How it started …
After Studying fine art and completing a Patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School I went on to work as a pastry chef in various restaurants, including Le Gavroche and Peggy Porschen. In 2013 I decided it was time for a new challenge and began baking in my tiny studio flat in South West London. It was soon after this I discovered edible flowers and the beauty of using something that was already growing around us to decorate cakes. I thought to myself “Why am I spending hours making little daisies when I can use the real thing?” The problem I found was that they wouldn’t last more than a day or so and so I set about preserving them. Recalling memories of pressing flowers from my Nan’s garden in between old books, I sandwiched some between my large patisserie bible and later used them to decorate a cake with a recreation of my favourite Liberty pattern - a wildflower meadow. And here Blushing Cook’s signature pressed edible flower design was born!
For the next 6 years I gradually lost more and more of what was my home to kitchen equipment. The sofa was replaced with a 3 door fridge, the kitchen table was swapped for a stainless steel work table and the tv was moved on top of my wardrobe and replaced by a 100kg food mixer. My landlords were always very confused on their visits but they were always very kind and understanding. When the Pandemic hit in 2020, weddings were suddenly very much off the table. Sitting in my kitchen surrounded by flowers and buttercream, I drew up an action plan. I'd been quietly beavering away on an idea for floral postal brownies. The idea was nowhere near ready, but with the help of my ever-supportive partner, Simon, I worked a mile a minute to launch a new website, with a commerce aspect for our floral brownies.
To say I was blown away by the response, would be an understatement. Things changed overnight; we took so many orders for postal brownies, we had to close the website! I worked through the nights, with Simon helping all the way, despite working his own full time job. The entire flat became a kitchen unit, my modest two shelf oven took on far more than it signed up for, and the hallway filled with gift boxes. With lockdown in full effect, I couldn't have anyone to help me in the kitchen, and supply chain issues made finding ingredients and packaging feel like a game of Crystal Maze. When I wasn’t baking, I was waiting in line at the post office with an IKEA bag full of brownies to post.
I was overwhelmed, not just by the work, but by the support of everyone around me. Small businesses rely on word of mouth, and if it weren’t for everyone spreading floral love on social media, for Simon working tirelessly alongside me, for everyone who bought their mums and grans and friends brownies, Blushing Cook wouldn’t be where it is today.
A few optimistic sendouts led to Jamie Oliver, Nigel Slater and Josephine Fairley giving my brownies a shout out on their socials, and a fateful run in with my old boss, Michelle Roux Junior, led to a Valentine's Day collaboration at Le Gavroche.
When the lockdown eased, I called upon some old colleagues and friends, whose businesses had also been affected by the pandemic, and we reunited (at an appropriate distance) in the kitchen of my flat. Jess, Vita, Holly and Naomi helped me bake, Simon helped box and press, Michelle managed all the orders from home, my Mum even helped by pressing thousands of flowers for me. With the team back together, morale boosted, which made even the most ridiculous challenges and the latest nights enjoyable. We made do with the resources we had, and the business continued to grow.
The real game changer was winning the Holly Tucker Awards. I was dubious, but friends and family encouraged me to enter, and to my surprise - we won! The prize money of £10,000 really helped take Blushing Cook to the next level, and I would encourage any independent business to enter.
Eventually, I decided the time had come to find a new unit to run the business out of (I missed my sofa). I knew a cake maker who previously worked in Merton Abbey Mills, and knew that her old unit was empty. I took the leap, and Blushing Cook found its new home. I invested the money from the Holly Tucker Awards into a much needed professional oven, and set about transforming the place into Blushing Cook’s kitchen.
I had absolutely no idea how to kit out a professional kitchen, and was yet again overwhelmed by the support of everyone around me. Everyone at Merton Abbey Mills welcomed me into their community (and helped me to carry the 10 tonne oven inside!). Simon and his Dad, Clive, stayed up late and tiled the walls. The wonderful Aga hand painted our beautiful floral stained glass window. Chalk Dock Signs designed our exterior Blushing Cook sign, and fellow Merton Abbey Mills business Roots To Jungle designed our mossy sign inside.
Installing a professional kitchen alongside baking brownies, pressing flowers and packaging orders is no easy feat, but after much graft, many obstacles, and persistence, we finally had a kitchen to call our own. A kitchen we think called for a floral red ribbon, a pair of scissors and a very special guest! Read more on this in our next Blushing Blog post ....