Admission – I’m not a butcher.
But I work closely with an amazing organic butcher, hold my own Safe Food Qld meat processing accreditation, and in the past 18 months or so, have handled much more human-grade animal products than I ever thought a sometimes-meat-eater like me ever would.
Plus it works as a blog title.
Another admission – I didn’t really mean to be friends with Amy. Let alone collaborate with her gluten-friendly baking biz, Cherry Bomb Cakes. There, I said it.
In fact, I never meant to make friends with ANYONE at effortlessly cool small batch commercial kitchen Wandering Cooks, lest they found out I had NO idea how to operate in a professional cooking space.
But I needed egg shells.
Egg shell dust is suburban pup’s key natural calcium supplement, and it takes quite a few shells to make those magic sprinkles. So I popped my head into the kitchen next door, and asked Amy if she’d ferret away her shells for me each week.
And I quickly learnt Amy was 100% reliable. Which is quite rare in the world really.
And we gradually got chatting about the logistics of our frozen fresh products. And week by week, we pretty much took turns at feeling on the up - or occasionally a little bit blah - about our choice to offer something different to the market through our small (I probably would have said 'micro') businesses.
It was also Amy who realized I needed some logistical help before I did. As suburban pup grew, Amy would stand in the doorway of my kitchen, and ask breezily, ‘Why do you do that step like that?’
‘Becauuuse that’s the only way I ever thought to do it?!’ I’d reply.
‘Ok, but it’s not scaleable. How about you try this.’ And being my risk-averse self, I’d have to go away and think about it throughout the following week, before of course taking the advice of my chef-trained pal, and of course finding it a marked improvement.
Eventually, Amy became part of the SP team, joining me for a couple of hours at the end of each kitchen shift to double my packaging capacity, and save me from running overtime (again).
I don’t remember how we started talking about having our own kitchen space though. Let’s say Amy started it, because I thought it was a pretty much crazy idea.
You see, I was still deciding whether to take suburban pup past the two year mark (always my rational milestone for protecting the financial position of my family…no matter how much SP had my heart by then).
And I was still working up to four days a week in event management, which rightly demanded a large chunk of my weekly creativity quota.
In the midst of all this, I wrote an article for the Wandering Cooks blog. I would probably cringe if I went back and read it now, so I won’t. But it did attract a seemingly random email that went a bit like this:
I saw you in the Wandering Cooks email and wondered if you’re the same Anna Jones I know from Brumby’s?
If you’re not, then stop now and delete.
If you are, then I’d like to shout a small business owner a cup of coffee!!
Gary had given me my very first job at Brumby’s Bakery. (Circa 1996. Yep.) Retrospectively, I’ve learnt I wasn’t necessarily one of his best staff, but I guess there must have been something memorable. Possibly the time I tripped with a tray of our highest dollar value loaves, and tossed the lot rather spectacularly across the shop. Such promise, even back then.
Sweet reverie aside, Gary knows the business side of food, and with a shopfront just a few doors down from one of my stockists, he became one my unofficial mentors. I say 'unofficial' because even pre-suburban pup, I'd grown increasingly poor at toeing the line in structured working arrangements. Luckily Gary just rolled his eyes knowingly, and still took me on.
And it was Gary who, when I finally finished up my last events contract for at least the forseeable future, suggested I might like to look at an inner-city commercial kitchen space on his radar – well equipped but currently unused.
I took Amy, because she’s the boundless excitement balm to my sometimes paralyzing practicality. And together, we found a kitchen and shopfront and courtyard that needed a generous splash of boss babe love for sure, but that held a little bit of magic even I could objectively see.
And THAT is how our official collaboration The Pick Up Joint was born. A couple of good humans. Some excellent timing. And a fair splash of obligatory cake testing. Plus the enthusiastic support of a burgeoning band of puppies with very healthy appetites of course.
As a working kitchen first and foremost, we hope we can also create a different, interesting and always welcoming place to pick up your SP orders (and maybe stay for a cuppa and chat), or for passers-by to be lured in by the smell of a super sticky cinnamon bun (for the humans).
And as we fine tune how The Pick Up Joint will initially operate over the coming month (September opening details coming soon now!!) I’m grateful, and a little overwhelmed, and more than a little bit excited. And a very happy sometime traffic cop to Cherry Bomb Cakes’ extraordinary array of ideas about what, in time, we might become.
Endnote: We remain on the lookout for a candlestickmaker.
Mainstreaming of the term ‘human-grade’ is great, but that means it's increasingly open to interpretation too.
So here’s three decision-making considerations when you’re aiming for human-grade wellness and longevity.