Many of the students that pass through our doors go on to lead exciting and lucrative careers within the industry. It’s always great to hear back from ex-pupils and to learn about their successes and to think how we may have helped play a part in the new direction their lives have taken since they graduated. Recently we caught up with Clare Gault who studied with us in 2013.
This is the story, thus far, of Clare’s Preserves…
When Clare first came to study with us, she was living in Germany. During the six month course, she, her husband and dogs rented a cottage on Dartmoor. Soon to fall in love with the area, post-graduation they decided to make their move here a permanent one. The people, like ourselves, who have fallen in love with the award-winning products she makes are very glad that is the case. Germany’s loss, is most certainly Devon’s gain.
Before deciding to enroll at Ashburton Cookery School, Clare’s professional background was in Maritime. Her involvement in cookery, only a hobby at this stage. However, as so many of our students have shown over the years, with passion and a good mindset, you can go on to great things.
Clare tells us that during her course, our tutors suggested her particular method of working could be very suitable for developmental practices. “I’m quite precise and regimented in the way I approach things” she tells us “Some of the students were very creative, whereas I like to have a recipe to work from.”
Sounding extremely modest about her own flair in the kitchen there, considering the variety of different products she currently produces, to critical acclaim.
Clare always intended to go on to work in her own environment, rather than a commercial kitchen. Initially considering opening her own cafe or bed and breakfast, she found her calling by chance. “I came across the [Dalemain] Marmalade Awards, so literally grabbed one of my jars from the cupboard and sent it off”.
That spur of the moment decision landed her with a silver award, but she’d soon be back for the gold. From then, the business was born and Clare hasn’t looked back since. There are now 20 different products under the Clare’s Preserves brand, including some seasonal varieties, not available all year round.
Predominantly she sells to stockists in Devon, however after bagging three (yes, three) golds at this year’s The World’s Original Marmalade Awards, she attracted attention from Fortnum & Mason. So currently her label will be seen on the shelves at their world-famous flagship London stores. Something Clare remains typically modest about. With some 2500 entries from around the world, I’m not sure I would be so humble in the same situation.
Clare works with as many local suppliers as possible, and her products are a real labour of love. She could not expand the business any more without taking people on, and in the process, losing a little of what makes her products special. For this reason, she won’t entertain the idea of selling to supermarkets.
When asked how she looks back on her time at Ashburton, we blush as she tells us “Fantastic, from start to finish. It’s very hard work, but you get out what you put in. The chefs probably thought I was a pain at the time [I’ve asked them Clare, they assure me they didn’t- Editor] but I really wanted to do well, and I’m very proud to tell people I studied at Ashburton Chefs Academy”.
“It made a huge difference, and I certainly think without it, it would have taken a lot longer to get where I wanted to. There’s also so much you learn when you’re there, not just the cooking aspect, but also on organisation, which has been a huge benefit on the business side. Learning about costings for new recipes for example, makes life so much easier. It got me on the right track from the beginning.”
Clare, we’re very glad to have played a part in this wonderful journey and happy you found your time with ourselves valuable. We hope you carry on going from success to success. And as we like to remind you, we’re always on hand to try a jar or twelve if ever you need Guinea Pigs for new recipes.
You can see the full range available from Clare’s Preserves here.