The Hilarious Acronym All Cooks Promote

Breaking from tradition today in terms of post naming - It's been a while since I managed to post correctly in timeline, so I wanted to quickly reference where I was picking up from (take a look here to refresh yourself on my dilemmas about quality vs legality vs budget). 

So the H.ilarious A.cronym A.ll C.ooks P.romote. More commonly known as HACCP. Let me be clear here and explain that HACCP actually stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point - though I like my mnemonic better. Essentially, this is a system for controlling the health and safety hazards that pop up during any type of food production. If you're usually the order-in-slash-use-your-oven-for-storage-type, like my partner is, you may not realize that germs and bacteria love my cooking as much, if not more than, my dinner guests. So there are several cardinal rules that I must always follow to keep those nefarious gate-crashers at bay, and HACCP helps to identify at what point in my process I left the door open wider than in others. That's the Hazard Analysis portion. 

Once I know when my door is open, I can get an idea of what sort of barriers I should erect (baby-gate, padlock, cold-storage-below-8-degrees) and when I should be double-or-triple checking that these barriers are accomplishing their purpose. That's the Critical Control Points part. I.e. At what point is it critical that I maintain control (in order to keep the food safe from foodborne pathogens from farm to fork). 

No matter what your familiarity is with keeping your cooking safe, unless you've opened a food business here in the UK, you probably don't know that having a HACCP plan in place is a legal requirement for anyone producing food for public sale. 

Because of this broad brush requirement, there are loads of template plans available out there. Basic paint-by-numbers, fill-in-the-blanks type. Simple, easy, and straightforward. Of course when you model your whole business on something unique and new and try really hard to do something never or rarely done before... well... yeah, hardly likely that you'll find something that fits without a significant amount of rework. But the government is here to help!*

Enter myhaccp.food.gov.uk

Answer every question, and boom, by the end of the, hmm, maybe 20 page site, you've got a print-ready HACCP plan of your very own. 

I wanted to share this website with you fine readers, because when I first found it, I thought it was heaven-sent. So much information on how to consider your situation - it supported all the information I had previously learned during other HACCP courses - and it sure felt like it was going to help make the analysis and ccp set-up a breeze.

 

Wrong

Yeah. Only the super sarcasm of Hugh Laurie could convey how wrong I was. Not to say that this program isn't as helpful as expected - it's just that it cannot save you from yourself. And if you are hell bent on considering every single possible moment where there are even just tiny cracks around the edges of your door (are you still following this metaphor?!) then, it's going to take a while, whether you use a tool like myhaccp or not. I've been seriously working on this plan since December 2014. That's a long time, yo. 

But, on the flip side, once I'm 65 and the plan is actually complete - you can be guaranteed that everything you purchase from Crown & Queue Meats will be as safe as I can make it. And frankly, as opposed to the typical cooked dinner, raw fermented meats carry a teensy bit more risk. Plus, myhaccp was super helpful with shining a light on areas of safety I hadn't originally considered.

Yeah, you might think that, as anal as I already am, the LAST thing I needed was someone pointing out where else I could obsess, but that isn't so. As a sole business owner (and the only producer, accountant, janitor and delivery driver) you can easily lose sight of the grander picture of what you're doing. And even with the best of intentions, you can overlook something terrifically dangerous. I remember reading about this woman who poisoned 47 police officers with tuna sandwiches - and just thinking: "She probably didn't set out to do that!" According to the poisonees, they quite liked this lady and often purchased items from her kitchen. Close your eyes to one thing because you have 100 sandwiches to make, and well, it can really snowball. 

That AIN'T gonna happen to me. So, I'm just going to keep pushing on with my 4-month-and-counting plan. And it will be the gold standard for any cured meats producer to come after me. Or, at the very least, one more template to add the heaving online mass. 

Tune in next time for a herbaceous take on the "water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink" adage. Yeah, sure, it grows here... but you can't have it.

Tah ta till then!

 

*Don't fuss, libertarians, I'm not saying that they are in every situation. Just for HACCP. 

 

 


"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

...For he to-day that sheds his blood with me/ Shall be my brother" Henry V., William Shakespeare

When you gather together all the decisions I've had to make in the dreaming, creation, and realization of this business, there has only been one that has really weighed on me. 

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that is because, generally, I have allowed my personal ethical, moral and flavour preferences to guide me. Decisions are pretty easy when you have the hubris to believe in your own good sense and taste. But the decision I am going to share with you today (and yes, gather your opinions on) wasn't so easily negotiated.

I can argue my future customers over to my choices regarding animal husbandry, because the defenses are so logical. It's rather harder to argue them over to my sense of humour

So I set about trying to get a carry-bag designed. I thought it went well with my mission to offer a sustainable option to market purchasers (and hey! It doesn't hurt my advertising dreams neither). I thought I would get it to say something HILARIOUS, because who doesn't love a bag that tickles the silly bones? And that's where I hit a snag. My first instinct was to plaster "Get my meat in your mouth - and like it!" all over them and be done with it. 

... yeah. And then a load of people rather vehemently objected. And I realized that I would never pick the right phrase on my instincts alone. SO: I put it to you, dear readers. Please pick a bag style and sentence from the options listed below. And help a lady out. Everyone who helps out with the decision (as long as it is not a hung jury! That ain't no help!) will get a bag when they are finished. They'll have the ultimate sentence on one side, and my logo, designed by the amazing H.D., on the other. Incidentally, the bags themselves are completely fabulous. Super heavy-duty, hand woven and printed by a really cool co-operative that gives economically disadvantaged women the skills and equipment to help support their families. Tres cool. So here we go. 

 

Once more into the breach! 

(Remember that this is primarily for a British audience... and they aren't always as ribald as you North Americans...)

 

OPTION #1 - 

We know where our meat comes from... Do you?

 

OPTION #2 - 

Do you know where your meat comes from?

 

OPTION #3 - 

I know where my meat comes from... Do you?

 

OPTION #4 - 

I know where my meat comes from./We know where our meat comes from. 

 

Alright - and now the design.

It'll always be black lettering on natural canvas. BUT, it could also be: 

- All natural bag and handles

- Natural bag with Black handles

- Black handles and black reinforcing

- Black handles and black gussets (the bag has gussets that allow it to sit square  - please note, the reinforcing, if made a different colour, does not continue onto the gussets) 

 

And now, some pictures to help you visualize. My apologies that I don't have mock-ups of all the options.

 

 

Choice of Handles

Choice of Handles;Sentence Side
NOW VOTE! Which sentence, and which style of handles? 

Please leave your email address if you would like a bag afterwards, I'll need that to get your postal address. 

 Fine Print: Limited to the first 50 comments; Limited to one bag per person. 


"I am Fond of Pigs...

Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals." - Winston S. Churchill

In early November I set out, as promised, to visit several of my proposed pig purveyors (try saying that ten times fast!)

So, one morning, absurdly early, I headed to the train station:

Liverpool Station

where I hopped on a train to visit an Essex-based Gloucester Old Spot and Sandy Black farmer...

 

 Along with about 15 other Restauranteurs and Butchers as it turned out!

Meta.

How many cooks does it take to watch one man butcher a goose?! Amirite?

Apparently, every year, this particular farmer invites all of his customers (or in my case, potential customers) up to visit, in order to see first hand how fabulous a life his animals enjoy before the inevitable. Or perhaps it was to see what a fabulous life he enjoyed, as besides visiting with his free-range geese, turkeys and piggies, 

With an oink, oink here...

we also drank beer, 

Drinking Beer

hung out in his deer 'hide'*

IMG_3932

and munched on sausage roll!

Num.
Hey... Didn't I just meet your cousin in the forest? 

All in all, it was pretty exhilerating. Not just the activities, mind you... But frankly, the difference beteween dreaming of a farmer who shared your ethics and actually getting to confirm first hand that they exist is pretty wide. The difference between a kettle of fish and hmm... a kettle of pigs?  

Soooeeeeee!
Can't wait to see you at my arch! 

On to the next adventure! Where our heroine rescues an orphaned cure-box and designs a logo... 

 

*Also called a "Blind" where I hail from. Essentially, where you hang about trying to aim at wild deer. 


Steps to Opening a UK Food Business - Part 2

"I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way" - Carl Sandburg

Picking out a premise!

Here's my baby-in-progress.  

Adding in drains, finishing the floors, more cladding on the walls, fixing the small matter of the 'no front wall' (not pictured), and then its on to the CURING ROOMS!

Artist Rendering

 

 

Whimsical Alcoves
Whimsical Alcoves!

 

 

Arch #8
The Whole Shebang!

 

 

WISH ME LUCK!

 


Steps to Opening a UK Food Business - Part 1

"Good enough isn't" - Adrienne E. Treeby

So. I'm breaking with tradition here a little bit. Normally, I don't give a post such obvious direction. But since we're in the endgame here - I decided to be a little more direct. This will be the first in a series covering the baby-steps Crown & Queue is taking into the real world. 

****

Health and Safety

For a good long while I allowed myself to be surprised that there just didn't seem to be as many regulations here in Europe as there are in the U.S. and Canada. Beginning my research into the legislative health and safety requirements necessary, I found repeated admonishments to 'do good', to 'take care' and 'have a HACCP plan'*. But nothing particularly SPECIFIC! Coming from a continent that has rules like 'x-item must be so many mm in length and so many mm away from the wall and so many mm from a water source', it was just so confusing to be trusted. I kept thinking that there must be something I was missing... 

But this isn't the first time I've noticed that Europe has a more relaxed - some might term it 'understanding' - attitude towards food management. When I worked for the Cheese Shop - I noticed this same phenomenon. Cheeses, all out on a counter? Exposed to the open air? Exposed to, gasp!, the possibility of human touch?! That would never fly in the homeland. Yet, if these sorts of conditions were actually unsafe, then Europeans would be dropping like flies! And they're not... 

So maybe the explanation for my lack of success at discovering any enforceable minutiae is not that I'm missing something but rather that Europe is getting something. Or always got it. That food doesn't necessarily need to be thoroughly wrapped in antiseptic packaging to be kept safe. That our systems can handle a little rocking. Perhaps they didn't have the microbiological vocabulary to describe what was happening a hundred years ago, but if you look at the traditional techniques we've been handed down, you realize that without knowing it those old-school cheese-and-salume-making were abiding by everything we can put it a name to now. 

At any rate - I don't believe in doing anything by half-measures. You might take note of the quote above? So whether or not, I have to, I'm going to read everything I can and I'm going to re-up all my certifications. 

That last one begins today... with a course at LivingroomCordial** - a CIEH (that's the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) approved teaching center. A Level 3 course in Food Safety Supervison for Manufacturing. 

So far, although it's fun to go over all this stuff again and I like the teacher and other students, it's mostly been complete review. But hey.... sigh... no half measures. And I think it will definitely be worth it to include this certification in my qualifications. Because, spoiler alert, part 2 is about getting some more funding!

Visit to the new site at the end of the week!! Pictures, pictures, pictures. 

 

*Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plan. It's basically a system to help food businesses avoid any issues before they even occur. You Analyze all the moments in the flow of food through your business where Hazards lurk. Then you specify at what or which level/temperature/condition Controlling becomes Critical. In other words, past this line YOU DO NOT CROSS. haha. 

**Yeah, that's totally a pseudonym. Deal with it. 


“Support for the arts -- merde!...

A government-supported artist is an incompetent whore!” - Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land. 

**********

Alright - so the observant of you may have noticed that I dropped off the face for some time there. 

Surprisingly, as starting your own business starts to become more real, well, you lose time for writing about it and have to live it for a while. Don't get me wrong, no complaints over here, but I do have an overactive guilt-o-giver and I'm feeling it big time for dropping the ball post-wise. So, apologies. 

Anyways - to pick up where I left off. The PLAN, the PLAN! It's finished!

Well, sort of. 

I made an astonishing discovery as I neared the 'completion' line on my plan - a true, genuine, workable plan, one that suits your business and really reflects where you are moving to... is probably never completely finished. I have answered all of my own questions though - and put together several copies that suit different audiences. 

In fact, while I was taking a blogging hiatus - I presented the plan to TWO DIFFERENT AUDIENCES. And received fairly positive feedback. Hint. I'm kinda being modest... Because... drum roll.... I GOT THE SPACE I WANTED! I heard back from the Archland that they voted unanimously to offer me a space in their family. Pretty nifty. Not gonna lie. 

I also presented the plan to an audience of very accomplished and multi-discipline-educated semi-peers (a.k.a. my family) and heard a lot of positive feedback too. Constructive criticism wasn't lacking either - but I didn't get any, "Don't quit your day jobs!". 

So right now I'm working on the moola angle. Researching banks and money lenders. And being faced with a pretty momentous choice. To equityfy or not to equityfy. In other words, should I offer up some company equity in exchange for funds? Most often it seems, this is the only apple that the sharks will bite*. But how to determine what my company is worth? What is fair exchange on an unidentified potential future profit. That's the topic of my next post... But any thoughts in the meanwhile? Trade straight $ for $ (in the form of interest) or offer up the business equivalent of 'what's behind door #3?!'. 

 

*Yowza. What a mixed metaphor. That's a bad as a henhouse on the moon! (Yup. That's it. Now, I'm really not making sense anymore). 


"Hide not your talents. They for use were made...

What Use is A Sundial in the Shade?" - Benjamin Franklin

Working hard on my business plan - trying to tie the loose ends together - while I wait for my chosen analysts to return with feedback on my vision! 

I can see why the books all stress the importants of 'tieing out'. There are so many elements involved in this discussion (sales volume, costs, expected customer base), and so many places where I've answered the same questions (vision, written plan, financial plan), it is really easy to make a mistake or overlook something and not have them all add up. Seems to me those are the kind of errors that cost you funding... Not good. 

While I was scavanging for feedback, I did receive an intriguing piece of advice that has been bouncing aorund the 'ol noggin recently. 

The advice was not to ignore my place in the business plan.. Highlight and sell myself (and the reasons why I'm the right person to put this project together) as often and as much as I try to sell the baseline idea of the business. 

I'm not exactly that great at selling myself... actually... it doesn't take that much to throw me into a self-worth-less spiral. Thankfully, I can buoy back up almost as easily - especially if I've got a list of my awesome qualifications laid out to read when I get down! Plus, I can source this list each time I think my business plan needs a little 'Addie love'. 

So, here it goes:

1. 13+ years in the food industry

2. 2+ years apprenticed to Master Salumiere

3. 2+ years spent managing kitchens (buying, inventory, hiring, team-building and leading)

4. 3+ years spent in recipe development (The New Orleans Cheese Shop, The Organic CoOp)

5. Previously established relationships with English-specific purveyors (Heritage pig farmers/butchers, Heirloom Apple Orchards, Cheesemakers who raise pigs on the side). 

6. Strong relationship with one of the leaders in the English Heritage Food Movement (The Cheese Shop), a customer almost practically guaranteed if my end product passes muster. 

7. Graduated with honours from prestigious Culinary School

8. Certified in Food Handling Safety in two different countries. 

 

Hmmm... anyone think of anything else I've got going for me that I've left out? 

 

Personally, I've noticed a couple of holes that I want to try and patch up before I launch. 

I've labelled them alphabetically to distinguish them as 'wanted' over 'accomplished'. 

 

A. 'Apprenticeship'/Time spent with reputable sausage makers (The Iowaian, The Utahian*). 

B. Business/Financial knowledge (I've learned much of this in the past, but in no real formal way)

C. Haccp Training (Again, learned in bits and pieces previously, but nothing I can formally report)

D. Mechanical Training  (So much of this work involves small motors; refrigerators, mixers, etc. I've always thought the ability to fix them myself would be a great sell). 

 

A is in the works... Now to brainstorm ways to accomplish the final three. 

 

*You guessed it - names changed to protect the innocent butchers.


"The most difficult thing is the decision to act...

The rest is merely tenacity."  - Amelia Earhart

 

FINALLY. Some time to myself. 

 

Although technically of course, not really to myself. I spend most of all my quote-unquote FREE time on either the business or wedding planning*.  So what I am really applauding here is that I have finally had some time to work on those two things, as opposed to devoting my time to my day job, monitoring my family's finances or running errands. 

 

First up then, is a bit of recap-alitis. 

I've just come back from Ann Arbor, Michigan where I had the immense pleasure of attending a seminar led by the exemplary Ari Weinzweig. I was orginially handed the first in his series of business books back when I lived in England and worked for the Cheese Shop. Unfortunately, it was a borrowed copy and had to go back to its owner when I moved back to the US. When it came time to start being serious about putting together Crown&Queue**, I bought myself a new copy and have been working through it steadily.

Reading Ari Weinzweig
Highlighter and Pen at the ready!

Although Ari's books are mostly about can-do than about how-to, I knew somehow that this was the right place to start building my vision. 

 

I shared much of what I was learning on here (as well as on facebook and twitter) and managed to capture the attention of an old friend who also happens to work at Zingerman's. In addition to sending me another one of Ari's books, 'Calvin' invited me to join this year's Cheese Summit.

Basically, every year, the Cheese Shop organizes a private Zingtrain seminar called 'Fun, Flavorful Finance' and invites some cheesy friends and family to learn the Ari-way along with them. It's an overview of Open Book Management, Open Book Finance, Visioning and etcetera. All the elements that I've been studying, and which seem to make Zingerman's so successful, presented by the man himself. 

Calvin suggested that if I could get myself to Ann Arbor (in 5 DAYS TIME!) there could be a spot for me at the seminar - and, to really light the fire under my butt, Calvin told me that he'd happily find accomodation for me and even pick me up from the airport!

I'm not sure when I've ever managed to pull something together on the fly like this so quickly before. 

Got the 'go-ahead' from the co-op, scheduled flights, rented cars, organized my life and basically immediately took off. And it was worth every second of stress and exhaustion and possibly insulting my family. Seriously. And not just because they had masseuses there for quick back-rubs during the breaks. 

I've never felt so inspired, motivated, passionate, and supported in my life. 

Beneath Zingerman's Deli
Even their boxes are inspiring!

 

I actually started writing that vision I've been putting off while at the airport waiting for my flight home!

Since one of the cardinal rules of OBM is to publish, publicize and otherwise shout your vision out to the world at large, I'll be posting my finished vision here in the next few days. 

I'd also like to write a bit about some of the awe-inspiring people I had the pleasure of meeting while I was there, but all that awe would overwhelm this particular post, so you can expect a total download on that in its own post soon too. 

 

Paint me giddy!

 

*Not trying to confuse you exactly  - I'm just being deliberately obsfucating to keep my privacy for the time being. But yeah, they're a big party in August!

**Pretty sure this is my finalized title... Thoughts?!


"Gossip is what no one claims to like...

But everyone enjoys." - Joesph Conrad 

 

So... You may have noticed, once or twice, that I have mentioned that I am reading Ari Weinzweig's book on business... Well, what I may not have previously mentioned, is that I was lucky enough to spend

Unexpected Post
The Joys and Perils of Displaying Your Address on the Internet!

some time with one of their higher-ups, C.Hayes*, when he came a visiting the London Cheese Shop. He's completely boss. And in that way, as in many others, well-reflects the culture and values of Zingerman's Community of Businesses. (i.e these are also boss). Anyways... Turns out he's a bit of a facebook stalker, and he found out that I didn't yet have Ari's book on Leadership in my library. 

He also happened to spy that post I did on my SAG checks, which revealed my home address pretty thoroughly. 

Side remark... Best Address Comment? "Your street sounds like a burger." But I digress

 

 

So what did I just discover in my mailbox?!?!

 

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you

 

 

 

 

 

Yup. That's right. A brand new spanking copy of the book I was missing (and dying to read!). 

I love that he did this on so many levels. 

And I cannot wait to start culling some information outta there and start sharing in on here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Can't very well change his name so much, it's written right there on the return address! Hahah. But let's pretend it's..uh... Calvin, okay? 


"The overarching desire to do the right thing well is something we can't train for...

"It's either there or it isn't." - Danny Myer

I had an interesting meeting the other day. I arranged it myself actually, although it didn't exactly go as I had planned. 

I don't want to get too deep into the nitty gritty  - but basically, there is a program I want to develop at the Organic Co-Op. I think it would mend a pretty serious gap between our practices and our mission statement. To develop this project, I needed board approval (we are a co-op, remember!), a hefty dollop of my time, and a bit of effort on the part of my team's members, and the team members of one or two other departments. But those kinds of needs kinda go hand in hand with 'briding a gap'; Not exactly a light undertaking. 

So, the meeting I referred to earlIER was between myself, the managing director and the head of my department, as I tried to get the first part of my recipe. I presented my project, answered all their questions and assuaged all their doubts. Or well... I tried...  Anyways, here's the interesting part: As the meeting wrapped up, and I could tell that the answer was a 'no', the managing director pointed to a poster across the conference room detailing the Organic Co-Op Mission Statement. 

"Look." he said, "This is part of the reason I'm doubtful about your project. This is our mission statement, but the employees here make it hard for us to enact it. Your idea supports our mission, but our employees don't". 

Okay, okay, he didn't say exactly that. It probably wasn't nearly as well-turned, but his implications stand. 

Except for the fact that you probably shouldn't shake the managing director of your company (especially when you're practically low-level compared to him), I wanted to grab his shoulders and viciously rock his body back and forth after he said it. Are you kidding me?! How can you so matter-of-factly say that?! Why is that acceptable?! And how can you accept it so thoroughly that it is actually used as an excuse NOT TO MAKE THINGS BETTER?!

Now that a few days have gone by and I am feeling more calm - I've started analysing where this gap (even larger than the one I had initially proposed filling) had come from. 

I've heard a lot of reasons from my direct supervisor, before. He mostly blames it on 'youth today' and assorted other comments of 'entitlement vs earning' and 'take benefits for granted'*. And although I see the rationale of all of that, I have to disagree. 

I know I've mentioned before that creating the right culture takes creation and implementation right from the get-go. But it also takes involvement. No one likes to be dictated to. I'm deep into Ari's treatise on mission statements (next post!) and he very off-handedly remarked on how, in developing the Zingerman's statement, they involved every single employee, up to and including a teenager who had only been with them for a few weeks. 

That's the element that was/is/continues to be missing here. You read the Organic Co-Op mission statement, and there is nothing there about the team that puts it together! It's all in the third person, not a 'we' to be seen. And according to their statement, the Organic Co-Op doesn't have stakeholders, guests or a community. They have, no joke, "CONSUMERS". 

And he wonders why 'his employees' don't support it. 

 

And all respect to Danny Myer (author of Setting the Table, and one of the more renowned food entrepreneurs still in the black), but I only half agree. Obviously, hiring people who can inherently, naturally, propogate your culture/values is important. But I'd also argue that even these people cannot do it wihtout consistant aid and passion on your part. Maybe the ability to do the right thing well can't be taught, but the desire definitely can. I think you teach it by showing the benefits of your values, not just listing them on a pretty poster...

Check out my next post for my mission statement in fieri, and trust me when I say it will most definitely refer to the team effort

 

 

*PS. One of the other reasons the managing director didn't want to follow through on my project was 'it could be seen as another perk. These employees don't appreciate the perks we already give them. I don't want to give them another they can just take for granted too".