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.

Country Style - - ORANGE NSW PEOPLE - WORDS BAR­BARA SWEENEY

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

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BRIGID ARNOTT

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.

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