Creswell has plenty on her plate
CARMAN’S Fine Foods queen Carolyn Creswell may have spent 20 years building an international food supply empire, but that didn’t stop the successful entrepreneur bursting into tears on the way to her first day of filming for Ten’s new reality competition Recipe to Riches.
“We’re half- way there and I’m crying so heavily in the back seat of the car, this poor driver is saying to me, ‘ What’s wrong’?” Creswell said.
“I said: ‘ Why am I doing this? I’ve got four kids under eight, I’ve got a full- time job in Melbourne, I don’t live in this state, what was I thinking getting involved in a TV show based out of Sydney?”
The driver, a wise and philosophical chap, turned and told her: “Everything in life happens for a reason and I reckon by the end of this you’ll think it is one of the best things you’ve ever done.” “I don’t think so,” Creswell bawled. In Ten’s latest foray into food- based reality TV, Recipe to Riches sees home chefs offer up a dish with the aim of getting it commercialised and turned into a real product on supermarket shelves across Australia.
As one of the three experts on the show alongside ad- man David “Nobby” Nobay and chef Darren Robertson, Creswell has the runs on the board to help turn cook- at- home hopefuls into commercial successes.
Anyone who has bought a pack of her muesli would know Creswell’s story, as the basic yarn is written on the back of each pack.
In 1992, as an 18- year- old, she got a parttime gig making muesli at her local bakery and offered the owner $ 1000 to take it over when she decided to pull out.
Flat broke for the first five years, she used to siphon petrol out of her mum’s car to be able to make deliveries, but she has since turned Carmen’s into a muesli empire, expanding to 22 product lines sold around the world and amassing a personal fortune of $ 55 million. Now 39, she was the youngest entrant on
Business Review Weekly’s inaugural women’s rich list this year and was named last year’s Telstra Business Woman of the Year.
But none of those accomplishments helped on day one of Recipe to Riches.
After the cab meltdown, “I had to eat oyster pasta which had been reheated twice, followed by milkfish boiled in milk, and then the piece de resistance was the prawn ice cream”, Creswell laughed. “At the end of the day I was still going: ‘ Why am I doing this?’”
But it turns out her driver was right on the money.
“It is probably one of the best things I’ve ever done, getting involved in the show, and I’m bloody proud of it,” Creswell said.
While the title might suggest it is just another cut- price reality cooking show, Recipe to
Riches is actually one of the more innovative and interactive programs you’re likely to see this year.
It is based on the Canadian series of the same name, which is in its third season and has just made the jump from cable to network television.
Each week for 11 weeks, three ordinary home cooks – and some of them are very ordinary – are shortlisted in a particular product category. They then have to try to “batch up” their recipe with the help of chef and Three Blue Ducks restaurateur Robertson to see how well it works when cooked in large quantities, at which point one contestant is knocked out.
The remaining two move on to packaging and branding, before having a product launch ( all of which offer some nice Gruen Transfer
style insights into marketing) with the help of Nobay, from independent advertising network Droga5.
Finally, after much discussion among the judges, a winner is chosen and their dish goes into production.
The day after the show is broadcast, the winning product is available in 900 Woolworths supermarkets across the country.
Sales figures determine the ultimate winner, who gets $ 100,000 and the satisfaction of seeing their product remain on supermarket shelves.
While it’s not corporate- funded, it is quite clearly a massive marketing and branding exercise for Woolies, with general manager Lizzy Ryley completing the four- person judging panel.
But that doesn’t take away from the impressive feat of getting a product into stores and keeping it a secret in an age when almost everyone is armed with a camera on their smartphone.
“You’ve got to watch [ and think] somehow, behind the scenes at 900 stores around the country, after the show has finished airing, the next morning the product is going to be on show,” Creswell said.
“It’s a secret and no one is going to know what the product is until then. The logistics behind the scenes are phenomenal.”
Creswell doesn’t need money or fame. She agreed to do the show so she could share her experience in taking products from the kitchen to supermarket shelves to help change people’s lives.
As it turned out, an awful lot of the work she did to help the contestants improve their products was done off camera.
“Twenty years ago I had a very small dream of making my business become this commercial reality, and what I feel we do on this show is we fast- track that process enormously,” she said.
“It’s an amazing, emotional experience for these people for their dreams to come true.”
Creswell said the big point of difference between Recipe to Riches and other cooking shows such as My Kitchen Rules and
MasterChef – apart from the fact you can actually taste the contestants’ food the next day – is most of the entrants weren’t great cooks, they have just got one great idea.
Take 29- year- old couch potato Casey Stewart in the “Snack Attack” episode, for example. She had the idea of pouring a can of pumpkin soup over her mum’s potato bake and accidentally invented a tasty new dish.
“There was no one who was like a chef or some amazing foodie person,” Creswell said, adding the contestants “could be anyone”.
Executive producer Stephen Tate called Creswell “one of the best castings of the year”, but she laughed off any suggestion of pursuing a career on TV.
“That’s very sweet,” she said of Tate’s comments. “[ But] this is not about television for me … I love my life and, in fact, this was a little side- diversion.
“I can’t imagine there’s any other TV for me after this.”
RECIPE TO RICHES
TDT, Tuesday 8.30pm