Leigh’s wife Helen runs Woburn Country Foods, a family farm which prides itself on quality products and good animal welfare practices. As such, Leigh had the idea a couple of years ago to smoke and bbq his meat so that he could really showcase the Woburn product, and encourage flavours and textures which can’t be achieved with other methods.
Struggling to find the equipment he’d envisaged, Leigh was in talks to have a custom built barbecue built when he stumbled upon Trailblazer. Leigh flew out to Belfast, spoke with the Trailblazer team about his requirements and to his delight, the unit he’d envisaged existed as a Trailblazer product.
We sat down with Leigh to discuss the evolution of Feast and how Trailblazer has allowed him to move forward with his business in a way he’d longed for: cooking high-quality meat in a way that delivers a great product without compromising on output, whilst allowing him to work in any location, in any weather.
Hi Leigh, thanks for talking to us today. Straight to the product – I know you follow a specific and unique cooking process. Was this a case of trial and error? Is getting a product exactly how you want it before bringing it to an event a time-intensive process?
Yes, I do spend a lot of time trying out techniques and flavours before unleashing them on the public. However, sometimes if I’m not 100% happy with a dish, I put it out there regardless and offer free samples in return for feedback as many dishes are subjective to the customers.
What a great approach! I know you use the Trailblazer; now that we’re in winter, do you think this gives you a competitive advantage? Have you been able to say yes to events that you wouldn’t have been able to without the Trailblazer?
The Trailblazer certainly gives me the opportunity to trade all year round. Previously when we have traded in cold weather, the gas has frozen meaning we can’t continue cooking. We’ve already done a number of events in the snow with the Trailblazer and a bed of roaring charcoal certainly draws in the crowds on a cold day.
I can imagine! Other than using Woburn Country Foods for your meat, do you have any sustainability practices?
We try to be conscious of the environment in everything we do with the business. Obviously we use all local fresh produce and all of our packaging is completely biodegradable and home compostable. We are currently in the process of sourcing a more eco friendly sauce supplier as that’s the one thing we’re lacking at the moment. 2020 will see us focus more on local events and so cut down on the mileage travelled and help promote the food miles involved in our business.
Feast is very much a meat focused business. Do you offer options for vegetarians and vegans?
Yes, although we are a smoke and bbq business, a good percentage is vegetarian and vegan and we also have gluten free options. Oak smoked corn on the cob with sage herb butter is a favourite.
Wow, that sounds delicious. What’s something about the industry you know now, that you wish you’d known when you started out?
Don’t be shy about being different. I think we were too cautious at the beginning of our street-food journey and played it safe with our menu. The public love to try new and different things. It may not work all of the time or be the most profitable but you will have the most fun rather than sticking to the norm.
What would be your advice to someone looking to establish an independent catering business? What should be their first 3 steps?
My number one piece of advice would be to try and be different, be original – don’t copy someone else. You also have to enjoy it because it’s not a get rich quick business. Finally, engage with your customers, they are your lifeblood; if they want a different filling or sauce or whatever – make it for them. That’s what sets you apart from multi-national companies.
Such great advice. What have been the most beneficial aspects of NCASS membership for you?
The paperwork, or rather the lack of it on my part definitely. The ability to send everything to an event organiser in an instant is a real bonus and to do it on the fly is crucial. The work ops also are a great way of engaging with event organisers.