Port Macquarie's go-to for award-winning jams, relishes, sauces and pickles
What started out as a hobby selling jars of their homemade strawberry jam at local markets in Port Macquarie, is today known as The Other Chef Makers and Providores.
Started by husband and wife team Eric and Monica Robinson the couple has spent the last 16 years building The Other Chef into Port Macquarie's home of award-winning jams, relishes and other kitchen staples, all the while supporting local people and producers along the way.
Speaking with Monica she explains how much the business has evolved over time, however the core of what they offer is still very much as it was back in 2004.
“We started making jams in the granny flat that was at the back of the house we were living in at the time. We had babies running around at this point so it wasn’t ideal to have hot pots of jams boiling away in the kitchen, so the granny flat was an ideal space.”
“We launched The Other Chef as a brand early on, Eric’s background as a chef and my experience in wine marketing is essentially how the business idea came together.”
By no means an overnight sensation, Monica tells of how the business was a slow grow, with Eric continuing to work as a chef at night and teach commercial cookery at TAFE during the day just to get by.
“It wasn’t until our strawberry jam won a medal at the Sydney Royal Fine Food Awards that things started to turn around.”
“I sent a press release out to local media and Anthony Starks from Ricardoes contacted us asking if we’d be interested in making the strawberry jam for Ricardoes. So immediately we had a client who was bigger than us which was amazing.”
“Ricardoes were also quite new at the time and beginning to win awards for their fresh fruit, so it has been really nice to grow along with them.”
"Our business growth can also be put down to the help that we’ve received from Newcastle Permanent. They’ve provided the means for us to expand our business and invest in the equipment necessary to keep up with the growing demand. The local branch team are incredibly friendly and we are always grateful for their professional and personal service. I’ve been with the Perm since the late 80’s so you could probably call me a loyal customer!"
Whilst The Other Chef has their own flag ship brand of highly awarded jams, relishes and kitchen staple products much of the business is now focused on working with businesses to help them create private or white label products.
“It’s a difficult market to be competitive in, everyone is making their own gourmet range of products and you need to be knocking on doors, and dedicated to the distribution side of things. We’re more about keeping in close contact with our clients and dealing directly with them rather than working with a distributor.”
In addition to their hard work ethic and personal approach to business The Other Chef is much loved for the focus on working with the best local and Australian produce.
“What interests me is food security so when a crisis such as COVID hits the idea of being able to feed and source food from our own region becomes so important. It’s also a lot better for the environment to be able to eat what we can grow locally.”
“We work with local producers such as Ricardoes and we use the Red Wine Vinegar from Bago Winery, it’s pretty cool to be able to use vinegar and tomatoes from only 20 minutes away. However, we’ll take fruit from anywhere in Australia if they can get it to us, especially if we can help save a crop.”
“We’ve processed blood oranges from the Riverine, figs from Queensland and blueberries from Byron Bay. At the moment we’re racing like crazy to make something of four tonnes of peaches which were delivered from The Peach Farm in Yamba. Once fruit has been damaged by hail or storms there is a real urgency to process them before they’re no longer useable.”
Whilst The Other Chef has grown significantly since their early days it’s surprising just how few hands it takes to keep the operation ticking each week. In addition to Monica and Eric there is one full time person in the kitchen, and a couple of casuals who are required seasonally.
Whilst 2019 and 2020 have thrown plenty of challenges at Monica and Eric, business is now doing better than ever with Monica positive that the need for locally produced food and produce will only continue to grow,
“I honestly thought when COVID hit that it would be the end of our business. The bushfires knocked us around for tourism in Port Macquarie, which we are quite reliant on, this then continued in 2020 with COVID. It was incredibly reassuring when our Newcastle Permanent Business Relationship Manager made contact with us to explain the options available to assist us move through the crisis. We knew we could act on that advice with their support.”
This editorial is a sponsored post with Newcastle Permanent Building Society and Visa. Visa developed the ‘Where You Shop Matters’ platform to support small and micro businesses and to recognise that our local communities need us most in difficult times, through drought, bushfires, and now COVID. Newcastle Permanent and Visa developed a partnership to showcase this in our local region. Check out newcastlepermenant.com.au/visa for more information.