Red’s Hot Women internship: THE FOODIE EXPERIENCE

26-03-10 – Last Day

Posted in Uncategorized by Katie Bryson on March 26, 2010

Well it finally came around – the last day of my internship. I almost didn’t want to go in so it wouldn’t have to end – if that makes any sense at all?!

The office was full of talk about the Delia and Heston three minute ad that aired on TV last night.

By 1pm the rhubarb and pork figures were in! Delia’s rhubarb brulee recipe had inspired customers to buy a massive 42,000 units of rhubarb. Heston’s tip for cooking roast pork had sent people into stores for a whopping 19,000kg!

I imagine those figures will be increasing by the minute!

The main task today was helping out with a big event that Maria had organised for all the partners at Head Office promoting the Delia and Heston campaign.

Neil and his trusty food team cooked up hundreds of portions of roast pork which they served in bread rolls, and mini pots of rhubarb brulee (blowtorching the top to make the yummy crust).

Loads of partners turned up and there was a great atmosphere, so it was a lovely way to finish my internship. I manned the raffle so got the chance to talk to pretty much everyone there.

I was really overwhelmed when the Food Team whisked me off to an office to present me with a card and some thoughtful pressies – totally unexpected.

I’m going to really miss everyone and have felt so welcome and included. It’s only been four weeks but I feel like I’ve been working there for months. It’s going to be very weird not going back on Monday.

The team have gone out of their way to make my month varied and interesting.

I feel that as well as the valuable insight into the way Waitrose operates, I’ve gained so much from a personal perspective.

It was quite scary making the decision to take voluntary redundancy from my long standing job and career at the BBC. It was a comfortable pair of shoes that I could have kept on my entire working life.

However I took a deep breath and decided to make a change. The internship at Waitrose has given me a renewed confidence and self belief that I don’t think I could have got anywhere else.

I’ve made some great contacts, worked with some fantastic people, learnt a lot about the food industry and above all confirmed that I’m ready to get myself a new career!

Thanks again to everyone at Waitrose for making my month so amazing. You’ve not seen the last of me I hope! Thanks Red Magazine for the opportunity and a HUGE thank you to my friends and family for supporting me and reading my blog!


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. 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 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.

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.

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!

22-03-10 – Behind the scenes with Publications

Posted in Uncategorized by Katie Bryson on March 22, 2010

I decided to have a day on familiar ground in the world of Waitrose Publications. With my journalism background and passion for food it felt like a logical place to gather contacts and get a feel for how things work.

The department is buzzing with the Heston and Delia project and the imminent launches that surround it.

The first full length advert featuring the foodie twosome is due to broadcast on Thursday, so the Partners are fastidiously getting everything ready. It’s such a high profile campaign that the attention to detail is beyond crucial.

Alongside the ad, Waitrose’s high quality magazine Waitrose Food Illustrated will be relaunched as Waitrose Kitchen and a special Waitrose Weekend newspaper will be hitting stores for the first time.

I was lucky enough to get a sneaky peek at both today and got to meet both Editors. I’m an avid reader of WFI so was curious to see how it’s changed. I’ll not give too much away, but I’m looking forward muchly to chopping out loads of the recipes and giving them a try – I’m such a food magazine addict and have a never-ending thirst for new recipes to road test on my hungry boys!

It was also cool to see some of the people featured in the magazine from the team at Waitrose who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting during my internship.

The weekend newspaper is a great idea. I can imagine leafing through it with a nice a cup of coffee after doing the weekly shop. Waitrose customers are total foodies, so getting a weekly dose of food news will help them stay ahead of the game!

I also had a good rummage around the Waitrose web offering today. Waitrose Live is a really flashy site that’s as close to reading a glossy magazine as you’re going to get. It’s beautifully put together and full of great meal ideas, tips and videos.

My Waitrose is a cool part of the site that personalises the whole experience. I’ve signed up and started my own recipe scrap book and taken part in foodie debates and votes.

Courtney, who looks after the web side of things asked me to research and write some food news stories which I happily got stuck into. It was heaven browsing around to see what’s new in my favourite world.

Among the more mainstream events I found a great offbeat foodie gathering happening this weekend – London’s supper club scene are hosting an underground Farmers and Craft Market in someone’s house – how cool is that?!

They say it’s going to be “a mashup between an edgy cool entrepreneurial anti-establishment anarchist fair, Borough market and…a school fete!”

Some of the stuff on offer sounds intriguing including, knitted kitchenware, a talk on making cheese in Peckham airing cupboards and the current holder of the speciality trophy for the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championships, will be showing how to make the perfect bowl of porridge and selling spurtles!

Sounds surreal and sublime all at the same time.

I’m off to the food hall at John Lewis Oxford Street tomorrow to help launch a new line of chocolates – fabulous!






16-03-10 – Spicing things up

Posted in Uncategorized by Katie Bryson on March 17, 2010

I was lucky enough to take part in a cookery course today alongside some fellow Red Magazine competition winners.

Experienced chef Lawrence Brackstone took us on a journey of history through the medium of spices.

Once more valuable than gold, and responsible for the discovery of entire continents, spices have a magical quality that can transform the most humble of dishes into something that just sings.

It’s a shame that they sit unloved in old glass jars, misunderstood and faded in a lot of kitchens. I’m totally guilty of this and feel inspired to have a good old clear out this week and start again!

We learnt that spices are like coffee – as soon as you grind them and release the flavour you must seal and store them in the fridge/freezer.

We were all tasked with creating two spice blends each. I made a really fragrant Japanese blend Shishimi Togarashi that included ingredients like dried tangerine peel, schzwan pepper , chilli and sesame seeds. I ground it up in a pestle and mortar – quite a workout.

Next up was an Indian blend called Sambhar. It demonstrated nicely the yummy effect roasting your spices has on their flavour – sweetening and intensifying after just a minute or two in a dry hot frying pan. Once cooled you grind them up. Marvellous.

I made a right old mess of myself – turmoric everywhere – bright yellow fingers and bright yellow face! I’m such a child around food – always have to bathe in everything I eat and cook!

After a yummy lunch and chat with everyone it was back in the kitchen to watch Lawrence apply the spice blends we’d made to the types of dishes we could impress our friends with.

Chunks of butternut squash, onion and garlic were fused and sweated with the Jamaican Jerk blend for 10-15 mins and then blitzed up with chicken stock to create a totally delicious soup.

A few chicken breasts were rubbed with my Japanese blend, blasted in a super hot oven for 10 mins and transformed into an aromatic juicy taste sensation fit for a summer barby!

Mackerel fillets got a Morrocan spice treatment and the normally unremarkable onion bhajee got a beautifully delicate overhaul.

I’ve always loved a curry but now feel inspired and confident enough to ditch the pastes and get stuck in myself! Curry night – bring it on!!!!!

As if this wasn’t enough we were treated to an hour’s cheese tasting by Food Hall Manager and vastly experienced cheese connoisseur Mark Himsworth.

We had a spread of about six cheeses all to be sampled with very particular things.

The light and fluffy goats cheese was best eaten with chilli spiced beetroot on wafer thin crackers from Australia.

The Stilton worked wonders on water biscuits with quince preserve. All taste sensations and all complete with fascinating back stories about where it’s made and who makes it.

I could have spent all day listening to this – foodie gold dust!

I am totally enthralled and in awe of how much knowledge these guys have – it’s infectious!

Can’t believe it’s all going to end next Friday. Wonder if they’ll notice if I just keep turning up?!

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03-03-10 – The word is out

Posted in Uncategorized by Katie Bryson on March 4, 2010

Well first thing’s first – the hush-hush exciting announcement is in the public domain – Waitrose is teaming up with Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal for a massive advertising campaign!

One mention of an ingredient by Delia gets home cooks stampeding into the supermarkets – this is going to be a powerful project me thinks.

Waitrose is the supermarket choice of foodies, so Heston’s alliance with the brand will sure to get the more experimental market covered off.

It’s not two names you’d ordinarily put together, but I’m really looking forward to watching the campaign unfold. What a great time to be here!

Back in intern land I started the day with ‘benchmark fruit tasting’. This involved sampling three plates of the same fruit and scoring it out of 10 on things like looks, texture and flavour. Really fascinating how they can differ and the guy holding the panel gave me some top tips of what to look out for.

Did you know that the spots on the skin of nectarines shows that they’ll taste sweeter coz they’ve got more sugar in? Brilliant!

Went along to a meeting with a supplier and their development chef. Watched as they cooked up their products for us to taste. It’s great being in on the discussions as the Waitrose Team chat about what works/doesn’t work with the type of products we’re sampling and where they see them sitting within their ranges.

I’m such a supermarket geek – I’m totally lapping it all up!

I fitted in my run today to attempt to burn off all this food tasting! Got slightly lost in a housing estate in Bracknell but found my way back to Waitrose HQ with the help of my trusty iPhone GPS!

01-03-10 First day at Waitrose

Posted in Uncategorized by Katie Bryson on March 1, 2010

After 11 months of maternity leave it felt heavenly to be back in the adult world today! Waitrose is a truly welcoming and inspirational environment. There’s so much going on and the staff all feel very happy to be there.

I had a short induction to the ways of Waitrose and then it was down to business. I was introduced to all the Food Developers on the team who are in charge of their specialist areas – ranging from biscuits and snacks to ready meals and cheese – they’re all such experts with so much experience that I feel really honoured to get even a snapshot of their working day.

Doing “grown-up” working experience in my thirties is a world away from my very first work experience placement, aged 14 on my local magazine where you’re just some spotty geek who feels in the way and unable to really get involved. It’s really liberating to have the confidence to chat to all these industry specialists who I wouldn’t ordinarily have access to and just get stuck in!

It’s so refeshing to be working in such a different environment. I’ve worked as a journalist for 11 years but am SO ready to try something new. This competition couldn’t have come at a better time for me!

On the agenda today was familiarisation with the buildings, the team and their working practices. I managed to take part in two tasting panels where I had the opportunity to try out products that are being developed for Waitrose. I quickly realised being on a diet was going to be more than a challenge this month!

It’s fascinating as a consumer watching how the team decide what it is about a product they like – and what elements need changing to make the grade. It’s an incredible privilege.

I’ve got a pretty varied and impressive schedule for the month and I’m really excited about what’s in store. Tomorrow I’m off to Wales for the Annual Conference where I’ll be on the “Waitrose Essentials” stand, alongside all the other new and stand-out ranges. It’s going to be a great introduction to what this supermarket powerhouse has to offer.