After over 20 years working as a Chef, my most recent venture was the role of Head Chef in the Central Bar in Navan, Co. Meath: a multi award winning establishment and great place to work. Like everybody else in the hospitality industry, the Central closed its doors temporarily due to the pandemic. We opened when it was safe and allowed but then closed again following the reintroduction of public health restrictions.
After the first lockdown I decided I should pursue a dream I had always had and that was becoming an artisan food producer and sell my wares. Baking, bread always fascinated me, I wasn’t too interested in the pastry aspect of cooking but baking, I loved.
I contacted the HSE and they were so supportive and understanding. They gave me the green light to trade and sell my baked goods and so I was set. The HSE experience was straightforward, I lodged my interest with them and received a site visit where I laid out my intentions and they reacted accordingly with what was allowed or not etc. It was a very pleasant and rewarding experience I must add. They then registered me as a food producer, and I received the necessary documentation. I also had to take out my own public liability insurance which again through MAST, was a painless procedure.
I set up a small bread table outside my house and began ‘trading’. Things began slowly but positively, and I soon became involved in online markets within the community, which I might add were amazing and so supportive of my little venture. For me personally, the switch was easy, I was in the food trade for years and had the knowledge and experience to start up a small business. Tapping into contacts within the industry always helps, I used suppliers that I had dealt with in the past and had built very strong relations with.
We set up a stall daily at our house and soon people were requesting different items and we built a strong customer base. The farmers markets then started up again after initial lockdown and we became permanent features at these, expanding our customer base and our offerings. These were a great community effort and show of positive community spirit.
We continue to attend the markets which grow in strength by the week.
We also have the lucky and honour of supplying to the ‘oak room’ restaurant in Cavan town each week with our sourdough baguettes - a great restaurant and team to be involved with.
My attitude towards pricing is simple, I keep my costs down as I am the only ‘employee’ and my time is my own, I provided a quality product at an affordable price, mainly because of little to no overheads. When it comes to packaging, I keep it simple - I use recycled brown paper for almost all our products.
Each week brings something new and exciting our way, even in these trying times, people are creating new and innovative ways to engage in food service and production. Food & coffee trucks are popping up and serving wonderful food and drink. We hope to link up with a few in the near future to expand our offering and customer base yet again.
So, to summarise, my experience in the last year has been difficult but also rewarding. My advice to other professionals thinking of doing similar is to assess the project and your potential customers. Hospitality will never be the same so let’s adapt to the new ‘NEW’.
One door closes and another one opens.
My attitude to it all was to switch roles and not switch off.#COVID-19#LocallySourced#NewVenture