On the first of April 2011, Herb Faust Food became our business name, and a very large part of our lives. As I do around our children’s birthdays, Christmas time, and as each year of married life ticks by, I get a little sentimental and nostalgic. So, as we enter our ninth year of business, I reflect on what has been, where we are, and what the future holds. This is my take on it from a personal perspective…
It all began with close friends hearing through the media grapevine that channel 7 had bought the rights to the iconic Iron Chef series and were on the hunt for competitors. At the time, Herb had been working as a chef for nearly 15 years and his then role of Head Chef at Scotch College saw him as the perfect “underdog” for the series. He was contacted by the producers, auditioned and, before we knew it, was selected for the show.
With close mates and fellow talented chefs, Mick and Brett, by his side, Herb jetted off to Melbourne to meet his opponent, Guy Grossi (coincidentally, the first gift I ever bought Herb was Guy’s book, Florentino!) I happened to be in Melbourne for work so was lucky enough to be in the audience for the filming of Herb and Guy’s episode. It was immense fun, albeit nerve-wracking, to see Herb in his element, skilfully creating four delicious dishes using the mystery ingredient of lamb. Guy, ever the showman, appeared relaxed and confident as he and his team got to work, even “saluting” the audience with a glass of red. Herb, Mick and Brett, however, battled with nerves, malfunctioning equipment, unfamiliar cameras tracking their every move, and of course the tight time limit. Relief washed over as the one-hour battle came to a close, and the four dishes were plated up, ready for tasting by the judges.
It became apparent at the tasting that Herb just may have been a step in front of Guy. Judges Leo Schofield, Larissa Dubecki and Simon Thomsen spoke of the menu as being “magic” and having a sense of "fun, whimsy, joy and exuberance". From an audience member’s perspective, they seemed genuinely in awe of Herb’s creativity, technique and flavour combinations.
Indeed, it was enough to see Herb announced the winner, and the victory was one of the sweetest moments in his cooking career. It’s also the moment his passion for expressing his creativity through food was reignited, and over the following months Herb Faust Food was born.
It began as a simple idea; in-home dinner parties for intimate groups, where Herb would take over the host’s kitchen with his wait-person, and present a 5 course, seasonally designed degustation. Herb would talk about each course as it was served, describing the inspiration, produce, techniques and creative ideas behind each dish. We sourced feedback from friends and family, and asked design guru Lisa Quinn-Schofield to create a logo for the business. Suddenly, this concept had legs!
So, in 2011 Herb took a leap of faith, leaving his job at Scotch College to pursue growing Herb Faust Food into a full-time business. As the business grew, so did the administrative and marketing tasks, which is where I came in. With a decade or so of administration and book-keeping skills under my belt, it seemed to make sense that I should take the reins on that side of the business. I can’t say I didn’t resist the move; this was an entirely new experience and I feared the uncertainty. Eventually, though, I took a deep breath and began piloting our fledgling business.
Working with one’s spouse was always going to be a challenge. The business would force us to have difficult discussions, and make tough decisions together. We’d work harder than we thought possible, and discover there’s no off switch when running your own business. Herb and I are lucky to have had plenty of support around us though. Key to our success are the people who work with us, and back us with their amazing talent, passion and ideas. I think every member of our immediate families have worked with us at some point! Plus, close friend and colleague of almost four years, Tara, has always been there to offer well-considered advice whenever Herb and I get a little “passionate” about things. Then there’s my mum who, as well as working within the business, continues to offer her time for free, and takes our stresses on as her own. She takes care of our children more than any grandparent I know, and does so with love and even gratitude.
As for me, I feel I’ve gained a new identity for myself and (modestly) bring a strong set of skills to the Herb Faust Food table. I’ve helped shape the business, am strong in my convictions, and now know first-hand what it takes to run a small business. I thoroughly enjoy developing new processes to provide the best possible experience for our customers. I love designing marketing collateral, and most recently put together our fresh new website. Plus, I still love the satisfaction of clicking the ‘reconcile’ button in a bank feed (fellow book-keepers will understand). On a practical note, I love the flexibility the business affords me so I can be here for our children while Herb works the crazy hours (side note: I’m sitting in bed with the puppies curled up next to me writing this at 8am on a Sunday morning).
Looking back, any storms we’ve weathered have thankfully only brought Herb and I closer. We’re a passionate team and I love that I’ve been able to support his dream of building Herb Faust Food. We strive to evolve and improve to suit an ever-changing and diverse market. This is incredibly personal for us and I hope that’s something that sets us apart. It’s been quite the experience so far, and it feels great to have achieved what we have over the past 8 years…together.