A Week in the life of...

30 November, 2007
...Dave Read, from the Proper Cornish Food Company, who takes us through a week where he samples 25 pasties in one day on a quest for the next taste sensation
Page 16 
Monday
After a relaxing weekend thinking about anything and everything but pasties, it's time for the usual 7.30am start. I'm first into the kitchen at work, so I switch everything on and fire up the ovens, then put the kettle on, ready for the team at 8am.Over coffee, we discuss plans for the day, in particular what sample requests have come in and what we will be producing and putting into production trial.The Proper Cornish Food Company was set up by three Cornishmen in 1988 and is now one of the UK's leading handmade pasty manufacturers. The bakery produces 50,000 hand-crimped pasties a day, so we're incredibly busy people.Once we know the order of the day, it's time to hunt out the ingredients. While another member of the team hits the bakery to collect our staple ingredients, I head off to the local supermarket to source the less familiar produce for the new recipes we're trialling. As ever, my shopping basket raises a few eyebrows as I buy every brand of bean chilli in store!I arrive back at the new product development (NPD) kitchen just in time to take part in the team brainstorm on the latest customer product briefs. Nothing is more exciting than coming up with a new pasty flavour and realising that it has the potential to be this year's taste sensation.Armed with a host of recipe ideas, the rest of the team set up in the kitchen. Meanwhile, I'm off to the company planning meeting.This is my chance to tell the departmental managers what's happening this week and discuss new products that will be tested in production. The company has more than 180 staff, 100 of whom work in production, so it's vital that everyone is kept up to speed on progress.The rest of my day is spent making up concept samples for customers. We produce a range of pasty formats, from bake-off to baked and chilled, as well as savoury slices and sausage rolls for a wide customer base.We sell to high-street bakers, catering outlets, multiple retailers and foodservice providers across Britain and beyond. As a result, we always review existing recipes and invent new flavours/pastry products, to keep at the cutting edge of consumer taste trends.TuesdayFirst things first; a cup of coffee with the team and a look at schedules for the day. Then, as often happens, our plans go awry as we get word that we've reached the first stage of approval for three new products for a key customer. This is a big development and means we need to start sourcing new ingredients.I spend the rest of the morning contacting existing suppliers and researching new contacts for quotes, before costing the products. My head is scrambled now, so I take time out for a walk to get ready for the afternoon.Back in the kitchen, we take a call from a customer whose freezer has broken down and ruined all the new product samples we've sent them. We offer a bespoke product capabilities service, coming up with innovative creations to meet individual product briefs, which means that many of the product samples we send to customers are one-offs. Tuesday afternoon is a mad dash to remake all the products and get them delivered to the customer the following day.Wednesday Coffee on the go today, as I'm off to visit a potential new supplier. We try to source all of our ingredients in Cornwall, where possible, and we're particular about meeting our suppliers on their home turf. This gives us an opportunity to tour the facilities and to get a feel for how the supplier will fit with the Proper Cornish ethos. We pride ourselves on great working relationships with suppliers - a real plus, as they're often the ones to suggest new and unique ingredients.Back in the office and it's major taste panel time. A not inconsiderable 25 pasties later, we agree that 20 are strong enough to be added to the development list. Feeling full and bursting at the seams, we receive news that the sales team has secured an appointment with a major retail chain. The rest of the day is spent developing new products, which the sales team can present alongside our bestsellers.ThursdayI'm out of the office again today, visiting a local school. Proper Cornish Food Company was established when founders Phil Ugalde and brothers Chris and Dave Pauling grew disillusioned with commercially made 'Cornish' pasties and decided to demonstrate how a quality proper Cornish pasty should taste. It's this love of Cornwall and Cornish food that makes us want to give something back and to encourage young people to see the fantastic opportunities offered by the food manufacturing industry.We do a lot of work with secondary schools in the area and today I'm meeting a liaison officer at a community college to discuss what we can offer their students - be it careers talks or hands-on class tours of the Proper Cornish site. Although I've given presentations to some of the biggest customers in the country, I still get nervous at the idea of visiting a head teacher's office - it must be a hangover from my school days!FridayToday should be reasonably straightforward, mainly preparing for the following week.We've just launched a range of delicious chilled pasties and a premium sausage roll, so I start pulling together briefing documents and hand-crimping pasty samples for the sales team.Next I attend an engineering meeting to give my opinion on some new equipment. It's important that NPD has input on the purchase of new machinery as it can have an impact on the ingredients we work with and the consistencies we produce.After that, it's the fortnightly NPD meeting. Here I meet people from across the business, in the fields of stores, purchasing, production and technical, not to mention at least one of the Proper Cornish Food Company directors. This is a chance to make sure that everyone is aware of our current work and anything big planned for the future.I round off a full day and yet another busy week by taking part in a de-brief with my fellow NPD team members - before heading off for a weekend with my family in the wonderful Cornish countryside.



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