Almost ready to launch ...

The Chorlton Larder is almost ready to launch. I’ve been planning my new venture since January and it’s been a long, slow, exciting, nerve-racking and sometimes lonely process. For years, I’ve wanted to follow my passion and ‘do something in food’ – I just wasn’t sure of the best direction for me. Then back in January, thanks to the clarity and positivity afforded to me by embarking upon my One Year No Beer journey*, I hit upon the idea of a high quality business lunch delivery service. With a small but perfectly formed menu I hope to reach out to those businesses who want to show their love and appreciation for their employees and clients through seriously good food. To reach out to businesses who understand the power of communal eating in boosting moral, well-being and productivity. And to reach out to those businesses who are ready to take their lunch times to the next level.

With a focus on beautiful charcuterie, cheese and vegan platters, gorgeous, vibrant salads and ridiculously tasty and deep filled sandwiches (best eaten in private over a sink) I hope that The Chorlton Larder is able to inject some joy into the working day and make lunch times the best hour of the day.

So there are just a few weeks left until launch (in late November) in which I will have a mad dash to finish the website, hire a delivery rider (all the food will be delivered by eco-friendly cargo bike), prepare for a food photography session, start marketing, sort insurances plus a million other daunting things. I’m excited by the prospect that next month, with a bit of good luck, I’ll be taking my first orders but I also feel a bit terrified by this fact. However, I need to remember how far I’ve come in the last 10 months. I’ve developed my nugget of an idea into something real, something concrete complete with business plan, my very own accountant (I feel very grown up), business loan (don’t tell my mum), logo, half finished website (did I mention I need to finish that?!), sample menus, a back bedroom overrun with painstakingly researched and sourced compostable and recyclable packaging and a shiny new meat slicer.

Sometimes it has felt a bit 2 steps forward and 17 steps back though. Take the meat slicer for example – my husband, friends and even strangers in the street have had to listen to me going on about my seemingly never-ending quest to find the perfect machine. The charcuterie I use is from Trealy Farm (award-winning, British produced, gorgeous stuff) which needs to be treated with love and sliced by a proper decent machine in order to get those slices nice and thin. I was recommended a Berkel so searched high and low on ebay and Gum Tree looking for one that didn’t look like a rust bucket and/or wasn’t sold by an absolute con-merchant. After a week of intensive searching I finally found a Berkel and after a few (hundred) messages back and forth about its condition and whether it could slice charcuterie without ripping the arse off it I finally took the plunge and paid for it. 5 days later it was delivered and it was the size of a small car. In fact my husband had to move his car onto the road so me, hubby and the delivery driver could Chuckle Brothers it down the driveway and into the house. After scraping the paint off the doorway and with shaking, burning hands, it was placed onto the kitchen work surfaces, which I’m surprised didn’t buckle under the sheer weight of the thing, and I could have cried – partly due to the fact it was bloody massive and partly due to the fact I’d wrecked my back carrying it in. The thing sat in my kitchen for a week domineering the whole space, filling me with regret and making me question my whole business idea. Then when I finally plucked up the courage to test it out I realised that the safety arm was broken – the bit that protects your fingers from getting julienned. Hooray!!!! I had a reason to return it. I sent a politely-worded email to the seller and good enough he replied within 30 minutes offering a full refund and advised he would arrange collection.

Collection day came (back was wrecked again) and I was so delighted to see the back of that Berkel even though I was back to the drawing board in my meat slicer quest. Anyway, another week later, I finally found one – a brand spanking new, charcuterie friendly, fully working and, most importantly, compact machine shipped over from Italy.

The moral of the story, for me, is that I got there ... in the end. I know running a business will be full of problems and headaches and setbacks just like meat slicer gate (and worse) but with relentless hard work, perseverance, lovely friends and family supporting me and remembering the fact that I never ever want to go back into teaching (loved the kids, couldn’t stand the paperwork - more on this at a later date) hopefully I can keep overcoming them and create a business that makes people smile at lunchtime.

 * I did pretty well with the no drinking thing until June and a rooftop pool bar in Sitges. Well I am only human.

Michelle Jolley