Monday, September 27, 2010

The Possibilities of a Monday Morning

One of the tasks during Fridays in our kitchen, as I’ve mentioned before, is to scrub down and organize for the coming week.

Walking into kitchen on Monday mornings, before anyone has arrived, when it’s quiet and still gives me an opportunity to envision the coming week and it’s possibilities. Soon the counters will be cluttered with all the things that make our day go and the clatter of dishes along with the roaring of ovens have us moving quickly through our end tasks.

But until then, it’s mine to fill with thoughts and ideas.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Recipe Outgrew the Apron. Reflections from the Past 5 Years.

Our first recipe book.

When I launched Little Pots & Pans Co. 5 years ago, I started small, dipping our toes into the product development side of the grocery business. Testing out assumptions I had made about tart product varieties and pricing, and watching our (then clients their customers reactions to us.

I began working by myself in a rented kitchen at night. (Insert your Jewish yenta/Italian grandmother here – oye! It was dark! oye! It was a lot of work! oye! You never called/wrote/came to visit!) But then one day I realized perhaps I could afford a little help. Someone to come in and help with production, making the nights smoother and less lonely.

Prior to beginning to sell our tarts, much of my recipe development took place between my home kitchen and the commercial kitchen I was renting. At home, I have one taste-tester, in the kitchen there were at least 4-5 other companies working at any time that I could call upon to proffer input. (Don’t get me started on the um, challenges of trying to work in an over crowded kitchen with everyone clamoring to use the same equipment for their production and still only put in a 7 hour night).

Both were a big help in finalizing our original set of recipes, but as it still just me working, my notes were sort of my own. Some modifications got written down, some didn’t, I knew what each one was, and how each filling should taste. It wasn’t much different than holding up your grandmother’s apron and reverse engineering her recipe for brownies (or red sauce) from it.

The first person I ever had help out in the kitchen, showed up on the first night, ready to go. I pointed her to where the knives and a cutting board were and what she would be making. Her first question… “Is there a recipe for this somewhere?”

I still have a penchant for jotting recipes down on paper, with notes and revisions (some things get typed, some don’t). But I do keep some plastic shelves around to drop them into so at least their staying power has a fighting chance while I fight for time to properly type them up. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Tart and a Toaster Walk Into A Grocery Store… (Tales from Tart Sampling)

At some point prior to starting Little Pots & Pans Co., I must have been sitting on my couch thinking… ‘You know, these 48 hours in between Friday and Monday are really too much, there must be something I can do with all this time’. Now I find myself spending many Saturdays traveling around to our customers promoting our tarts and handing out samples.

One of the best ways to get people to try your product is to hand out samples. There are several ways to do this – provide extra product to your client for them to give out, hire a professional (and supply them with product) to do in store sampling, or do it yourself.

The upside to being on site is that no one knows your product better than you, and it’s easy to let your passion and enthusiasm show. The reality side is that sometimes your own experience ends up seeming like a rendition of one of those home video shows.

People love trying free samples, to many it’s a veritable buffet, some stop and are truly interested and others avoid the table like you were going to demand something untowards from them. For the people who stop and try our samples, I’m just happy to get them tasting as I do see it generating interest.

I get all sorts of questions and comments, most very encouraging and positive but some that just have you wondering. Some of that fall on that side include:
“ This would be great with some cheese” (the sampler selected the only vegan sample on the table)
“I’m dieting, I really shouldn’t” (sampler ate multiples of all flavors on the table)
“There’s no flour in this, right?” (After asking what the crust was made of)
“What are the blue speckles in the crust?” (We add black pepper to our vegan dough)

The odd questions help shape how we talk about our tarts, what we should be saying (or perhaps not). And, since my weekend is less than 48 hours, at least there’s a chance of some humor to it.