Celebrating the end of one of my classes
Quality and consistency have been my mantra this week. Training sessions with the local caterers have been well received which is a credit to all those who attended. I always feel humbled when speaking to a anyone who is using their own money to run a catering business, knowing the hours they are putting in, the trials they face and what little free time they get.
My sessions this week drew much of the content from my years as a Chef Proprietor and the highs and lows of being the proprietor of my own business. The audience encompassed the full spectrum of catering styles from take away burger van and local supermarket cooks, to the head chef of the town’s hotel and seasoned guest house caterers. I even had a couple of the crew from the RMS St Helena. All were keen to hear from the “food lady” as I have been nicknamed. Everyone on St Helena has a nickname and is known by it rather than their real name. All I can say is thank goodness they picked something flattering!
Visits to the caterers in their premises have been part of the project which has given me a great insight into the talent and keenness to grow business over here. The internet has enabled many to keep up with trends from afar but the main stumbling block for any growth is the lack of customers owning to the irregularity of the RMS St Helena schedule and the small numbers she can carry. The local market is the only market on this little island of 4000 or less folk. This of course is set to change once the airport contracts are signed and the first spade (or JCB) hits the dirt. The only difficulty here is that the locals have been hearing about this new airport for the past 10 years or so and so far no airport! There is reluctance to invest in new fixtures and fittings etc until there is solid evidence that this airport is going to happen. I appreciate this and would be doing the same thing, however when the business takes an upturn it’s going to be almost overnight. Subsequently many of my conversations with proprietors have been about planning for the event. We should know for sure by the end of November which is a shame as I will be back in the UK by then.
My food adventures continued with one of my “students” bringing me a bag of granadillas, these are part of the passion fruit family and are absolutely delicious, although the flesh is not as pretty (its grey) as the common purple passion fruit we seen in the UK the flavour is just as zingy and full. They grow on a vine and can take over a garden if uncontrolled. I wish some of our invasive plants in the UK could produce such lovely fruit; I suppose blackberries could qualify although granadillas win as they fruit almost all year! Breadfruit was also brought for me to take a look at although not in season at the moment.........perhaps next visit!
The wealth of fruit and vegetables on the island is amazing, although it’s found in people’s gardens rather than in shops. Travellers have brought back specimens and nurtured them over the years. This means that you ask someone whether there are any pomegranates, limes or lemongrass on the island, they will tell you who has the plants! Avocado and mango trees are pretty common but alas not in season for another four to six months! Chiles grow wild and can even be found in the castle gardens. It will be hard to go back to UK shopping habits for sure!