Cooking up a Food Business
My favourite kind of cooking occurs when I have some time to wing it. I’ve got the direction I’m looking for in my head – I just don’t know exactly how I’ll get there. So I just start. The beer in my hand and a few key ingredients help me begin.
I’ve got leeks. I love leeks when they’re sliced thin and sauteed slowly til they’re melty, the whites with the greens. And then, as I watch them soften down, they start to behave differently than I anticipated. Maybe I didn’t use enough butter? But I can work with this! Dryer means more brown crispy potential. I’ll keep going and see if I can get me some brown crispy. There it is… now other stuff starts to declare itself: sweet potatoes. oyster mushrooms. green peas. I didn’t see the green peas coming til I started blanching the sweet potatoes and realised I wanted to smash them into the leeks rather than separately. Finally, the oyster mushrooms find themselves sauteed quickly with a little garlic and then folded into the whole mess with the peas. Ultimate comfort food has been created from drawn out slowed down steps. Beer in hand, plan abandoned, the possibilities unfold.
It takes time to cook like this. And in my perfect world, I’d let my business build in the exact same way. ‘Let’s start this project and see what happens’, I often say to my staff. Let’s get down a first draft and then we’ll get a taste and see what seasoning it needs, how it holds itself up, whether it’s beautiful on its own or needs more. And when we do it, if it looks different than we thought, well, we’ll shape it and play with it until it works.
Is this an ok way to do business? Maybe… it’s definitely not by the book. It’s a little like lean start ups but with less for-planning. It’s a little like Seth Godin’s ‘just ship it’ methodology. It works for us at Wandering Cooks if we have the time and the patience to see it through and hold ourselves back from assuming that, because the plans changed, we won’t create something beautiful.
If only new business directions didn’t matter so hugely to the viability of the business, then maybe we could cook up our businesses always. But sometimes, there just doesn’t seem to be time for my kind of business. ‘We need to see the whole picture! How’s it going to work? … When will I make my money back? … You need more than an ‘experiment’ to be eligible for this grant – we want to see a scaleable trend!’
Geez, just let me cook it slowly already and all will be fine, I’m sure of it. There’s nothing that a little time to create can’t fix.
Btw, I was so happy to see our first ‘naked’ response come through my email. Here it is, unabridged because it’s perfect just the way it is. Keep ’em coming!