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International Women’s Day Round-Up From Devon’s Food And Drink World

International Women’s Day Round-Up From Devon’s Food And Drink World

With International Women’s Day on Sunday the 8th March, meet some of Devon’s leading female professionals in the industry.

Nat Tallents: ExecutiveChef, The Box Kitchen and Bar

Lola Grogan: Founder and MD, The Eco Laundry

Ann Stallard: Director, Waterhouse Fayre

Lucia Bly: Retail & NPD Director, Salcombe Dairy

Jo Rees: Owner, Salt Media

Hayley Reynolds: Co-Director, Raw Food and Drink PR and South West Wine School

international women's day woman chef

Name:  Nat Tallents

Briefly state position and what your job entails:

Executive Chef of The Box in Plymouth, due to open on 16th May. I will be overseeing the whole catering operation including the kitchen, front of house and events on behalf of Fosters Events Catering. It is my biggest job to date, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and challenge. Also being a part of such a deep-rooted community project is so exciting.

What have been the highlights of your career? 

I have worked alongside some wonderful people throughout my career; it really is the people that make this job such rewarding experience. Being a contestant in MasterChef: The Professionals was a huge highlight, however, competing in National Chef of the Year in 2018 was the scariest. Pitching myself against some of the country’s best chefs was both terrifying and exhilarating. Both experiences gave me huge confidence boosts.

And the biggest challenge you have overcome? 

Along with many other chefs, I have suffered under the pressure of the kitchen and the industry; ‘burn out’ in particular has been my biggest challenge. The constant grind of daily service and the desperation for accolade and perfection takes a toll both physically and mentally. It’s a dark place and I’m lucky to have been able to overcome it with good support in my life.

I have recently done a mental health first aid course which I think is the way forward in any industry but especially hospitality, with so many people, chefs in particular having mental health issues and struggling with addiction, depression or exhaustion. 

Your future goals? 

I have always wanted to move into bigger roles like this and I hope in the future there will be more multi-site opportunities for me as I believe that is where my strengths are and something I find challenging. But I have always wanted to write a book, more of a memoir of the life of a chef – especially as a woman – in the kitchen. I have many stories over the years and it would be good to write it down and hopefully inspire more women into the kitchen.

If you could go back 10 years and give yourself one piece of advice – what would it be? 

It would be to look after myself better – sleep, drink water, get fresh air. The life of a chef can be isolating and exhausting. It’s so important to be in good health. 

What does success look like to you? Success is finding a job you love, having the right people in your life and finding the right work/life balance. It’s taken me a long time to understand that but it is so important and I feel very grateful for everything in my life right now. 

international women's day woman hat scarf necklace

Name: Lola Grogan

Briefly state position and what your job entails:

Owner and MD of The Eco Laundry.  Overseeing the day to day running of the laundry and ensuring that our quality, service and low rejection levels are maintained whilst adhering to our Eco and sustainable principles.

What have been the highlights of your career?

Being the first black director of a NYSE listed company. Leaving the safety but restricted life of the Corporate world. Starting The Eco Laundry and seeing how it has grown in a very short space of time.

And the biggest challenge you have overcome?  

Juggling the various plates of family life with a working life. Currently the biggest work challenge we have is the demand for our services.  The demand outstrips what we currently have the capacity to produce.

Your future goals?

1. To continue to be a female warrior.
2. To help my children become respectful, appreciative and loving individuals who go on to achieve their potential and dreams.
3. To fulfil the enormous potential of The Eco Laundry and see the laundry industry as a whole striving to produce laundry in a much more sustainable way.
4. Enjoy good wine!

If you could go back 10 years and give yourself one piece of advice – what would it be?

To savour and appreciate good times / experiences and what you have got.

What does success look like to you?

A happy family, good health, making a difference to my community and being a person people want to spend time with.

international women's day woman

Name: Ann Stallard

Position & Job:

Director, Waterhouse Fayre Limited. Overseeing production, managing accounts, procurement, marketing and product development, including a brand new low sugar preserve range. 

Highlights of career:

Achieving a gold award in my first year of preserving making in 2004, and winning golds every year since.  Winning Champion Preserve with Taste of the West.

Working with businesses such as RHS Garden Rosemoor, Country Cheeses, Longleat and Hive Beach Café to create bespoke own label ranges.  Training and developing my team, creating a family orientated atmosphere.

Biggest challenge:

The hardest challenge was the transition from employed to self-employed.  Working for a large company and running a department of 10 people to working on my own.  Now I have a team.  The second challenge was also a big change in my life when my husband joined the business and I had to learn to share responsibilities.

Future goals:

Having spent the last 12 months developing a new low sugar range of preserves, Fruitiful, I will be busy working to make this a national brand.  I am never satisfied nor content to sit still, I will always explore new opportunities and continue to grow Waterhouse Fayre; I cannot resist it.

Go back 10 years & give yourself one piece of advice:

You don’t have to do it all yourself.

What does success look like?

Having a flourishing business which I built from scratch.  Working with a lovely team of people and having great customers.

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Name:  Lucia Bly

Briefly state position and what your job entails:

Retail & NPD Director, Salcombe Dairy. Also Owner, Swallows’ Flight. At Salcombe Dairy I oversee marketing, retail, new product development and packaging design. Swallows’ Flight provides holiday accommodation in glorious South Devon and I also manage three properties near the sea in South Devon.

What have been the highlights of your career? 

Seeing Salcombe Dairy’s first bar of chocolate roll off the production line and be packed. We spent two years working hard to achieve it and the behind the scenes work was vast.  We had to research to learn about how to make the best chocolate, I Airbnb’d our farmhouse (that meant a lot of cleaning and tidying!) for a whole summer to raise the money to fund a fact finding mission to Cacao Plantations in Peru and Costa Rica with our four kids. My husband Dan went to Italy to look at machinery and buy cacao bean grinders to make chocolate from scratch (unlike the vast majority of UK chocolate providers who melt down Belgian-produced chocolate) so that means running two businesses, a household and childcare in his absence, so it’s a big family team effort to make things happen. 

Getting into Oxford and obtaining a degree in medieval German and linguistics was a proud achievement for me as I went to a comprehensive school (KEVIC) in Totnes. Neither of my parents went to uni but my mother did an Open University degree with three small kids under her feet and became the first female teacher at Totnes Boys School in the 1950’s. I owe my hard work ethic and thirst for knowledge to her and have always encouraged my own kids to be open to learning. Actually in some ways it’s a pretty useless qualification for an Oxbridge degree – but it inspired in me a love of art, literature and an ability to research and find out things other people don’t see – which has been useful throughout my working life. 

And the biggest challenge you have overcome? 

Balancing work with family life – like all working mothers, this is a huge and ongoing challenge. 

I had to fight hard at the beginning of my career with a couple of bosses who were not family minded. I remember pitching up to work being terrified to announce my third pregnancy. My boss at the time was a 30 year old workaholic man who said, “Three maternity leaves – isn’t that taking the mick?” Yet I had not taken a day’s sick leave in 12 years and only had taken 12 weeks each time I was on maternity leave, continuing to work during these 12 weeks by taking phone calls most days. I was committed to my job and grateful to the company for “letting” me work three days a week when in actual fact I was doing a full time job anyway. In a commercial environment you get on with your job to make and beat targets, but I think certainly in the public sector this is improving with more family friendly measures are being introduced. I remember once being told by a large corporation that a new graduate in my team whose father had died was only entitled to three days compassionate leave. His family lived six hours drive away so this would just about have enabled him to get to the funeral and back. I gave him two weeks off and told him to work from home risking my own neck to do so. At that point I decided big corporations don’t work for me – I’m too interested in making and keeping people who work for me happy.

Your future goals? 

To run a successful business in which employees have the opportunity to learn new skills, earn a fair wage, and look forward coming to work each day as they are motivated by collective achievement. It’s lovely to have a business where you can recruit young people and watch their achievements grow, also recruit people who have problems and can overcome these through working in a supportive environment.

And to be comfortable financially myself! My husband Dan and I have renovated houses in our spare time at evenings and weekends for the entire twenty five years of our marriage, but I’m a bit fed up of the leaking farmhouse roof and the endless repainting of Victorian skirting boards because my three darling sons skateboard and unicycle round the kitchen. Maybe a glassy new build with no maintenance would be nice for the future to come home to after work?!

If you could go back 10 years and give yourself one piece of advice – what would it be? 

To be braver financially and take more risks. Also to be more creative within work. It’s easy to be creative with clothes, with art, with interior design etc. but I’m now brave enough to be creative at work too.

What does success look like to you?

Success is happy children. I’m only as happy as my happiest child and I’ll do anything to keep my family motivated and on the right track in life. Dealing with teenagers is bloody hard work as they challenge every move their parents make – and in some ways rightly so. Seeing my eldest daughter enjoying her first year at uni after travelling the world and keen to come back and be with the rest of us during her hols is very encouraging that we’re doing the right thing as parents. Work supports our busy lifestyle, but at the end of the day it’s a brain-exercising, fun, challenging, means to an end. For me, that end – is being with my husband, family and friends and enjoying the outdoors with a bit of art, fashion, chocolate and ice cream thrown in! 

international women's day woman cup

Name:  Jo Rees

Briefly state position and what your job entails:

Owner Salt Media. Day job entails editing Food Magazine and the Trencherman’s Guide, creative and editorial direction on projects such as Indy Coffee Guides and magazines for clients such as Army Cadets, Saunton Sands Hotel and Mole Valley Farmers’ Countrystore magazine.

What have been the highlights of your career? 

Launching the BBC’s magazine business in Australia and New Zealand in the early 2000s, launching the UK’s first local food magazine in 2003, winning Best Membership Magazine in the UK (PPA Awards) this year for CountryStore Magazine. Also building a brilliant creative team in a rural coastal area (North Devon) and creating a supportive, friendly and uplifting environment where talented people can thrive. Oh, and launching a speciality coffee subscription business last summer (Indy Coffee Box).

And the biggest challenge you have overcome?

Having two babies while trying to grow a business in the middle of a recession – which meant very little sleep and a lot of stress. Copy editing a magazine couple of days after giving birth to my second son was tough and I remember feeling a bit sad that other new mums would be enjoying a year off with their babies. That said, running a business with my husband Nick has enabled us to work around the kids’ schedules and to get to go to school plays and rugby matches and spend time with them – certainly more than if we were working for big corporations and commuting like we use to. Nowadays the boys come on coffee trips around the UK with us and one or other of them often joins me on restaurant and hotel reviews for Food and Trencherman’s – they’re good company.

Your future goals?

To keep creating beautiful work that readers and clients enjoy, and to continue to support independent businesses. New things come along all the time, so I don’t really set goals, I just like to be open to whatever comes up that’s new and interesting. I think I’ll still be doing this in my 70s – I can’t imagine ever wanting to retire.

If you could go back 10 years and give yourself one piece of advice – what would it be?

It’ll be ok.

What does success look like to you?

Working with lovely people, being creatively fulfilled, and having time to hang out with my fave people and get outdoors.

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Name:  Hayley Reynolds

Briefly state position and what your job entails:

I am founder and co-director of RAW Food and Drink PR and co-founder of South West Wine School. I also sit on the board of directors of Food Drink Devon. My aim is to run the best food and drink PR company in the South West with happy clients and a happy team. My role is to oversee all accounts and ensure we’re delivering our client’s objectives each month. Through South West Wine School, we provide first class wine education throughout the region. 

What have been the highlights of your career?

My technicolour career in PR has been a wild and wonderful adventure working with some of the best brands in food, drink and hospitality. As a lover of wine, I was proud to collect my wine diploma and it’s been an honour to practice it in the industry; from heading up the Jacobs Creek account to now educating others through wine qualifications. When I moved back to Devon I recognised a need for a South West food and drink agency to rival those based in London. It’s a real pleasure to work alongside my husband Jonathan and a superb team. With so many members of the team being mothers, I’m delighted that RAW has created so many flexible working roles that helps to achieve the team’s goals as individuals too.

And the biggest challenge you have overcome? 

Nothing else has compared to the challenge of having a serious operation, especially while working and having young children. I’ve had to adapt to the loss of the hearing in my left ear and having noise in my head. Overcoming a health scare made me realise how precious life is and changed my outlook for the better. Work should be enjoyable, so I’m careful to only work with lovely clients who care about their products and team. I surround myself with a positive team. And I want to be as efficient as possible to maintain a quality of life in beautiful Devon with my family.

Your future goals?

Our overarching aim at RAW is simply to be the absolute best agency we can be. Continual improvement is a real motivation for the whole team and we regularly discuss ways we can become even more efficient. Ultimately though, I aim to enjoy life in Devon with the family, forever hoping to strike that work/life balance. Then retire and bum around the world!

If you could go back 10 years and give yourself one piece of advice – what would it be?

Not sweat about the small stuff. If you work hard and stay positive, things will eventually come right.

What does success look like to you?

A happy family and a happy team around me with flourishing clients.

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