Originally from New Zealand, Laura studied Law, Politics and Philosophy before embarking on her career in hospitality. Following a move to London, Laura became the Managing Director of a high-profile events company, producing events for luxury fashion, art, music and private clients.
Laura then opened the first Caravan in 2010, with partner Chris Ammermann and friend Miles Kirby. Caravan was a pioneer in all day dining in London, offering fresh healthy bold flavours from around the globe, as well as great in house roasted craft coffee.
Laura is passionate about supporting the next generation of hospitality entrepreneurs, having recently joined Plan B – a UK Hospitality Mentor Initiative, with a focus on helping more women into senior positions. She recently appeared on the BBC’s My Million Pound Menu as an investor and is keen to invest in exciting, up and coming concepts as well as provide mentorship for those with a distinct community or sustainability focus.
Where did you pick up your love for food?
Growing up in New Zealand, my upbringing had a really strong connection with the land and the sea. We have a beach house at the top of the South Island in the Marlborough Sands that our family visited since I was a baby. This is where learned to dive for lobster and scallops, deep sea fish, scour the sand for cockles and then fillet and smoke our bounty on the barbecue.
My grandparents also had a large farm on the Canterbury plains outside of Christchurch and we’d spend many a joyful holiday there. We would help feed the lambs during lambing season, hang out with deer and other farm animals and over the Christmas break, pod the peas and beans by a beautiful creek that ran through the farm for Christmas supper.
Both sides of my family are very social, and I grew up around huge family feasts and fondly remember robust dinner conversations and great food. I was also the oldest of four girls and Mum had her own business, so I often helped with preparing the family meal – something I loved doing.
Were the rest of your family foodies too?
Yes, my whole family love food. Dad makes a mean roast and mum loves plant-based dishes. My cousin is Margot Henderson (Rochelle Canteen / Arnold & Henderson events) so food definitely runs in our family.
What was the inspiration behind Caravan’s ‘well-travelled’ food ethos?
I think it comes from our love of food from everywhere. Growing up in New Zealand you are exposed to lots of different cuisines and we have a rich culture of Asian, Pacific Rim, and international food. Also, we all love to travel, and that has hugely influenced our menus. The first menu at Caravan was very much a reflection of some our favourite dishes from our travels, and we continue to approach our menu changes in this way. We are magpies – constantly seeking inspiration from everywhere and innovating all the time.
Do you feel a lot of pressure to be at the forefront of such a great food scene in London?
Yes, but it’s good pressure! I’m a firm believer in applying a bit of pressure, constantly, but in a constructive way to involve everything in our business, including food, creative innovation and development. I confess to waking up every morning thinking to myself – “what can we do better today?” – which is not something I can switch off. It is amazing to be part of such a diverse, thriving and creative dining scene in London. It wasn’t like that when we first arrived 18 years ago, and I think we all push each other forward to create and innovate better every day.
Has imposter syndrome ever been a challenge for you?
Honestly no. I am really lucky with that as I know it’s a super common challenge for women especially. I am blessed to be confident and unphased by the fact that (in our sector) I am often the ‘only woman in the room’. Of course there have been many times when I’ve felt the pressure and felt outside of my comfort zone – but I like a challenge in life. What I am passionate about is doing whatever I can to support women to start their own businesses and get into senior positions in our sector. There is much work to be done here, but we are making some positive moves.