By Ailsa Sheldon

Susie and Steve Anderson of East Coast Cured began by learning to make charcuterie at home. Having wondered for years why Scotland with its high-quality meat didn’t have a cured meat tradition, and greatly enjoying European charcuterie, they decided to experiment. Steve had a career in craft brewing then distilling, and decided it was time for a new hobby. He explains: “I’ve always thought that the best hobbies are ones that just might be able to reinvent my career.”

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He started learning about butchery, charcuterie and fermentation (“closer to making beer than sausages”) and turned the eaves of their home into a food-safe space.

“By the end of six months we thought what we were making was pretty good.”

With small children and sensible jobs, launching a new food business was a gamble but Steve recalls: “We came to the conclusion we would regret it more not to try it than if it didn’t work.”

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The couple spent a year juggling the renovation of a nearby office basement into a workshop and developing recipes, on top of work and childcare, before launching East Coast Cured. Using only the best local, high-welfare meat, they produce an extensive range of delicious salamis, inspired but not restricted by traditional recipes and techniques from Italy and France.

Initially they sold at markets while they saved to complete the shop. Once open, an early customer was Martin Wishart and within a week their product was on the menu at The Honours. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength, collecting prestigious awards every year for their salamis.

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They now sell wholesale across the country, appear on the menus of top restaurants, and still serve locals – with a smile – from their Leith shop.

 www.eastcoastcured.com

 

FOR Robin Sheriff a trip to Japan was the accidental inspiration for his business, The Koji Kitchen. Robin was on a study trip to learn about Japanese whisky culture as part of his MSc. in Gastronomy. As part of research into domestic alcohol products he visited a saké brewery in Kyoto and was invited to see the koji room. He recalls: “The koji room was like a tiny hobbit sauna full of trays of mouldy rice.”

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Post-degree and back in Scotland, he was still intrigued by koji.

Having read everything he could and spoken to experts in the UK, he returned to Japan in January 2020 to find out more. Sadly, that trip was cut months short by the pandemic.

However, a background in chemistry and biology labs, plus years of experience in food branding and marketing, proved an unexpected but ideal combination of skills for him to start intensive research and development at home.

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After nine months of highly technical experimentation, lengthy health and safety paperwork, on batch 54 he was able to take on commercial premises and begin production and sale of koji. If you haven’t heard of koji fear not – it’s a fermented product that forms the base of many products that you will have eaten, including miso, saké, mirin and soy sauce and provides that umami flavour.

Koji sales have been very strong and miso sales even more promising ... the first batch sold out in under an hour.

Having quickly outgrown the first premises, The Koji Kitchen is moving to a larger unit which will include a miso maturation room. Robin says: “The great thing is that I’ll have space for development again.” Watch this space!

www.thekojikitchen.com

 

LOOKING at the customer list of The Edinburgh Butter Co. is like the ‘Who’s Who’ of fine dining in Scotland, but this is another company that started in a domestic kitchen. Hilary and Nick Sinclair ran supper clubs in their home, until a trip to Australia introduced them to the potential of cultured butter. After a lot of kitchen experimentation and testing on willing dining guests, they started to sell butter, mostly direct to customers, before a call from The Balmoral Hotel led to a meeting with the executive chef. “He took a punt on us,” explains Hilary, “and asked for 10 kilos a week.”

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Hilary left her job and they quickly increased production, moving to a small converted cellar. Since then, the company has continued to expand, taking on sales director Chloe Black, and moving into their first factory. Unsurprisingly the pandemic knocked retail sales, but this allowed time to perfect their sheet butter for viennoiserie (croissant production), achieved through collaboration with Twelve Triangles and Balmoral executive pastry chef Ross Sneddon.

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They now produce up to 1.4 tonnes of their delicious tangy cultured butter every week, and need a bigger factory to keep up with demand.

www.theedinburghbutterco.co.uk

 

FOR Giada Betti and Kip Preidys the table itself provided the inspiration for Aemelia. As two furloughed restaurant professionals, Kip says: “We had all this free time and we had a two-metre table!”

With a recent trip to Giada’s hometown of Imola fresh in their minds, they decided to make pasta for themselves and friends.

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Soon they tried selling it and “hoped for five orders in a week, but they just flooded in.

“Nobody was making the food from the Emilia-Romagna region. The chance to meet customers was phenomenal: talk to them, share our story and explain what we’re trying to do!” Kip says.

In May 2020 they returned to their restaurant jobs but by December they realised they weren’t ready to let their pasta dream go. They took the leap and moved into their first commercial kitchen.

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 “It was nerve-wracking but we had a strong vision and passion and wanted to deliver a really great product”.

A few months later Aemelia launched their Portobello shop. Giada says: “We’re so happy to be here. It’s such an amazing community and we’ve had amazing support since day one”.

Aemilia make incredible pasta and gnocchi, as well as focaccia and an outstanding tiramisu. Within their beautiful shop the attention to detail is clear – everything from the suppliers to the precision of the pasta shapes is of the highest quality.

Kip says: “We can’t not give 100 per cent. We live and breathe this business and we love what we do.” Everything is made daily and celebrates the best of local, seasonal produce – currently pumpkins from Kilduff Farm feature.

When they sell out, they close, because they refuse to compromise on quality for quantity. I took home beautiful tagliatelle and tomato sugo, pumpkin gnocchi and sage butter, focaccia, and tiramisu and felt like I was in Italy.

 www.aemilia.online

 

IF you are inspired by these food entrepreneurs and think you have a good product, what next? “Vision, stubbornness, experimentation and hard work are key,” say Giada and Kip at Aemelia. “Always be trying to improve, and be better.”

“Always be thinking of the next step,” Susie Anderson advises. “Try things at home but with a view to figuring out how to make it commercial”.

“Just start doing the thing you want to do,” recommends Robin Sheriff. “You can work on it, experiment, take notes . . . but make sure that people want to buy it. Don’t just ask friends and family because they won’t want to hurt your feelings. You need to see if there’s a market”.

Hilary at The Edinburgh Butter Co. would love to see better funding and support for small businesses.

She says: “It’s a real test of wills to launch a business, but if you have a good product, just bloody go for it!”