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The Journey so far

A knockback turned into an opportunity

On the 29th of March, I received an email that could have been another huge knockback in a long list of knockbacks over the last year. The email informed me that as I had started my job in March, I was not entitled to be furloughed under the government’s scheme and all that my new employers were able to offer me was half a day of work a week. It was difficult to hear at first, because my new job had been a really positive opportunity for me, and my new employers are wonderful people who have actually been incredibly supportive throughout this whole situation.

I used this knockback as an opportunity. It had already been my plan to start up my business, which I have been planning and saving for years. Of course my original plan had involved working 25-30 hours a week to support myself and the growth of my business. This no longer being an option, I decided to dive head first and dedicate my time to something that has been my ambition and passion for years.

A Passion for Asian Flavours

Ever since I started cooking, I’ve been drawn to Asian food. This is probably a reflection of my love for eating Asian food, when I try something in a restuarant that I love, I become obsessed with recreating that flavour at home.
I love to shop in little Asian supermarkets, for shops that are so small, they’re jampacked with such a huge variety of ingredients. When I was living in Cardiff, I would go pretty much everyday. I’d either buy ingredients I’d read about or buy ingredients I’d never seen before and read about them later.

For a very long time I was fixated on authentiticy, I spent hours everyday researching anything and everything to do with the food of Asia
Then I realised authenticity is important, but not in the way you expect. Authenticity is about respecting the ingredients and the influences behind the flavours you create. 
Wherever I’ve travelled in the UK or in Europe or Canada, I still find myself drawn to Asian restuarants. Of course I know these restuarants aren’t giving you the true Asian cuisine you would find in Asia, but does that matter when the food is delicious?

As a chef I’m drawn to the complexity and versatility of Asian ingredients and flavours. Asia is such a large continent with multitudes of cultures and cuisines. I respect Asian cuisine so much, I can’t improve on their traditional dishes, I don’t need to and I don’t want to.
I want to take inspiration from them and take them somewhere different. Bring flavours and influences into foods we don’t normally see them.

A passion for baking

Baking has always been my biggest hobby, but that’s all I thought it would be. I baked way too much and too often for the 4 people in my household. So I would give them away to everyone I knew and everyone my parents knew. All the way through to Uni, I’ve been known as the girl who bakes. People started saying to me I made the best cookies, or the best brownies and why wasn’t I selling them.

I did actually start a cookie business breifly when I was at University, but it never really got off the ground, because I was still more interested in discovering Asian flavours. So baking remained a fun hobby, I didn’t see the potential at the time to do anything new and different. It’s not really enough anymore to make perfect cookies and brownies, there are loads of people doing that!

After graduating Uni, I did have the chance to pursue my love of baking professionally. As a chef, I would usually be placed in the dessert/ pastry section. I’ve been lucky enough to have full creative freedom to make whatever desserts and cakes I wanted to in professional kitchens. Simply because from what I’ve experienced, most chefs don’t see the dessert section as “real chef work”. Or at least that’s what other Chefs told me, I like to think it’s because desserts take more precision and patience.

Making the connection

So what connects Asia to brownies and cookies? I do.

I spent a long time trying to decide which passion to pursue, my love for Asian ingredients and flavours or my love for making the best brownies and cookies. Finally it hit me, I didn’t have to choose. Using my experience and knowledge of flavour I could combine both of my passions to create a truly unique flavour experience.

Baking is a science, but it doesn’t need to follow rules. My recipes are based on perfect ratios, but each is unique to their own flavour. Before even a hint of spice had touched my brownies and cookies, I spent a long time developing a perfect recipe. The first problem I encountered was when I start adding these flavours, it caused an imbalance in ratios. but that’s where science allowed me to be creative. For every addition that created an imbalance, altering the ratios in my original recipe restoresd that balance. It’s not as simple as adding some spices into the mix, I’ve spent an incredible amount of time researching, trialling and failing before I perfected my flavours.

Each recipe is designed to perfectly showcase how Asian ingredients can actually make brownies and cookies even better. When I develop flavours, it takes a lot of time and a lot of variations to get the perfect harmony of flavours, but when I find that harmony it’s worth the effort.

My personal favourite and possibly most experimental flavour is miso and black sesame. When I was developing this recipe, I wanted the salty miso to work with the nuttiness of black sesame, to create a peanut butter and salted caramel hybrid. 

The Vision

The journey has only just started. You might even be reading this thinking, well why haven’t you done this flavour or that flavour yet.
You might be thinking I can see the Southeast Asian influence, but what about the rest of Asia?

The answer is simple, I’m still exploring and I’m still discovering. Ultimately I want to enter the street food arena, there are so many dishes I just can’t deliver by mail, but I still want to share them! It may be in a years time, it may be 3 years or even 5, but one day thats where I would like to take this business.

One thing is for certain though, I will never stop making brownies & cookies.

Rachael Popplewell

Owner, baker and flavour creator

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