The Modern Mess

Jen Pomeroy smiling to camera.

Jen Pomeroy

The Modern Mess is a recipe subscription service that inspires people to get good at seasonal home cooking in Christchurch.

Words by: Emma Sage, Sage Journal
Photos by: Nancy Zhou

The meal inspiration hub, The Modern Mess, was developed by Jen Pomeroy, a qualified chef based in Christchurch. The online members’ portal holds more than 500 recipes to choose from. Each week she shares seasonal recipes, foodie information and inspiration in a weekly email and Facebook group.

Can you tell us a little about your background that led you to starting The Modern Mess?

I’m a trained chef, and started working in cafes before moving into a catering job at White Tie Catering. I worked there for eight years, before having my first child. I went back to work in a small restaurant called Shop Eight while I was pregnant with my second. The Modern Mess was born when my youngest was one.

Did you always know you wanted to be in the food industry? 

I always wanted to be a chef and was really interested in cooking from an early age, especially food from different cultures. I have early memories of making pho and dal as a young teen.

If you had to write a mission statement for The Modern Mess in a sentence, what would it be?

The Modern Mess inspires people to be great seasonal home cooks.

How did you land on the name: The Modern Mess?

One night I was bathing the kids after dinner, and the house was a mess. The words “modern” and “mess” came together in my head. They intertwine modern food and cookery, the feeling of the ‘mess’ of a food hall (kinda like feeding kids at times!) and the sometimes-state of a family house (like mine!). It all fits well.

What's the best piece of food advice you've received?

- Take the time to create flavour. 

- If you use quality meat and seasonal produce you already have an excellent base. 

- Know where your food comes from. 

- It's all about balance. 

- Use a timer!

In terms of eating seasonally, what do you recommend even the most basic home garden should grow?

Herbs and lots of them. Use them as fillers and have them everywhere. They add such good flavour and freshness to meals, and will save you money.

The Modern Mess encourages a mixture of meals with high quality meat as well as regular plant-based meals. What are some tips for incorporating or transitioning to a lifestyle of only eating meat 3-4 times a week?

I'm definitely a fan of mixing proteins. Start by reducing the amount of meat per person and then make the meal go a little further by adding plant based proteins like edamame beans, legumes or tofu. Or swap out meat for an egg - I love cooking with eggs. There are more meat-free options than a curry or a veggie lasagne - experiment with different seasonal vegetables and make them the star of the show.

You're a mum and trained chef. Talk us through how the two roles have become intertwined?

I really wanted to continue cooking after I had children but didn't really want to work in commercial kitchens as the hours aren't very family friendly. I also wanted to be a stay-at-home mum but still needed a creative outlet. It's been a juggle that's for sure! But it’s getting easier now that the kids are getting older.

What advice would you give to parents who struggle with picky eaters?

Everyone is different with what they like to eat, which includes kids. My two girls certainly like different flavours. I'm all about making food nutritious but it also has to taste good. I grate vegetables into meals and also blend in greens. I also offer them a choice and they get to choose what vegetable they would like sometimes. I don't focus on each meal nutritionally but the day or the week as a whole. It's all about balance. Also smoothies are a great way of sneaking in good nutrition. Keep trying and don't give up, just try a different approach or cooking technique.

What lessons have you learned along the journey of starting The Modern Mess?

That it's harder than it looks. And to value your time. Get the right people to do the right job and don't try to do it all yourself. Stop thinking about it and just do it. And to cook how I like to eat, and not how I think others want to eat.

What's next for you and The Modern Mess?

I have a few things I want to do. I'm working with Roimata Food Commons and their project ‘Toha Kai’ and will be doing some community cooking lessons in Woolston and Linwood in Christchurch - focusing on technique, nutrition and seasonal produce. Then we will have to wait and see!