Red’s Hot Women internship: THE FOODIE EXPERIENCE

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!