It was a bitterly cold Saturday morning in mid December when I set off to the Holkham Festive Food Fair. I was looking forward to seeing my artisan hot sauce being showcased on the chefs stage, if I said it hadn’t been pre-occupying my mind the previous week I would be lying! lol πŸ™‚ It was going to take about an hour to get there so I had plenty of thinking time on the journey.

After about ten minutes I found myself being quite reflective of the last few months and what had happened … I couldn’t believe it to be honest, I’d set up a artisan hot sauce business, released two products, had actually sold some!! (probably about 200 bottles), and had RocketShip on the shelves of some pretty cool places namely Brick and Jarrolds in Norwich … not bad for an IT bloke that can’t cook πŸ˜‰

If I’m honest, It had been a struggle at times particularly juggling the ‘day job’Β  … when I was working away from home RocketShip effectively stopped, other than a bit of social media and answering enquiries I couldn’t really do anything. My weekends and evenings were spent producing, bottling and labelling, any spare thinking time was spent figuring out how to market and sell Hot Sauce. There were lots of trips to Newbury with Dan who was constantly encouraging me and coming up with plans and ideas.Β  I can’t complain as things were definitely getting busier which was fantastic, and here I was about to have my sauce show cased at a pretty prestigious food event in North Norfolk.

Holkham is a wonderful place, as you turn into the estate from the main road you’re greeted by the fantastic Victoria pub restaurant, great food … in particular their breakfasts … I had often wondered whether they’d be interested in my hot sauce πŸ™‚ that was the way my mind was working now!! I was trying to find selling opportunities everywhere. The drive into the Holkham estate is magnificent, as you enter grounds you’ll find extensive parkland with roaming herds of deer with the fantastic Holkham Hall in the distance … a great venue for an annual food event.

I stopped at the car park and explained to the attendant that I had some deliveries for the Food Fair … I’d brought a few sample bottles of Original and a couple of bottles of Supernova for Charlie to use. I parked my car up, grabbed the sauce and made my way across to the hall. The Fair was located in the Lady Elizabeth Wing of the main hall, an ideal venue with a lovely self contained courtyard at the front. It was a hive of activity and preparation, wooden shed like stalls were neatly arranged across the courtyard with the producers busily getting their produce arranged and signage in place … I felt quite envious and wished I could have been setting up a RocketShip stall.

As I approached the main door I spotted Sam from Walsingham Farm Shop setting up his stall … Walsingham has an amazing array of locally sourced produce, it also has its own butchery and deli, the homemade pies are incredible. Sam and I met through Charlie, he runs the farm shop in Walsingham and they also have a market stall in Norwich, and of course they stock a range our sauces :-). We had a quick chat and he told me he was also doing a stint on the chefs stage later on in the day.

I went through the doors into the main area and similar to the courtyard there was a hassle and bustle of people getting their stalls setup, there was a real buzz about the place. I noticed a few familiar faces, Candi from Candis Chutneys, Stephen Newham from Crush Foods plus a few producers I’d seen but not spoken to before . In the distance I could see a stage with some advertising behind it .. Charlie was there talking to someone, we had a quick chat, I gave him the sauce and I went for a wander. The hall quickly started filling up with people and I could see why they had come along, the place was filled with Norfolk’s finest food and drink … from cheese producers and Gin distillery’s to Norfolk Charcuterie and Real ale .. an amazing choice, and a great opportunity for me to meet a few more local producers.

Around midday Charlie appeared on stage and started to host the various chefs demos, these guys were creating some wonderful dishes, Sam from Walsingham was doing a butchery demo and a local chef called Eric Snaith was also there … Eric is the owner of Titchwell Manor a fine hotel and restaurant along the coast from Holkham, he’s an accomplished self taught chef and good friend of Charlie’s. We’ve stayed at Titchwell a few times, if you’re ever in North Norfolk I recommend giving it a try.

To be honest I was a bit pre-occupied with waiting for Supernova to make an appearance, the bottle I’d given Charlie was on the counter of the stage waiting for it’s entrance lol … You can just see bottom right of the picture πŸ™‚

Around 3pm Hardeep appeared on stage with Charlie, there was a lot of banter and a bit of crowd participation, it was a real double act, really funny… If I’m totally honest I can’t remember the type of curry the guys were making, but I know it looked pretty tasty and as they were completing the dish Charlie picked up the bottle of Supernova and started to pour some into a small dish. ‘I’m going to put this on the side, if people dare to try it’ he said …. ‘the most amazing chilli sauce made locally … Graham are you in the building’?

I raised my hand, ‘over here mate’ πŸ™‚ ‘and you’re releasing it today, Supernova‘ that’s right … Hardeep tried the sauce, and asked me a couple of questions about it. He then stopped and said ‘ good taste, its actually not as hot as I thought it would be’ …. I was thinking give it a few seconds …. then bang! ‘Wow, that is hot’ he said … the sauce had done exactly what I’d hoped, lots of flavour with the heat coming in a little later … perfect.

After the guys had finished, I went over to the stage and thanked them, it had been great and Supernova was officially launched … I had a few people come up to me asking me lots of questions about Supernova, where can I buy it, do you have a stall here today … I was thinking I should have bought some with me!!! Another lady approached me and introduced herself, ‘hi I’m Suzy from Bace Foods‘ I’d seen Suzy’s company on some social media posts, she makes plant based meal pots which can be used to create a whole range of recipes and dishes, they looked great … I thought the company looked really professional, I asked her where she was based, thinking she’d say a food production plant somewhere locally … ‘in my kitchen in Hethersett’ she said and we both laughed. Suzy was looking to do some collaboration … using my sauce in some of her recipes, fantastic πŸ™‚ We chatted about the sauce and what I’d been using it with and agreed we’d trade products and give them a test run … she seemed great, and we hit it off straight away. I’m sure Suzy will get another mention in the Diaries later on … she’s made some fantastic dishes, her creativity with ingredients and recipes is brilliant … I keep saying she needs to write that book πŸ˜‰

Next week I’ll talk about how I started to scale up production, more customers and my first farmers market.

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