LET’S face it, where there’s a family, there’s food. Whether you’re cooking a Sunday roast side-by-side with your mum or cracking open an ancient inherited recipe book, when it comes to a bit of nosh, you can’t escape your roots.
For some families, however, food is more than just a meal. It’s a business and a way of life.
Foodie families are popping up all over, with generations working side-by-side to make everything from award-winning cider to eye-popping artisan chocolates.
If the family that plays together stays together, what about the family that cooks together? Here, we talk to some groups who’ve made food their family business, to find out more...
‘I had the idea, aged eight’
IN the 1970s, Sue and Lawrie Jenman, now 73 and 76, ran a post office and shop in Hampshire. As the last stop on the ice cream delivery route, they found the van was often empty by the time it reached them.
Looking for something to do when they sold the shop, their daughter Christina, then, eight, unexpectedly came up with a brilliant idea. ‘Why don’t you just make ice cream?’ So they did just that, and New Forest Ice Cream was born.
Apart from being head tasters, Christina and her twin sister Nicola (pictured) — in addition to their brother and sister — spent their evenings and holidays being fully involved with the production process. ‘Mum and Dad hardly ever took a holiday because of the business,’ Christina explains. In fact, they did everything themselves, from production to delivery — they even hand wrote every invoice.
So it was hardly a surprise that their daughters inherited the Jenmans’ strong work ethic and both joined the business aged 18 and 19.
Now, 34 years after Christina’s original idea, the twins, now, 42, run the business. To this day, their recipe has hardly changed from the one Lawrie perfected when they were still children. And they’re keeping things strictly in the family. Their brother, Graham, 48, is a non-working director, while their head of production is their cousin Dave, 43.
Sue and Lawrie have since retired and are taking the holidays they never could while running the firm.
However, Christina says the business is like her parents’ fifth child and it’s hard to cut the apron strings completely.
‘They’ll always be looking over us,’ Christina smiles. ‘They’re constantly ringing in the evenings and asking how the day went. I tell them it was the same as yesterday!’
‘I used to steal Dad’s apples. Now I make cider’
HARRY FRY’S family have been farming in Long Sutton, Somerset, for more than 100 years. So it was only logical that he’d take over the family business from his father, Bill, 92.
It was their apple orchard that captured 49-year-old Harry’s heart. ‘I’ve always helped him in the orchard,’ Harry remembers. But ten years ago, when Bill couldn’t pick up all of the apples due to the weather conditions, Harry had an idea.
He gathered what he could and started making cider. ‘I used to go and steal the apples,’ Harry laughs. ‘I wanted to experiment.’ Harry’s son, Toby, 26, was the lucky chap who got to test out the results.
At the time, Toby had moved away to work on a farm elsewhere, but whenever he came home, Harry would thrust a glass of his latest brew into his son’s hand.
‘My friends and I were the guinea pigs,’ Toby smiles. Thanks to his feedback and Harry’s attention to detail, the cider just got better
After four years, he started bottling the drink and called it Harry’s Cider. In fact, Toby loved it so much he came home to work with his dad 18 months ago. ‘He’s a natural,’ Harry says, clearly proud of his son. ‘It’s in his blood.’ Now, the two produce their award-winning cider together. You can even order a bottle of Harry’s Medium Cider at Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfectionists’ Cafe at Heathrow Airport.
‘We put chocolate in a hedgehog boot wiper my dad invented’
IF you walked into Choc On Choc’s kitchens in Rode, a village near Bath, with Kerr Dunlop, 72, you’d know it was a family business straight away.
‘I call him Dad at work,’ his daughter, Flo Broughton, 37, says. ‘And a lot of the staff do, too.’
Quirky Kerr wasn’t always the Willy Wonka of the South West. An inventor and entrepreneur, he created the hedgehog boot wiper in the 1980s. As for Flo, she grew up seeing her father constantly trying new things. ‘I was always in the shed helping Dad,’ she says. ‘Everyone used to tell me to get a proper job one day.’
However, Flo didn’t take much notice. Instead, when she returned home after finishing her graphic design course at the University of the West of England in Bristol, she was soon up to her old tricks in the shed.
‘Dad had moulds from his hedgehog business, so we started experimenting,’ Flo says. ‘At one point we decided to put chocolate in it.’ The pair realised they were on to something and, without any experience or training in chocolate-making, set about developing and perfecting their own method.
‘We used books to learn about tempering and then did it our way,’ says Flo. But like most family secrets, Flo’s keeping theirs close to her chest. ‘We don’t like to share too much,’ she admits.
The father-daughter duo must be doing something right. Flo has even taught Mary Berry how to make chocolate. Their business Choc On Choc now makes everything from cheese boards to plates of vegetables out of chocolate. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
‘My mum was always ahead of food trends’
WHEN Anna Mackenzie, now 27, was growing up, her mum Lorna, 56, was for ever experimenting in the kitchen. Lorna always seemed to be ahead of the curve, spotting the next big food trend before it became fashionable.
‘Mum’s a really creative cook,’ says Anna. ‘She used to experiment with products such as popcorn and snack balls, always using on-trend ingredients.’
Anna went away to study business and psychology at Edinburgh University and found she struggled to find healthy, ready-to-eat breakfasts. Then, on coming back home after graduating, Anna found her mum in the kitchen one day — this time experimenting with Bircher muesli, a mixture of oats soaked overnight in apple juice and mixed with yoghurt and fruit.
Lorna developed a modern take on Bircher muesli and Cuckoo foods was born.
Along with an old school friend, Lucy Wright, 27, Anna started the business using her mum’s recipes. Two and a half years later, their little pots of muesli are now available in Selfridges, Waitrose and Tesco.
While Anna and Lucy run the company, Lorna leads new product development. Anna says running a business with family can be tricky because it blurs the lines between your private life and work. But she’s thrilled with what they’ve done.
Lorna works from home, turning her kitchen table into what she calls her lab. ‘She has so many brilliant ideas,’ Anna says. ‘It’s frustrating we can only launch one new product at a time!’