Interview: Norty

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Norty create nutritionally balanced and mouth-watering little pots of heaven. Everything is pitted, squeezed and blended by hand. I was lucky enough to interview Norty about their business.

Hello! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?

I'm great thank you. 

Why did you call your business Norty?

It was really a joke and a play on words, as all of our foods are indulgent but they’re not naughty at all given that they are all plant based, and don’t have any nasty stuff in them at all. I wanted to bring healthy indulgence to as many people as possible, whilst maintaining a fun attitude towards food which I think is so important. Food is fuel and it needs to be nutritious as well as being delicious, hence the products are not ‘naughty’ they’re ‘norty’! The vegan version of what naughty is!

How has your creative process changed since the start?

I would say that I am using the creative side of my brain slightly differently nowadays, more because I am sat in front of a laptop most of the time as I no longer work in the kitchen! I still love dreaming up new ideas and getting excited about where the business will expand and go next.

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How did you manage to learn and hone your craft?

Ultimately a lot of practice and experimentation, knowing what I wanted to achieve and then doing it over and over again until the product matched the expectation!

I then combined that with the idea that people should eat healthy and nutritious food as it was better for their bodies, and began playing around with natural ingredients and flavours that I loved until I found what worked for me.

Have you always been into baking and cooking?

From the beginning I grew up in a very foodie family, with a big vegetable garden that meant we ate lots of fresh ingredients everyday and they just taste so much better than ingredients that you can buy from a supermarket and they also make you feel so good! I started working in a cafe when I was 14 and worked my way from there to running the kitchen and then managing a restaurant and a delicatessen!

When I left London I moved to Italy and trained as a chef so I gained lots of technical and professional training

and developed a good background knowledge of different food ingredients and flavour combinations. This has given me huge confidence when creating new flavours. I have always found so much enjoyment in cooking and in working with lots of colourful fruit and vegetables and for me a nutritious, plant based diet is so important not only for our own health but for the future health of our planet too.

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What equipment do you use for your work?

With having just a small kitchen, we’ve adapted most of our equipment from ordinary things that you would find in someone’s home kitchen! We have a walk in freezer and a special machine that uses pressurised air to cut the Elspeth’s Kitchen cakes and some dispensers for getting everything into jars but otherwise everything is just like you would have at home, so it’s a funny scene in the kitchen when we are making nut butters because we have around 10 food processors all going at once which can be a bit noisy!

What tools or materials could you not live without?

Hmmm good question, I would definitely have to say my Magimix or Vitamix, both amazing pieces of kit and they don’t just get used for making sweet stuff, I use them on Yoga retreats as well when making houmous or delicious big bowls of salad.

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Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?

Social media is such a growing force within our society at the moment and I think that it has been such a useful platform for sharing our progress in the kitchen and gathering support from people all across the country, which has been the driving force behind keeping us going. I also love to use social media to see what everyone else is doing and saying about veganism in general, it’s a great community (most of the time) and I find it very inspiring to see other peoples methods and recipes where they are trying out a plant based diet.

Who inspires your work?

There is actually no one that I follow in particular, I tend to draw inspiration from those around me, those I meet at vegan events all over the country and then various people on Instagram!

Do you have any favourite recipes that you adore at the moment?

I made a lovely winter salad on a Yoga Retreat the other weekend and have made it a few times since, it consisted of Butter beans, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted butternut squash, olives, sunflower seeds and roasted marinaded red peppers, a great concoction of sweet and savoury.

What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Instagram page and your work?

Lots more collaborations with other great brands, lots more exciting shout-outs as we launch into more places like Whole Foods and other big brands.

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What are you currently working on?

Currently we are trying to expand the Norty range as much as possible, trying out lots of new flavours of pudding and nut butters to see what works and what people like the most! We are also trying to get our Elspeth’s Kitchen cakes into more suppliers so that we can make it easier for people to try them that don’t live in Bristol! We also just ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a food truck which we will start working on as soon as the weather gets a bit better. This will allow us to make it to loads more events and festivals over summer, and could possibly lead to us having a much larger range due to having a built in fridge and coffee machine too.

What has been your favourite pudding pot to make?

Honestly, they’ve all been fun to make as it was a good adventure trying to scale down our cheesecake recipes for little pot size, but my favourite was probably the salted chocolate because we had to work on our homemade chocolate recipe for that, which was good fun and extremely delicious too. Being able to make chocolate ourselves has been a big cornerstone and we will be using it a lot more in our recipes now.

How do you go about making your pudding pots?

They’re very similar to the cheesecakes, with a toasted oat base and a cashew cream. We actually started off by using pumps that are designed to be shampoo dispensers in order to weigh out the correct quantity into the jars without getting it everywhere. They work very well to be honest and we are now using them for the Nut Butters too so they’ve been a very versatile and helpful piece of kit in our kitchen!

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What’s your typical working day?

My boyfriend and I are currently living in a converted horse lorry just outside the kitchen, so our working day starts as soon as it gets light outside and usually earlier! We will normally do a Crossfit or exercise class in the mornings to get ourselves going for the day, followed by breakfast and emails and then we get to work, sometimes not getting back again until 9pm if we’ve had to travel for meetings. At the weekends I usually cater for a yoga retreat or work at a market or event selling speciality drinks, cakes, puddings and of course our Norty Nut Butters. Running your own business is extremely exciting and rewarding but you do have to be prepared to say goodbye to the concept of a weekend or an early night. It takes a lot of work and a lot of hours!

Do you have any exciting plans for this year?

As far as the business goes, the food truck is probably the most exciting thing as it will make it so much easier to get to events and festivals, and having some built-in facilities will allow us to expand and hopefully start making hot puddings. We had a go this year with some hot apple crumbles and they were really popular, so that is definitely something we would like to bring forward this summer. Otherwise, just getting the Norty Puds and Nut Butters stocked in more places around the UK! Everything is starting to take off now which is super exciting, so I guess we’ll have to see where it all takes us! The growing vegan and free-from community is gaining so much popularity, even just around Bristol the change in attitude is huge, so I’m really just excited to see where this all goes over the next five years, as I think it is a very exciting time to be part of the vegan food industry.

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What is your career plan with your business?

From the beginning I haven’t really had much of a career plan. One day, on a whim, I took some cakes into a local restaurant and cafe and they both rang me up the next day saying that they hold sold out! That was when Elspeth’s Kitchen was born! No business plan, no finances, no professional kitchen, just me, one Magimix and my tiny little home kitchen! Since then I have attended loads of markets and festivals to help share my vision with as many people as possible, basically just going to every event that is possible! Moving forwards I have lots of plans to be releasing the pudding pots into some larger stores in London whilst also doing an e-book soon, so there’s lots on the cards!

After that I would really like to help other people like myself set-up their own ethical businesses too and give back some of the lessons that I have learnt along the way!

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What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground?

To be honest the hardest thing for me has been not having a business partner from the beginning. With any personal project there are highs and lows, and not having anyone to really share those times with has been very difficult. I would definitely say that a business partner with complementary skills to my own may have been a big help, but I’ve managed!

Do you have any advice for anyone starting their own business?

To just do it! It may seem scary to go off and do something that you believe in even if you have no experience, but you will learn along the way and you will enjoy the learning process so much more because it is your own project. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to have no idea what you’re doing, it will work out eventually and the rewards will come.

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What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?

Now that’s a toughy, I think you saved the hardest question till last! I honestly don’t know so might finish here with a quote ‘Don’t compare your life with others. There is no comparison between the sun and the moon. They shine when it’s there time.’

You can find Norty on Facebook ‘https://www.facebook.com/nortyfoods’, Instagram ‘https://www.instagram.com/norty’ and their website ‘https://www.getnorty.com’.