Which came first: your passion for making cakes or the ‘Great British Bake Off’? Was your first foray into dinner party entertaining because you thought you could do better than some hapless ‘Come Dine With Me’ contestants, or was it driven by something deeper in your soul than the telly? Did you first put tweezers to pin bones as a result of Rick Stein, or was it something that simply had to be done after your first exposure to the gleaming, twitching ice-carpeted fish counters on your first holiday to Spain? Asks Richard Fox, guest contribuor, author, food & beer expert and live events host at Farm Shop & Deli Show.
Personally, I remember in my early teens being compelled to go and buy a quarter pound of fresh prawns from my town centre fishmonger (oh, those were the days) while the assembly of my boisterous buddies headed off to the nearest sweet counter. Such unorthodox behaviour in the presence of school mates would normally be avoided at the thought of major mick-taking, or at least be shrouded in secrecy. However, my passion for all things food was too strong to succumb to the mere threat of a schoolyard ribbing. Consequently, my Saturday afternoon forays to the fish monger were conducted with such confidence and certainty as to their merit, that the boyish banter simply did not materialise, or if it occasionally did, I didn't notice. And so my passion was free to bloom and blossom over the years, culminating into the fully fledged career of my choosing that it has now become.
However, we must also be wary of an unchecked passion. It can all too easily become a frightening roller coaster that we can't get off until it crashes, taking our dreams and aspirations with it. The good thing is, the speciality food business is a particularly spacious and potentially stable vehicle when it comes to accommodating a huge variety of passions. So, to refer back to the opening analogies, let's take a look at how our passions can be shaped into a viable business model. And what better place to start than a new hot trend for 2018 as identified in the Waitrose food and drink report for 2017-2018.
According to the report, the days of the big weekly shopping trip are numbered and with it, the overloaded trolley shedding precariously balanced toilet rolls as it bucks and twists from one over-populated check out to the next. Apparently, our food-focused shopping incursions are set to become a whole lot more holistic. As we fill our baskets, we may be enticed to attend the next in-store supper club experience, or perhaps take a little time out at the wine bar located enticingly by the check-out, in order to replenish our souls as well as our cupboards. This must surely be good news for the speciality food business. Let's face it, its very existence is based on the premise of a more experiential shopping experience. It's time to dig deep and let those passions run free once more. Perhaps that unfulfilled desire to cook a meal for strangers can still be fulfilled within the walls of your farm shop? It’s time to start thinking Tardis rather than telephone box when it comes to the constraints of your four walls. Your passions don’t even need to be food related. I have seen more than one rurally located pub or bed and breakfast offering bicycle maintenance, hire, and general cycling-orientated add-ons to capitalise on the burdening business of cycling.
The bottom line is, passion cannot be faked. It enables us to be fearless in the face of obstruction or set back. It is the powerful force that can catapult us to greatness. However, as Issac Newton so profoundly stated: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and just as passion can launch us into the stratosphere of greatness, it can just as easily propel us into the abyss of financial and personal ruin. Passion must be guided and tempered by knowledge, care and common sense. Having said this, there are very few of the greats out there whose lives have been shaped and defined by their passions that don't have a story of near or actual ruin on the way. What separates them from the also rans is an ability to adapt and learn from mistakes and quite simply, never give up.