taste of success
SINCE MAKING THE MOVE TO ORANGE MORE THAN A DECADE AGO, FIONA AND MAX SCHOFIELD HAVE BUILT A HAPPY LIFE FOR THEIR FAMILY AROUND FRESH FOOD AND HATS.
When Fiona and Max Schofield lived in the city, which is where the couple met, they would assure each other that once they started thinking about having children they’d move to the country. And they flagged the town of Orange in central NSW as the place they’d like to go. In 2004, when Fiona was pregnant with their second child, they made good on those words. More than a decade on and the family — which now includes Finnegan, 17, Darcy, 13, and nine-year-old Oliver — consider themselves locals. They live in town, a stone’s throw from schools, their food production business Fresh Fodder, and everything else they need. “It’s big enough, small enough, close enough, and far enough,” says Fiona. “We love it.” When asked what they particularly like about Orange, the answers gush forth: the diverse community, the food, wine and arts scenes, the beauty of the seasons, the fact everything is within a five-minute drive, that you can buy unwaxed apples direct from the orchard for one dollar a kilogram… and, says Max: “That it feels like home.” Both Fiona and Max have rural pedigrees and are pleased their children are enjoying country childhoods. Fiona grew up the youngest of five in Forbes, about 120 kilometres west of Orange, while Max, originally from Sydney, attended high school in Cowra where his father, Jim, had relocated his own food production business supplying hotels and cruise liners with homemade pâté and terrines for a time. >
Neither Fiona nor Max have completely shed their Sydney lives, however. Fiona, who studied fashion and worked with renowned Sydney milliner Neil Grigg for six years, continues to make hats for country race days and weddings from her home studio. The creative energy was always in her — “I spent my childhood making things,” she says. While Max, who started his first food business in Sydney — arriving at work each day at 2am to make salads and sandwiches for clients such as David Jones Food Hall — could never really walk away from the industry. After he fell asleep at a friend’s wedding reception, the Schofields started planning their exit from Sydney. “I couldn’t keep up that pace,” says Max. “It wasn’t worth it.” But it took a few years for things to fall into place after they did make the move. Initially, Fiona worked as a medical receptionist and Max sold irrigation parts. “The best day I had there was the day I came home to tell Fiona that I’d quit,” says Max. “I’d decided that you’ve got to go with what’s in you.” And in Max’s case, that meant getting back into food. He started by teaming up with his father, flying to Sydney on Mondays and returning home later in the week. “I had a loose plan, which was to concentrate on selling the taramasalata dip Dad made to Greek delis,” says Max. “I had to beg. I had to give demonstrations. Eventually a deli owner in Roselands took 50 kilograms. He sold it in an hour. He couldn’t believe it.” When their weekly order rose to 250 kilograms, Max started to realise he may be onto something. “It gave us the confidence to start our own business here in Orange,” he says. Max and Fiona opened Fresh Fodder in an old apple shed on the outskirts of town. “We bought a refrigerated truck that had 950,000 kilometres on the clock on ebay for $2000,” says Max. “And spent $22,000 keeping it on the road.” The business has expanded exponentially: they have moved to a factory in town and have a fleet of trucks supplying stockists across NSW, Queensland and Victoria. And while the hommous dip may be the preferred option for an after-school snack at home, the best seller remains Max’s dad’s taramasalata. “That dip comes with a story,” says Max. “The recipe was given to Dad as payment for service rendered — it has gone down in Schofield family lore.” Coming to work early one morning, Jim, whose Sydney delicatessen was downstairs from a brothel and next door to a pawn broker, heard a kerfuffle. Two very large bouncers from the brothel were beating up the much smaller pawn shop manager. Without any care for his own safety, Jim waded in to break up the fight — and was told in no uncertain terms to mind his own business. In the confusion, the pawn shop manager bolted. Months later, he showed up on Jim’s doorstep with a Mixmaster and a bag of ingredients under his arm. He wanted to show Jim how to make taramasalata, a Greek fish roe dip, before he skipped town. “When that guy gave Dad the recipe, it was to thank him for saving his life,” says Max. “He gave Dad the only thing he had to give.” and, in a roundabout way, it’s put Fiona, Max and their family’s life in Orange in the pink. For more information, visit freshfodder.com.au or telephone (02) 6362 5815. See Fiona’s hats on Instagram by following @fiona_schofield_millinery
The family enjoying an orchard walk with Henri the toy poodle. FACING PAGE, CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT A coffee and hot chocolate stop at a favourite local café, Good Eddy; Darcy, 13, cuddling Henri; the Fresh Fodder freekah, lentil and kale salad with a side of tzatziki; Fiona likes buying unwaxed apples direct from Hillside Harvest orchard; a Fresh Fodder dip is never too far away.