My job as Sales Executive for Lavolio takes me all over London to meet the faces behind some of our best known delicatessens and fine food stores. On my travels it soon became clear that one common character trait of these industry players is a complete obsession with food. Their passion for grub is what keeps them coming to work with a spring in their step. If you talk to any buyer or deli owner you will very soon get a sense of the Herculean efforts they have made to source the very best meat, vegetables and products for your larders.
We, the public, are becoming increasingly concerned with the provenance of our food. Surprisingly, post-economic depression, we are actually opting for higher quality, more artisanal products than ever before. The free-from market is growing and we see more vegetarian, gluten, dairy and wheat-free products on our shelves every day. Independent food stores are embracing this change and I am constantly impressed by the variety of products they source (including Lavolios) giving supermarkets a run for their money. I would like to give you a brief introduction to some of my favourite delis and a snapshot of the extremely talented and visionary people running them who are shaping our food scene.
1. What has been your fondest memory of working at Partridges so far?
One of my fondest memories was to be involved in the Coronation Festival last year which took place inside the gardens of Buckingham Palace. It was a lot of hard work but it was a once in a lifetime experience and the atmosphere was brilliant - certainly beats sitting at my desk answering e-mails! There was a great team spirit, wonderful weather (self-tanning under the indoor spotlights, it was immensely hot!) and a fantastic concert had by all.
2. Do you have any customers that receive special attention?
Obviously we do our utmost to provide the best possible service to all our customers, however sometimes we will receive requests for more unusual products which require that extra effort to obtain. For example I have gone to China Town in Leicester Square for pickled mango in brine – not an easy find!
3. How do you as a business reach out to the people in your local area?
Our food market on Duke of York Square has been really successful serving as a sort of hub, bringing people far and wide to the area. We often also support local school and charity activities by donating raffle gifts.
1. What part of being a food buyer do you most enjoy?
The best bit for me is finding new and exciting products that you don't see all over town. Meeting the people who make them is great too, and when the products are a roaring success it's a bonus!
2. What one piece of advice would you give somebody who is embarking upon your career?
Keep your eyes open all the time when you're out and about so you can pick up on what's happening before it's happened. It's always worth giving smaller producers a shot - they usually offer something different to the big boys!
3. Is there a recently launched food or drink brand that you love and would recommend?
We've just started stocking breakfast cereals made by Spoon, a London-based company who have just launched a retail range. Their cinnamon granola is really, really good.
1. What aspect of your life has changed the most since leaving your career as a top banker?
I have had to learn to carefully plan things way ahead of time, closely follow their execution and monitor their implementation day by day.
2. What do you most enjoy about your job/new life?
Bringing to our customers a little bit of authentic Italy every day.
3. What dish/product would you recommend for lunch at La Bottega?
For a sunny day there is nothing better than our hand cut buffalo mozzarella (flown from Naples on Tuesday morning) with Datterini tomatoes from Sicily and a side of rice, spelt and barley salad with roasted vegetables.
1. Which part of your job gets you the most excited?
The opportunity to interact with customers and to be part of the community.
2. If you hadn’t formed Minkie’s, what do you think you would be doing instead?
I would probably be working in property and construction.
3. Do you have any special plans for the Christmas period at Minkies?
We are planning to have a great range of confectionery, gift boxes and delicious treats to fill our Christmas socks!