From the kitchen ta­ble to the shop counter

What hap­pens when 28 am­a­teur food mak­ers at­tempt to build a vi­able busi­ness from their del­i­ca­cies? Gemma Dunn learns more

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - WEEKEND TV -

There’s no deny­ing that the ar­ti­sanal food mar­ket is boom­ing. From home brew­ing and smok­ing meat to hand­made cheeses, chut­neys and pre­serves, Bri­tain is teem­ing with tasty gourmet fare, but just who are the peo­ple be­hind the goods? New BBC Two show Top Of The Shop With Tom Ker­ridge aims to find out, as it un­masks a host of kitchen ta­ble pro­duc­ers keen to show­case their del­i­ca­cies.

Prov­ing it’s not just hip­sters, farm­ers and re­tir­ing town­ies tak­ing part in the foodie rev­o­lu­tion, the eight-part se­ries of­fers 28 am­a­teur food mak­ers — from all walks of life — the op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote and sell their wares in a real shop in the heart of the York­shire Dales.

But there’s more to it than sim­ply ap­peal­ing to the taste­buds and wal­lets of the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

For while ac­claimed chef and pre­sen­ter Ker­ridge will be cheer­ing from the side­lines (no pres­sure!), ex­perts Nisha Ka­tona and Alison Swan Par­ente will be judg­ing whether the cre­ations have what it takes to sus­tain a prof­itable busi­ness.

The aim is to con­vince ev­ery­one in­volved that their prod­uct de­serves a per­ma­nent space on the shelves. It’s a con­cept Ker­ridge (44) could im­me­di­ately get on board with.

“To me, peo­ple with a mas­sive pas­sion for food or any­one who’s in­volved in the food in­dus­try that has baked pro­duce in a place with his­tory and her­itage have the same un­der­stand­ing of it. It’s about where it comes from and how it’s looked after,” says the celebrity cook, who is the chef pa­tron at the two-Miche­lin-starred The Hand & Flow­ers pub in Mar­low.

“These guys have given up their day jobs to join that in­dus­try, so I thought this would be a great thing to be a part of, to meet peo­ple who are like-minded and to hang out with these two girls.”

“There is a real kind of resur­gence about ar­ti­san prod­ucts,” agrees Swan Par­ente (69), who is the trustee of the School of Ar­ti­san Food.

“I think peo­ple have a mem­ory about what food used to be like be­fore in­dus­trial food. They have an idea of what their grandma was mak­ing, and they cer­tainly have an idea that their fam­ily has some sort of her­itage in food that may be lost.

“The other thing is that peo­ple re­ally do like to learn skills — and it re­ally is about learn­ing skills.”

In the fi­nal episode, the shop will be filled with the seven win­ning prod­ucts from seven dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories. The judges will then ask the lo­cals to help them one last time to de­cide which pro­ducer and prod­uct should take the cov­eted top of the shop ti­tle.

For food writer and restau­ra­teur Ka­tona, the cov­eted ti­tle should go to those who can take a bril­liant prod­uct and turn it into a vi­able busi­ness.

“It’s one thing to have an amaz­ing prod­uct made in an amaz­ing way that tastes fan­tas­tic, but if you can’t sell it, then you’re de­priv­ing the pub­lic of the abil­ity to taste it,” says the 46-year-old.

“Do you know what?. It’s a very Bri­tish thing to be em­bar­rassed about sell­ing, to be em­bar­rassed about am­bi­tion, about speak­ing that lan­guage, and we have to get away from that.

“But you don’t want to go out there in a brazen way — if some­one over­sells, that can be re­pul­sive as well.”

With the stakes high, does the shop floor make for a com­pet­i­tive play­ing field?

“It does get quite com­pet­i­tive,” ad­mits Ker­ridge, whose own ca­reer spans the best part of three decades.

“At the start they don’t know each other and it’s the first time they’ve been to the shop, so they’re quite ner­vous.

“But by the end of day one they all be­come quite good friends.

“Then, half­way through day two, they all get a lit­tle nervy about sales and who’s done what, so then it starts get­ting a lit­tle bit like, ‘Ooh, I do want to win this’ and, ‘I do want my prod­uct to be the best’.

“It’s not com­pet­i­tive in terms of a nasty win at all costs, but these are peo­ple who want to suc­ceed.”

While the judges were there to ref­eree and of­fer ad­vice, Ker­ridge is keen to make it known that his role was not to scru­ti­nise the con­tes­tants.

“I was there to en­cour­age and help, to try and make them feel com­fort­able about cam­eras be­ing there. The win­ners aren’t go­ing to be the peo­ple who make the best TV, the win­ners are go­ing to be the ones with the best prod­uct,” he re­it­er­ates, hav­ing been a suc­cess­ful reg­u­lar com­peti­tor on shows such as the Great Bri­tish Menu him­self.

Top Of The Shop With Tom Ker­ridge will air on BBC Two from Tues­day,8pm

EX­CITED: show pre­sen­ter and renowned chef Tom Ker­ridge

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