By Sasha Filimonov
Rapidly ascending a rattling metal staircase as howling winds rush past, you turn a corner and come upon an oasis – a tented rooftop dining room equipped with fairy lights, jet-engine heaters, and a kind-faced woman who is extending a tray of steaming beverages. Entering the space, you graciously accept a hot buttered rum cocktail and sip on the sweet, robust concoction in preparation of the feast ahead.
Tonight’s main attraction is Fonduta, a Northern Italian version of fondue prepared with young Fontina cheese, raw milk, and butter. With seven courses ranging from roasted parsnips to thinly sliced smoky meat, all served as accompaniment for the endless steaming pot of decadence, it’s wise to fast for a few hours before the event. This is the Forza Win(ter) supper club – and it is entering its final days on the wintery rooftop. The thoughtfully curated event is the passion project of founder Sebastian Redford, a.k.a. “Bash.”
Admitting that he had been “rabbiting on” about starting a supper club for ages, he finally took action in the summer of 2012. “If I hadn’t done it, I would have become that ‘all talk’ guy,” he says.
While spotting a story about the Pizza Pilgrims on a friend’s blog, Hollowlegs, he had a “sudden storm of the brain.” Off he went with the Pilgrims, discussing the concept and hashing out the details over a few pints – everyone was keen. However, his initial plan to host the event in his backyard failed. The pizza van would not fit through the gate. But rather than throwing his hands up in despair, Bash continued his quest and soon thereafter came upon an idyllic rooftop space in Hackney where Forza Win would be brought to fruition. While working full-time on the supper club, he simultaneously runs another business called Temper Works – focusing on design and marketing. His aim is to grow the two alongside each other and make Forza a long-term production.
His summer rooftop pizza club drew in hordes of requests, and Bash knew they were in for round two. Yet he came upon the name Forza Win(ter) before deciding what cuisine they would actually be serving. “I called the only bona fide Italian chef I know, a chap called Bruno Elias, who immediately enlightened me as to the ways of Fonduta. When I asked if he could make it, his response was something along the lines of ‘Are you joking? I grew up on the stuff!’”
For the night’s entertainment, Bash explains a ritual selection that he and a partner go through, “We have massive rehearsals, a bit like X-Factor. I sit there with Johnny and we tell people ‘NO’ or ‘I’m going to make you famous baby!’ ” Of course this is all in jest and he says that they reached out to friends in search of performers and happened to come upon Josh Flowers & the Wild. They have been warming up the room with their soulful, blues-twinged rock as they get the supper clubbers involved in sing-alongs (of songs the crowd has never heard…a laudable feat).
Bash’s affinity for food stemmed from being raised in a hotel with a mother who prepared everything from scratch. But seeing the difficulties facing restaurateurs as he came into adulthood, coupled with repeated pleas from his parents to pursue another industry, he took up a career in marketing.
Seven years later, his love for food and events has overpowered the initial rationale and he couldn’t be happier for it. While he admits to lacking the attention span to open a permanent space, Bash has several projects planned for 2013…but they are still top-secret.