Guest blog: I run a secret restaurant

Thinking about making some extra cash with a pop-up restaurant? Horton Jupiter has been running his Hackney-based enterprise, The Secret Ingredient, since the beginning of 2009.

"I've run a weekly restaurant from my front room since last January - I was inspired by a couple of Swedish situationists called Benrik, who wrote a book called 'This Diary Will Change Your Life'. It gives you a new task to perform each week, and at the start of January last year, it said 'open a restaurant in your front room'.

"I got the back of an envelope, scribbled down some numbers and worked out if I could squeeze 12 people into my front room, I could make about £50 - which at the time seemed like quite a good thing.

"I'm a reasonably good cook so I just started it. It took me about 15 minutes to plan the whole thing. After about three weeks it started to take off really quickly. The first one was six friends, the second was 10, the third was 10 friends and two strangers - by the fifth week, I had 24 strangers, which was a bit weird, but I love an unusual situation.

"Pricing is completely arbitrary. In the instructions for the book, it said 'restaurants usually get two-thirds back', so what I spend is about a third of what I get back on a good day. On a bad day, it's more like double. It's not a living but it's OK. I try to do my bit by giving some of the money to Save the Bees.

"I haven't been approached by health and safety regulators - I figure it must be legal, I've had enough publicity. If it was in any way illegal, they would have come by now. To be honest, if someone did come knocking, I'd tell them to fuck off. Cooking and eating are such natural things - we all do it. I can't believe there's regulation against it.

"I start preparations the day before - it makes it easier when it comes to the day of the meal. The guests start arriving at 8pm. I used to do two sittings, 7.30 and then 9.30, but it made it hard to hang out with anyone at the end of the first sitting because I was trying to prepare for the second - now I'm just doing one, which is more relaxed.

"It's a nice social occasion: people are forced to make friends with each other because my front room's so small. We get lots of different groups of people who wouldn't necessarily speak to each other if they were in a proper restaurant.

"I've had a surprisingly small number of idiots. I can count them on four fingers. One girl walked out mid-meal when she found out there wasn't any meat, and said 'I'm hungry - I'm going for some proper food'. I was thrown, but the rest of the guests were great - and took the piss out of her for the rest of the night. Out of more than 1,000 people who have come through, four idiots is a result.

"Very rarely, I wake up and I think 'I can't be bothered'. It's a very rare occurence - most of the time, I enjoy doing it so much. This morning, though, I had to get up at 8.15 after just three hours' sleep and did kind of wish I wasn't doing it. But you have to soldier on, don't you? And I know I'll love it in the end."

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