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Doing business differently

08/05/2020

The Other Chef is finding new ways to cook up business in response to a devastating bushfire season and the challenges of COVID-19.

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When long-term chef Eric began making jam at home almost 15 years ago, he and his wife Monica had no idea their home-based hobby would turn into a commercial business.

It wasn’t long before the duo outgrew their detached granny flat and now operate The Other Chef from a purpose-built facility in Port Macquarie, manufacturing artisan food products ranging from handmade jam, chutney, relish and pickles, to infused olive oils and spice rubs.

For years they have built relationships with local farmers and restaurants, continuing to evolve their products and services, which is a skill that has become a key ingredient to their success in the face of a challenging start to the year.

Monica and Eric from The Other Chef. Image by Tim Hollister for Coastbeat.

After Australia’s devastating fires tore through the region over summer, Monica said the hit to tourism was evident for many local businesses who are now also dealing with the impacts of COVID-19.

“Coming from the fires and into COVID-19 has been challenging from a business perspective, but in some way, I think the impact of the fires has strengthened our resilience and determination to keep going through the difficult times,” Monica said.

For Monica and Eric, the fallout from the pandemic hit them hard and fast.

“The impact hit our business on 16 March. It was sudden and harsh, with some major production jobs cancelling that day and others following suit over subsequent days. It felt like the sky was falling, and there was a lot of uncertainty around what the future would hold,” Monica said.

“The days that followed were difficult, but gradually we were able to focus on what we could do.”

“Support has come from those close to us, our community, and our industry partners - to the point that we have been able to continue operating and look for new opportunities every day.”

As a small business, they have adapted quickly and found new ways to reach their customers by joining forces with other artisan producers from the region to form a new collaboration – The Port Macquarie Food Hub.

Locals are able to order a range of fresh food products and collect their order or have it home delivered on a weekly basis. In just a few weeks, the service has been extended with deliveries now available to Newcastle and Sydney.

“Many of our regular retail customers have been really supportive by ordering online for home delivery in our local area. We are also introducing new customers to the Port Macquarie Food Hub so they can access a more diverse range of food products, including organic eggs, meat, dairy, fresh vegetables and artisan sourdough,” Monica said.

“We’ve also started making fresh pasta to compliment the range of items available through the Port Macquarie Food Hub, as well as our factory store. If the demand continues to grow, we will look to expand the range in the coming months.”

As business owners and parents, Eric and Monica are looking forward and concentrating on what matters most to them.

“Personally, Eric and I continue to focus on what is important in our lives – having a healthy, happy family. We are also acutely aware that the ups and downs of business are small challenges compared to the hardships these crises have brought to so many people,” Monica said.

“On the positive side of things, there has been some great collaborations and creative thinking out there, and we all seem to be looking out for each other a little more. There is a sense, and a reality, that we’re all in this together.

“Our business manager from Newcastle Permanent has also been in contact with us to explain the options we have to move through this crisis. It was incredible reassuring to get that call and we know we can act on that advice if we need to.”

Images by Tim Hollister for Coastbeat.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication. We do not recommend any third party products or services and we are not liable in relation to them. Any links to third party websites are for your information only and we do not endorse their content.

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