Food, Glorious Food!

Recently I visited Food Matters Live, an exhibition about all things, you’ve guessed it, food.  As I was interested in emerging and maturing trends,  I honed in on a variety of niche products.

What struck me, and I don’t mean to sound critical, is the number of “me-too” products there were. For example gluten-free products and protein bars were everywhere. Hence my concern; is there room for them all in what seems like rapidly maturing markets as these products become more mainstream?

However there were some product highlights for me. And funnily enough all are protein based….

Fori bars – most protein bars tend to be sweet but sometimes after exercise you crave something savoury (bovril & peanut butter on rice cakes is my go-to snack on such occasions).  This is where the Fori bars come in. They are paleo and made from free-range meat, fruit and seeds.  A soft, sort of jerky in a bar if you will.  Fab for when you need re-fuelling on the go. I really hope they succeed as it’s a product unique from the other protein bars currently on the market.

Borough broth – I could have drunk a whole sachet in one go.  The most delicious organic bone broth I have ever tasted and I could feel it doing me good as I drank it.  (Maybe it was a placebo effect of the phrase “bone broth” but I don’t care!). All the bones are sourced from Soil Association Organic farms in the south west of England from grass-fed beef and organic chickens.  What a fantastic way to use what would otherwise be, a waste product.  I’m meeting with the founder, Roz in the New Year as I really want to find out more about the business.

Eat Grub – Don’t be squeamish but this brand is all about using insects and grubs as a protein source.  And I nibbled on some delicious crickets as a snack. More popular perhaps is grinding the insects and using them in products such as pasta and protein bars. I had long chats with the founder Shani Radia who mentioned that the UK was lagging behind other countries at accepting insects as a protein source (The Netherlands is leading the way).  There seems to be is a long way to go in educating the British consumer and our palate. Just think…

  • It takes 22,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef protein vs 1 litre of water for 1kg of cricket protein*
  • 45 square metres of cultivable land is required to produce 1 kg of chicken protein vs 15 square metres for 1 kg of cricket protein*

*Eat Grub stats

I really hope that all 3 brands gain traction. They deserve to.  They are all fantastic products developed and run by passionate people who truely believe in what they are doing.

 

 

 

Do you have the right skills once you’ve been promoted?

I had a bit of a revelation this week…

Much to my dismay I didn’t get a job that I really wanted but in my heart of hearts I knew I wouldn’t get it, even though they said they liked me, for 2 reasons:

  1. They kept me hanging on for over 2 weeks to make their decision
  2. I admitted in the interview that doing a hard sell wasn’t my thing.  I don’t mind approaching individuals if we had something tangible to talk to them about but I don’t feel comfortable walking the corridors drumming up new business and “cold calling”

Bear in mind that this was for a client services role and not a sales/ new business role.  And I’ve done well in my career, developing my teams and increasing revenue through existing projects; hence why I have been promoted.  But the hiccup seems to appear at the Group Account Director level when you are expected to sell your services to new divisions of your client’s business.

So therein lies the rub…you are promoted to a new level because of your historic successes but there is not the support or training in your new role to ensure your future success.  For me personally this would be around sales techniques but for others it could be for e.g. around team management, technology, financial forecasting or business strategy.

Admittedly in my previous role I probably should have asked for training but to be honest it never occurred to me (call me daft).  It was only once I had my most recent interview feedback and also had a coffee with Jo Wright @ Phoenix Training & Coaching who gave me some invaluable insight into approaching businesses, that it dawned on me.

But why do companies fail to give you the support?  Do they presume you will naturally be good or at least learn as you go along or do they simply not recognise that an individual could do with support to succeed whatever their level within a company?  I acknowledge they have finite training resources but from my experience this is usually spent on more junior members of the team and not mid-senior management who are the driving force of the business.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not bitter about losing out on the job but it’s made me realize that I need to:

1) Reframe my thinking from “sales” to “nuturing relationships” and “solving problems”. I’m know I’m good at the last 2 but at the word sales; I freeze

2) Swot up on good new business techniques to futureproof myself

3) Darn well ask if I need additional training and support in a role

I’d love to hear of your experiences and what you think…..

 

What does happiness mean to you?

I have been on an amazing journey these past 8 weeks.  Admittedly physically not very far – to Esher and back every Wednesday evening to attend an Action for Happiness course.  But emotionally……

Before you switch off and think oh, no not another happy clappy post; just spare me a moment and have a think about what happiness means to you? Not just about you as an individual but how we can make the world a happier place.

Needless to say on the 1st evening I blurted out the stock answer “family and friends” and of course for some there’s loads of others too; a big house, fast car, designer handbags, 5* holidays, money but do they really make you happy?  Think about tolerance, acceptance, belief, understanding, loyalty, openess, friendships and the communities you are part of e.g. work, home, friends, family, online, sports clubs, dog walking – they don’t even have to be particularly profound relationships but they can make you and your environment a happier place.

Just to cite one example….I woke up the other morning in a right huff about my husband (again I hear you shout), life and the world in general (I’ll blame it on those darn hormones).  I stomped off with my dog for a walk and on it I chatted to 2 other dog walkers – who I will probably never see again – about inane stuff.  Walking back home I felt much chirpier and on reflection realised it was all because I had struck up a conversation.

The things I really got out of the course were:

  1. Be outward looking – the more egocentric and insular we are the more miserable we feel
  2. Say hello and smile at everyone you pass (perhaps not always possible on a crowded commuter train when everybody might think you’re a little potty shouting hello to one and all) – it will make someone’s day and make you feel happier too. As an aside there’s a lovely 90 year old man who pops into our local Budgens at least 2 or 3 times a day.  If you see him, please stop and chat as he would love to have a natter.
  3. It’s in our nature to dwell on the negative so at the end of every day jot down 3 good things that happened to you.  Could be the smallest things such as noticing the cloud shapes in the sky or singing along to your favourite song but it will help change your mindset.
  4. The importance of communities in supporting and bringing people together.  One thing we discussed is the decline of intergenerational families and communities and how important they are in society. What can we do to address this?
  5. How we treat and perceive others – we’ve all been there.  You take umbrage about somebody’s behaviour.  But take a moment and think what might have gone on with that person moments before.  Are they having a particularly bad day; is there something not quite right at home etc etc.
  6. Reflect what things make you happy and take some time for yourself to do those things.  My 2 loves before children were tennis and film neither of which I do enough of.  So I’m going to try and go to the cinema once a month (matinee please as it’s so indulgent) and play tennis once a week.  For one of the other participants in our group it is having fresh flowers in the house. The simple pleasures…
  7. Let’s start small.  The conversations with my Action for Happiness group are continuing as we all want to contribute to our local communities and spread the word.  But it doesn’t have to be anything radical….watch this space!

Finally, I wanted to share a three videos and a podcast with you which are worth watching/ listening to if you’ve got the time.

Before I go I want to share this little poem (Anon) which a dear friend at school taught me and rings so true:
Laugh and the world laughs with you
Weep and you weep alone
For the world has need of your mirth
But has sorrow enough of its own.

 

 

 

 

 

My mantra …the 2 Ps

I’ve had an amazing summer with my daughter – the 1st one ever that I haven’t been working.  But now as she settles into her new school and autumn is most definitely upon us I turn my thoughts to work…

It hasn’t exactly been the most productive year for me so over the next few months I’m muttering my daily mantra “PERSEVERANCE & POSITIVITY” as I knuckle down and reconnect with old work colleagues, attend networking events and apply for roles which have my name written all over it – (apparently not judging by the number of rejections I have had this year).  But as the-font-of-all-knowledge (i.e. my hubby) puts it; it’s a numbers game.  When he said this to me the other day it was like a slap round the face as I was licking my wounds about a rejection.  It pulled me up short but he’s true.  There’s work out there just for me but I’ve got to hunt (stalk?!) it down.

However I take heart form the article I read this morning on The Pool about a 48 year old mother being given an internship at The Spectator.  How awesome is that?  What’s even better they did not request a CV, name, age or qualifications but they recruited purely on a set of tasks the applicant had to execute.

So where does that leave me as I turn 48 this week too?  A friend of mine who used to be in recruitment suggested that I should dumb down my CV if I want to go for less senior, more hands-on roles but I’m not sure how I’m meant to pare back over 25 years experience. Or if I really want to…I don’t mind taking a step back but it’s finding the companies who are forward thinking about recruiting the right person with the best cultural fit irrespective of age, sex and background.

It’s going to be a tough gig but I’ll get there by by-passing the traditional recruitment agency route and and approaching growing brands and agencies where I see myself fitting in and who, in return, will hopefully see the benefit of my experience.

Wish me luck!

Perseverance, positivity, perseverance, positivity, perseverance, positivity, mutter, mutter mutter….

P.S If a recruiter thinks they can help me then I’m all ears

 

My love affair with food

I was going to write another self-indulgent post this week and then I thought “Emma, get a grip”.

Instead I thought I would write about food.  I would describe myself as a bit of a foodie and yet, weirdly, I haven’t written a blog about it although I seem to think about the darn stuff for at least 23 1/2 hours a day. I admit it; I’m greedy and love all food – I try and be healthy but you know what sometimes nothing beats a pint and packet of crisps (Walkers Cheese & Onion to be precise).

I’m pretty sure it’s genetic as I was reading the diary my nanny (I know!) wrote and even when I was still in nappies I would throw a strop if there wasn’t chocolate cake for pudding.  Plus I lost the top of a finger helping my mother mince roast lamb to make shepherd’s pie – let’s not go there either… And, as I grew older I was allowed to choose the restaurants for our family special occasions.  In my mid-teens my favourite was Coconut Grove (I think it’s a Carluccio’s now) in St Christopher’s Place off Oxford Street.  It was Caribbean-themed and you could order gaudy cocktails and have platters of ribs, chicken wings and anything else that gave a nod to those tropical islands.  I still salivate at the thought.

My love affair has continued fueled by a number of years in the wine industry, eating and drinking at Michelin-starred restaurants and surrounding myself with foodies working on delicious. Magazine and Sainsbury’s Magazine.

Now that family life dominates, my husband is more of a fuel-for-life kinda man and my waistband has increasingly thickened my tastes have changed and I long for simple foods beautifully executed with fresh, clean flavours. Our go to treat at home when we have people round for dinner is a rare rib of beef with Vietnamese coleslaw.

I would say my favourite restaurants in Central London which I will happily go back to time and time again are Roka, Barrafina, Quo Vadis, J Sheekey, Lima and you can’t beat The Hawksmoor chain for some serious steaks.  Locally our go-to restaurant is Naturally Chinese and for special occasions The French Table but I do wish Kingston had more independents as they all seem to be chains.

And in terms of cooking, I do like to create but I also have a folder full of recipes that “one day I’ll cook” and a shelf loaded with cookbooks.  I did a sort out recently and sent some to the charity shop as I just never used them.  However I go back to the same books/ chefs time and time again:

Mary Berry’s Cookery Course – I bought that for our au-pairs so they could learn the basics and it’s a really good reminder for basic weights, temperatures and cooking times for classic home cooking

Nigella Lawson – Kitchen – you can’t beat her recipes as they work and taste fab.  Try her lemon polenta cake or chicken with 40 cloves of garlic and you’ll be hooked

Made in India – Meera Sodha – a new and v welcome addition to my collection.  Delicious curries, salads, breads and chutneys.  So far I’ve tried the chicken and fig curry, masala roast chicken and chaat salad. Yum!

Dan Lepard Short and Sweet – he’s my go to for baking and bread-making.  Easy to follow down to earth recipes. Banana butterscotch cake, farmhouse loaf and his long-prove sourdough are my weekend hit list bakes

Anything by Ottolenghi as long as I’ve got the time and ingredients.  His recipes can sometimes feel rather long-winded but they are worth it if you’ve got the patience.  I did his version of a Waldorf salad and I could have troughed the lot before our friends arrived for supper

Falling Clouberries – Tessa Kiros – a loving collection of recipes from around the world and from her family.  Mouthwatering and I’ve yet to find a better carrot cake recipe (sorry Dan)

Finally I really enjoy reading Felicity Cloake’s column in The Guardian.  I love reading about the history of recipes and the different versions chefs make.  She then creates the definitive recipe based on her research.  I’ve made her gazpacho and cinnamon buns recently and they’ve gone down a storm.

It would be lovely to hear what your favourite restaurants and cookbooks are.  I’m off to cook Bill Granger’s stir-fried  Vietnamese lemongrass chicken….