology for achieving food (and environmental) security and a better future for our community. Localism has never meant isolationism for us, it is about starting small and creating a world in which people can make informed decisions about what and how they eat.

“Folkestone is a few short moves away from being a Kent coast spot that is about to ‘pop’. A key marker for this nascent and quickening uptick is Custom Folkestone…

“The menu cartwheels through myriad influences, whirligiging from skate with wild garlic miso and sweet pickles to Folkestone huss cured with Walmestone Grower’s beetroot and Dockyard gin; from a pitch-perfect slab of Jansson’s Temptation to borscht with homemade yoghurt and apple. Scallop wontons make an appearance in a sonorous chilli/ginger broth – chillies with plenty of kick, from their own plant – while ‘Crabaroni’ cheese featured this week, crabs freshly steamed from Folkestone Trawlers and combined with Ottinge Court Farm cheese, their version of the Swiss cheese Mutschli.

“Ahead of the curve? Custom is part of the curve, and it’s only going to get better.”

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Custom Food Lab is guided by a team of directors brought together by a shared trust that only through radical and multiplicitous strategies for occupying food systems can we make transformative change within those systems. We continuously draw on both the overlapping and individual skills and knowledge sets of the directors and other people we work with to make Custom Food Lab a fluid, adaptable and responsive organisation.

Cherry Truluck – Creative Director
Cherry is founder and Creative Director of Custom Food Lab. Following a 15 year career in live art, theatre and architectural design, by 2015 her work had taken her in a culinary direction, exploring conviviality and commensality through socially engaged food/art projects. She is driven by a conviction that localised food production and food knowledge are intrinsically linked to a better future for us an the environment and her previous work with East Cliff Kitchen explored how artists could intervene in food systems to generate positive outcomes for their community. Custom Folkestone C.I.C. was conceived to further that mission.

Madeleine Collie – Curatorial Director
Madeleine is an artist and curator. She has guided Custom’s art programming from the start, curated 2019 festival “Something Held in the Mouth” and is leading our 2020 research programme. From 2016-2019 she was curator of the award winning collective memorial project: The Ash Project, an urgent cultural response to the loss of the Ash tree from the Kent landscape. She is is a current PhD candidate in the Curatorial Practices programme at Monash University, MADA, where she has a three year scholarship for her project centred on artist led new institutional forms.

Kate Hickey – Director
Kate is a passionate activist for environmental and social justice. She is an active and caring member of the Folkestone community, as well as an enthusiastic vegetable gardener. Kate is Communications Manager for the Kent Downs AONB, so with this expertise and insight, she also guides Custom’s communications and marketing, keeping us responsible and honest.

Dr Meredith Wiggins – Director
Meredith is a researcher and analyst, passionate about climate change adaptation and the power that knowledge of the past can give us to create a more just, sustainable future. Her deep understanding of the intricate connections between government policy, cultural activity and environmental crisis are vital to the way we make decisions as an organisation. Meredith is currently based in Washington DC, where she is an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow.

Zoe Tallon – Director
Award-winning architect and design consultant, Zoe is our newest board member. As we delve deeper into issues of food security and land use, Zoe’s knowledge of the built environment is going to be crucial to our thinking. Based in London, she is also a well-travelled foodie with a wide knowledge of international food cultures, and regular volunteer on community arts projects such as the Peckham Film Festival.