Helen Groves meets Jackie Turner of Cumbia Kitchen to discuss South American food, vegan cheese and her Carnival pop up at Sugarpie Honeybuns.

I got to know Jackie last year when we were both struggling to operate businesses through ‘those’ times. I watched with interest when she opened Cumbia Kitchen on the pier, as her food is incredibly tasty. Jackie now runs three diverse businesses; I thought I’d find out about her journey.

Jackie started cooking in South America. She was teaching in Colombia for seven years and during holidays she walked for hours across rough terrain to visit Playa Brava – an eco-resort on the Colombian coast. She started cooking for guests from all over South America who would share dishes from their regions with her. She gradually built up an extensive knowledge of South American food.

CREDIT: Helen Groves

On her return to the UK, she enrolled at Leith’s cookery school. Embracing her great love for Arepas she started a stall at Hastings Market, and Landgirl Larder was born. She catered for local charities and the council
and sold hot sauces and preserves (all from her own allotment) at markets and arepas and cassava fries at festivals – they were runners up at the Sussex (Street) Food Awards 2020.

The pandemic sadly put a stop to some of Jackie’s plans, but then the pier reopened, and she launched Cumbia Kitchen.

Jackie says: “We had an amazing response to our menu over the Summer. We take typical street food from South America and adapt if for our local market. For example, Milanesas, an escalope of meat or seitan – my favourite menu item – are typically breadcrumbed, but I use polenta for extra crunch. Many menu items are naturally gluten-free; before South America was colonised by Europeans, wheat was unheard of so typical dishes are often corn-based. Our menu is more than 50% vegan and we have a big local vegan following. We try to be as sustainable as possible, composting food and disposables, using organic or home-grown veg and solar-powered lighting.’’

CREDIT: Helen Groves

In 2020 Jackie joined Extinction Rebellion and went vegan to reduce her carbon footprint. She wanted to start making vegan cheese, so she read about dairy and vegan cheese-making processes and started experimenting. Towards Christmas she perfected her cheeses and advertised them on social media. The response was incredible! She asked Nathan James to create a logo and launched Its Nut Whey! cheese. I can confirm it is absolutely delicious. Jackie’s aim is to find her own premises by the Autumn. Watch this space!

Look out for her fantastic Barranquilla Carnival pop up at Sugarpie Honeybuns on Wednesday 2 March. A fabulous four-course South American meal with a special guest performance by Colombian dancer Marlyn Lopez – a great way to end Fat Tuesday week!

Find Jackie at: Sugarpie Honeybuns: 2 March @sugarpiehoneybuns
The Pier with Cumbia Kitchen: from 1 April @cumbia_kitchen
St Leonards Market: the first Saturday of every month
@landgirl_larder @its_nut_whey_cheese

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