If you love food, chances are you’ve fantasized about escaping the rat race and running a cute little beach café somewhere, owning your own vineyard or baking cakes all day.  Who hasn’t, eh?  But what would it be like to live out your fantasy?  Is it really a dream come true, or just a lot of hard work?  Gallery spoke to four local foodie entrepreneurs who’ve turned their culinary passions into their career, and finds the proof is in the pudding…

 

Lesley Garton,
The Chilli Kitchen
Local jam and chutney maker Lesley Garton’s business began in late 2008, when she started making preserves using only local produce. Just over two years later, The Chilli Kitchen has expanded to include a range of more than 30 chutneys, relish, jams, jellies, a cordial, a squash and a hot chilli oil, available at the island’s Farmers’ Markets.

How did it all start?
We have four large Bramley apple trees in the garden of our farm, and there’s only so much apple crumble my family can eat, so I started to look at other ways of using them.  During a visit to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage, I came across a great recipe for Indian Spiced Apple Chutney and now it’s my best seller and none of our apples go to waste.  It’s been such a success that I completely ran out of apples last season and had to get extra from friends.
What were you doing before?
I worked at Social Security, but left to bring up my two daughters, Lucy who is eleven and ten year-old Beth.
What’s been one of the hardest obstacles to overcome?
The high cost of product insurance almost stopped me from starting but through my Membership of the Genuine Jersey Products Association I now get it free from Islands Insurance who sponsor the Association.
What have been the highs and lows of the business so far?
One couple bought some Twisted Sister Hot Tomato relish while they were here on holiday, and loved it so much they were sneaking it into the hotel restaurant to add to the food!  They ordered more jars as soon as they got home, and have been back to Jersey to pick up even more!  I love the idea that they just can’t live without it.  As a result of that I now regularly send jars to customers in the UK.  And the low point?  It would have to be December last year, when it started snowing on the day I was due to trade from the much sought after Genuine Jersey market spot just off King Street, and we had to pack up early in a blizzard.   
What’s been your biggest achievement so far?
Selling every last jar during La Fête dé Noué’s Christmas Market at Weighbridge Place.  It was a great market and I loved meeting and talking to all the people who came down, the feedback was great and has given me the energy to do it all again this year.
How tough is it to run your own food business?  
It is hard work – when you’re not making or selling your products, you’re thinking about them, but I’ve enjoyed working for myself and getting to know some of the local growers.  
Any advice for wannabe food entrepreneurs?
Keep it local.  Give my husband (John Garton) a call at Genuine Jersey, he’s been a great help to me!

The Chilli Kitchen  
Tel: 737277
Email: thechillikitchen@jerseymail.co.uk

 

Emma Carlton,
Sweet Inspirations
Chef Emma Carlton has always had a passion for puddings, and after spending years in pastry kitchens turning out five-star desserts, she launched her own business “Sweet Inspirations” in 2009, producing a range of patisserie products including her award-winning sticky toffee pudding which you can pick up for yourself in the island’s Co-op and Waitrose stores.

How did you get into dessert making?
From a young age I loved to bake at home in the family kitchen. I’d always dreamed of being a chef, and after catering college my first chef’s position was at a five-star hotel in Newcastle where I was lucky enough to train with a Parisian patisser.  
Was it a straightforward transition to running your own business?
Not really. After spending many years working within the catering industry in different roles, I decided to take a break.  Working for a telecommunications company was a completely different challenge which gave me a new set of skills and also enabled me to take a step back and consider my future.  I had a strong desire to return to my passion, but at the same time, I wanted to work for myself.  
What have been the main obstacles and pitfalls?
The main obstacle was finding the right kitchen premises that would suit the business and still be reasonable enough for a start up.  There have been plenty of pitfalls, but I’d say one of them has been discovering which advice is sound… or not.  The most valuable lesson I’ve learned has been to listen to myself.
Tell us about the highs…
2010 was an amazing first year for the business.  Launching at supermarkets and restaurants across the island, as well as a restaurant in London was incredible.  But I’ll never forget the Good Taste Awards at Fortnum and Mason where the sticky toffee pudding was awarded three gold stars – the highest rating an artisan food product can achieve.  For a first-timer, the result was incredible.  I had to pinch myself the whole evening!
And the lows?
It’s really hard work and at times, absolutely exhausting. Not everyone sees the same potential as you, so I had to knock harder on some doors to achieve results.  Thankfully I’ve had incredible support from friends, family and customers.   
What’s it really like to run your own food business?
It takes a lot of hard work and many hours to achieve results.  But when those rewards come, sometimes unexpectedly, it’s even better than you could have possibly imagined.  
Any advice to wannabe food entrepreneurs?
Believe wholeheartedly in your products and your capabilities.  Take the rough with the smooth, be prepared to learn and most of all enjoy what you do.
Find out more about Emma Carlton’s pudding range at www.sweetinspirationsjersey.com
 

Paul Talbot,
Jersey Coffee Cart
Jersey’s brand new pedal-powered Coffee Cart has become a regular sight around the streets of St Helier, selling piping-hot coffees and even freshly made galettes and crêpes.  But how did it all begin?  

Where did the coffee cart idea come from?
I was visiting my uncle and aunt who live on a barge in St Katherine’s Dock in London, and on my way to London Bridge one morning I spotted a three-wheeled Italian coffee car one morning.  I started researching them online, found my coffee bike and fell in love with it!  Ding ding!
What were you doing before?
Lots of things!  I’ve been a stonemason and a lifeguard, but after studying 3D design at Brighton University, I came back to Jersey and became involved in the Arts Centre where I stayed for three years, organising outdoor events such as the dawn concerts and the summer solstice celebrations. And yes… it was me who brought over the big wheel over!
What have been the obstacles and pitfalls?
Last year’s rainy August was definitely a pitfall – I’m praying for a good summer this year!  Finding good staff is always a challenge, I’ve been lucky so far and it’s all been by word of mouth, so if there’s anyone out there who fancies themselves as a barista and crêpe-maker extraordinaire, then get in touch!  
Tell us about the highs and lows…
The highs are anything from observing the children's faces as they watch you make crêpes to the interesting people you meet.  I met this really interesting Irish couple last summer who lived on a boat in the harbour.  I ended up on their boat a few times over the summer, singing Irish songs and listening to their endless jokes and tales.  One of the best things about the coffee cart business has been the friends I’ve made amongst the other food stall holders.  We all look after each other, and trade goods. The lows – cleaning up after an event!  
Is running your own food business amazing – or just a lot of hard work?
I really enjoy working for myself and once you start so many doors open.  It is very hard work and it is by no means easy, but it’s worth it, I would recommend it to anyone!  
Biggest achievement so far?
The crêpes. I had the idea on a Thursday, went to France on the Friday to buy equipment and by Saturday I was making and selling them at an event.  It’s amazing what you can learn on YouTube!
Any advice to wannabe food entrepreneurs?
Do your market research, find your niche and don't put all your eggs in one basket. Try to keep your overheads down in the beginning, don't be afraid to ask your friends and family to help out.  Speak to Jersey Enterprise they helped me out a lot.  And good luck!
Find out where the Coffee Cart’s going to be next by following it on Facebook or checking the website – www.coffeecart.je
 

Jamie Racjan,
Fungi Delecti
With 15 years of experience growing and supplying the finest ingredients to chefs here and abroad, Fungi Delecti is truly a local success story of turning your passion into your profession.

Fungi Delecti began…
…almost as a challenge as part of a university trial.  Could we grow shiitake mushrooms traditionally – organically and on logs – in the British climate?  When my father Mick started growing a fantastic quality of shiitake mushroom, and all our family and friends were sick of eating them all, it was agreed I’d start taking them to Jersey’s hotels and restaurants. I was armed with a make shift invoice book, an industrial quantity of mushrooms and a “rabbit in the headlights look” that told everyone I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing. I did have a great product though.
And where’s Fungi Delecti now?
We’re still growing shiitake but also producing our own herbs, baby salads, micro vegetables, hens and duck eggs.  We also have a thriving wholesale side to the business sourcing the latest and very best ingredients from around the world.  
What have the obstacles been?
The same as everyone – cost.  Every twist and turn that our business has taken has had to be invested in from scratch.  
The highs and the lows?  
There haven’t been too many lows, just a few things we would have probably done differently now. The highs are too many to mention.  It’s thanks to the fantastic chefs and business people we deal with that we are where we are now.  Another high is to work with John Garton of Genuine Jersey.  It’s through John that we are able to host the students from Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant every year, which is an amazing experience.  
How much work has it taken to get Fungi Delecti to this point – and is it still fun?
It is still a joy to get up and go to work in the morning! After all, there aren’t too many people in Jersey who get to start their days by listening to a request on an answer phone at 3am asking us to source a really good quality Crocodile tail. (Thanks to Danny Moisin from Danny’s Restaurant for that one!)
Biggest achievement so far?
Family!  Without a second’s hesitation, Fungi is and always has been a family business.  We all live on site and Fungi has become our way of life. Think of us as the Jersey version of the Waltons and you won’t be far wrong…
Any advice to wannabe food entrepreneurs?
Wholeheartedly belive in what you are doing. Show your passion and drive on your sleeve and always be willing to work harder and longer than anyone else.
www.fungidelecti.com