Red’s Hot Women internship: THE FOODIE EXPERIENCE

25-03-10 – Mucking about in the kitchen

Posted in Uncategorized by Katie Bryson on March 25, 2010

Today was a real treat – I visited the Queen of Hearts bakery in Oxford who supply all manner of tasty treats for Waitrose.

It’s not a place to watch lots of machines in action, it’s all about skilled workers doing most of the work by hand.

After a breakfast of freshly baked warm scones with butter and jam it was down to business.

I saw Easter cakes being lovingly iced and decorated, juicy pies getting their tops on and best of all the Easter cupcakes getting piped with butter cream and special sprinkles on top – my kind of place!

The objective today for the Waitrose team was to brainstorm ideas with the Queen of Hearts  to come up with new products. It was absolutely brilliant being included in the discussions and I really felt like everything I’ve been seeing over the past month is really coming together now.

We headed down to the development kitchen at the bakery for further inspiration.

Stacey the NPD Manager had laid out loads of empty pastry tart cases and all manner of different fillings and toppings. Then we were allowed to get stuck in and come up with all kinds of creations to help inform the development process.

What a treat! Between us we came up with a myriad of delicacies that we had no idea whether they’d work or not. They were put in the oven to cook while we headed back upstairs for further discussions.

Getting a product from concept to shelf is a fascinating process, and one that requires not only creativity but also a fastidious eye for detail and commercial prowess.

Seeing the Product Developers in action at these meetings, I’ve really got a grasp of the level of detail they must go into to achieve the special results that Waitrose products demand for their discerning customers.

The last thing to do was to sample the results of our crazy kitchen session. It was surprising what had worked and what was a disaster! But we were all quite proud of our little creations!

I adored getting stuck in with the food today and experimenting. I also loved being surrounded by hundreds of cupcakes – my little food obsession!

Last day of my internship tomorrow – I can’t believe it’s almost over!

23-03-10 – The food hall experience

Posted in Uncategorized by Katie Bryson on March 23, 2010

Today was a truly indulgent day – I’d been really looking forward to it and it didn’t disappoint!

My first mission, set by Mark Himsworth, Product Manager of food halls, was to scope out the food hall at Selfridges. Tough gig. I mooched about for an entire hour drinking in the buzzing atmosphere, and myriad of niche products.

I picked up a tube of Umami Taste No 5 (also available at Waitrose) which I’ve been dying to try out, bought some quirky Japanese panda biscuits for my four-year-old and did some research at the Lola’s cupcake counter. http://www.lolas-kitchen.co.uk/ I’m an avid cupcake creator so love seeing what the professionals are up to.

Other delights were the delicate macaroons of every pastel shade, glittery magic cakes from Konditor and Cook http://www.konditorandcook.com/products and sparkling wine with gold leaf in it! How much fun you could have with an unlimited budget.

So by now I was fully in the zone and ready to hit the John Lewis food hall on Oxford Street. http://www.johnlewis.com/Shops/DSTemplate.aspx?Id=531

It’s a more conservative offering than Selfridges, but a world away from a regular supermarket. The perfect looking fruit and veg is all in lovely baskets, there’s a special room just for cheese, the most perfect looking meat counter and a great wine area.

What also makes the experience so special are the products in the food hall that you can’t get in regular Waitrose supermarkets. Hand made ravioli with venison centres and a massive range of artisan breads – the list is endless.

The customers there are never just doing their weekly shop. They’re picking up something delicious for lunch, and later on they’ll come back and get something special to take home to whip up for supper. It’s a well heeled crowd with money to burn.

Mark was there to set up an amazing line of gourmet chocolates by Austrian company Zotter. http://www.zotter.at/en/home.html

It’s organic, fair trade, and comes in hundreds of flavours – you can get pretty quirky combos like chocolate with bacon bits, or how about cheese, walnuts and grapes?

There’s a fabulous range of drinking chocolates too. It’s not powder but fingers of sumptuous flavoured chocolate that you drop into a cup of steaming hot milk, wait for it to melt and whisk it up. Amazing. I’ve tried it tonight – bourbon and vanilla – lush!

So we assembled the special display, loaded it up with chocolate and then rearranged it a lot until we were happy with it!

The chocolate attracted a lot of attention from the customers. Even before we’d finished putting it all out, people were asking us about it and swiftly putting it in their shopping baskets.

The packaging is super funky and the combinations so unusual that it’s bound to be a hit.

It’s been amazing getting an insight into Mark’s world. It’s taken months of work and preparations to get Zotter chocolate into the food halls, so it was great to be there for the grand unveiling!