EDP food awards finalist Candi’s Chutney interview

Candi Robertson Chutney makerA top-quality chutney can turn a simple plate of cheese and biscuits into a delicious treat, so we’re really lucky to have had a chance to interview Candi Robertson, owner of Candi’s Chutney –  widely recognised as one of Norfolk’s finest chutney makers.

Every Artisan food producer and has a different tale of how they started out – so we thought we’d start the interview there…

How did you come up with the idea of Candi’s Chutney?

I’d been a chef for over 25 years,  and it had got to the point where I felt like I was a horse being put out to pasture.

Rather than going onto benefits of working in a call centre, I decided I would do something for me and my family.

Having always made chutney with my mum and Nan, I thought let’s give that a go!

So we started Candi’s Chutney in 2012 with £50 – we did a market at Blakeney and people actually like what we were doing!

I thought okay, let’s do this – we then did the North Norfolk Food Festival at Holkham the same year, which was amazing.  That’s what really confirmed our belief in our product and took it forward.

You’re a 2013 & 2014 EDP food awards finalist, what makes your chutney so special?

Parsnip Chilli ChutneyWe believe in only using regional, seasonal produce to guarantee everything is at its peak.

The only non-regional ingredients in our chutney are the whole spices we use – when East Anglia can grow these, we’ll definitely be first in the queue!

For our award-winning Parsnip & Chilli chutney the parsnips get lifted on Thursday, we pick them up on Friday morning and they are chutney by the Friday afternoon!

With all our Chutney its regional, it’s seasonal and it’s as fresh as you can possibly get.

What has been the hardest thing about getting Candi’s Chutney to where it is?

The hardest thing for me, having never actually run my own business, has been the lack of information out there.

Everything I’ve learnt, I’ve learnt from other producers – the wealth of knowledge they have is amazing.

Everyone at the farmers markets is so helpful and the camaraderie is fantastic!

One annoying thing has been the lack of funding and information available – banks just want your money, they don’t want to actually help you.

It’s knowing the people you do the markets with – we all look after each other!

Which of your chutneys might go well with Morton’s smoked duck?

We do four of what we call our Store Cupboard chutneys – Chutneys that we aim to have available all year  (Unless there’s a major disaster in the local veg production!).

To go with something like Morton’s smoked duck I’d recommend our sweetest chutney, Spiced Carrot.

It has an Asian influence, with coriander and star anise quite dominant.  The sweetness will really complements smoking is the duck.

What about a mature cheddar?

That’s funny area because it’s quite a personal one.

Our award-winning Parsnip & Chilli chutney would go well with the Cheddar, or our new award winner, Norfolk Crier Onion Marmalade – a very traditional chutney which, spice wise, is very simple.

The Onion Marmalade is a personal favourite of mine having been named in honour of my husband – he is the original Norfolk Crier, being the one he peels all my onions!

Are there any regional food producers you think we should know about?

Do you have any favourite regional food producers that I haven’t mentioned?
I love hearing from fellow foodies and food producers so get in touch or leave a comment or tweet on Facebook or Twitter!