“I’ve learnt that you can’t build a business in a day and it’s good to build things up slowly, which is now what I’m doing. I also think it’s really important to have work-life balance and try, at least for half or one day a week, to have a day off to breathe, see friends and have some fun… and to get the creative juices flowing too!”
We talk to Henrietta Inman, a professional chef specialising in baking delicious, beautiful and healthy pastries. Hear about the alternative ingredients you can use so to make your treats a little less guilty, sourcing ingredients in the UK and working for yourself. We also discuss the realities of building a business and why slowly but surely is Henrietta’s sustainable route of choice and what we can learn from following suit:
Hi Henrietta, please can you introduce yourself and your company?
Hi! I’m a professional pastry chef creating nourishing and naturally delicious real food patisserie. My company name is just me, Henrietta Inman, but you may also know me from my book, ‘Clean Cakes’, published in February 2016. I take private orders, run cookery classes and demos, cater for events, do pop-ups and work with other companies and their development of healthy sweet treats. You can find out more on my website www.henriettainman.com.
What were you doing prior to setting up Henrietta Inman?
I was still working for myself as a pastry chef, but I was just using more traditional ingredients associated with patisserie, namely plain white flour and caster sugar. Before moving back to Suffolk, where I grew up, to start my own business, I trained and then worked as a pastry chef in some of London’s best hotels and restaurants, including The Lanesborough… and before that, I read French and Italian at Edinburgh University!
Did you ever expect yourself do run your own business?
I think that I always knew I wanted something of my own eventually and to be my own boss. But I also really wanted to get into kitchens and learn from the best. The more people you work with, the more you can learn, and there is A LOT to learn about food and cooking. I certainly knew I never wanted an office job, I wanted to be on my feet and creating with my hands.
When did you first have the idea and what were your next steps?
After working in London and then moving back to Suffolk to start my business, I was still using regular baking ingredients. One day, baking in my kitchen, weighing out yet more white flour and white sugar, I just thought ‘why limit myself to these ingredients’? There are so many wonderful and flavoursome whole grain flours, natural sweeteners and unprocessed fats and oils out there and I wanted to get these delicious ingredients into my patisserie. Then my mother said jokingly, ‘You can call them your Clean Cakes’ and that’s when it started… actually, before all this ‘clean eating’ stuff!
What were the greatest obstacles you experienced and what have you learnt from them?
It’s very hard being a young entrepreneur, but also very rewarding when you get a positive reaction to your product and story. The greatest obstacles really were and still are working alone and juggling the cooking, the washing up, the orders, ordering ingredients, packaging, yes, even making cake boxes and all the stuff involved in the production of my cakes and other items, as well as all the admin like keeping on top of my emails, invoices, interviews like this (!)…This and also trying not to completely abandon my blog and newsletters as well as organise extra events like cookery classes and talks… it’s hard! I moved back to London in April and leapt straight into a lot of things and really just got a bit overwhelmed and burnt out. I’ve learnt that you can’t build a business in a day and it’s good to build things up slowly, which is now what I’m doing. I also think it’s really important to have work-life balance and try, at least for half or one day a week, to have a day off to breathe, see friends and have some fun… and to get the creative juices flowing too!
Have you always been passionate about cooking and clean eating?
Yes, my parents love to cook so I learnt a lot from them growing up. In terms of ‘clean eating’, for me, it’s just about cooking from scratch, cooking real whole foods, locally and seasonally sourced, but also about balance and nothing at all to do with deprivation. Food is such a joyous thing and should always be celebrated and never something to feel guilty about. I’m lucky because I’ve grown up in the countryside with fresh fruit and vegetables from our own garden and local meat, milk and eggs too so I’ve been exposed to it all from a young age… it’s so important for children to eat well and to know where food comes from.
Can you tell us about some of the ingredients that you use as healthy alternatives and why we should opt for these instead?
It’s simple really, just use whole grain flours instead of refined plain white flours; use proper organic butter, virgin coconut oil and extra virgin cold pressed olive oil and British rapeseed oil instead of heat processed hydrogenated fats and oils; opt for unrefined sweeteners like pureed fruits, local honey and coconut sugar, but also try to lower the sweetness as so often things are over-sweetened and it’s just not necessary. Even if you’re cooking with normal sugar try to lower it… the whole grain flours I use (there are so many to choose from like wheat, spelt, rye, buckwheat, brown rice and teff) are not only delicious but they are full of fibre; we all need fat in our diets and the ones I’ve mentioned are simply better for us as they are less processed to retain all of their goodness… the main thing is that I choose my ingredients for their great taste and texture, it’s just a bonus that they’re pretty good for us too.
Can you tell us about how you source your ingredients?
I cook with the seasons, sourcing lots of my fresh produce either from my local market (I sell at Walthamstow Village Market every Saturday and there’s a great organic fruit and veg stall there) and from Suffolk as my mother will often bring a lot of fresh fruit up to me, we get so much! I also still source my raw honey from Suffolk, my dark chocolate from Pump St Bakery in Suffolk, my EVCP rapeseed oil from Hill Farm Oils, Suffolk and my rye, spelt and wheat flours from Suffolk. I get my gluten-free whole grain flours from Shipton Mill in Gloucestershire. I think it’s so important to source in the UK as much as possible. Otherwise, for things like my coconut sugar, I make sure that they are from proper reliable sources like Coconom, who’s producers work in cooperatives and are all paid fairly. I try to source organic as much as possible too. You can find out more in the Meet the Producer section of my blog.
What are your favourite recipes?
That’s a hard one but I love my Purple Haze Loaf Cake from my book, packed with wholegrain buckwheat flour, purple corn flour and lots of delicious purple berries, it’s just full of goodness. I also love my chocolate truffle brownies, so easy to make and SO good! I could say more like my Apricot, cranberry and almond tea bread and my Quinoa multi-seed loaf, but I should probably stop there!
Where can we find your, Clean Cakes, delicious creations?
You can find my mousse pots at Fortnum and Mason seven days a week- blueberry and lemon; raspberry, beetroot and orange; chocolate velvet cream with chocolate truffle brownies. You can see all the products on the products page on my website and order from me directly via email, come and see me every Saturday at my local market or come to one of my cookery classes- I do private lessons or groups of up to four followed by afternoon tea.
It must be a dream come true to have had your first book published!
Yes, it’s quite surreal to see all your recipes in print! It was a lot of hard work but so worth it and so far it’s had a really great reception. I just hope that people, whether they follow the recipes or not, are just inspired by all the wonderful varied and versatile ingredients out there that we can use in our baking. Yes, it’s great to just have a wonderful proper Victoria Sponge some days, but it’s also lovely to cook with new and exciting ingredients; cooking, like anything else, is all about things evolving and developing and the discovery of new flavours.
Could you tell us about the process you went through when writing?
First, the author needs to get all the ideas down- what the books about and the basic chapter titles. Though my book is called ‘Clean Cakes’ the subtitle is ‘Delicious patisserie made with whole, natural and nourishing ingredients and free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar’, so it’s about ALL PATISSERIE, not just cakes but I also wanted loaf cakes and bread, biscuits, cookies, bar and brownies, some more dessert-y recipes, some raw recipes, some tarts, petit fours and even a few savoury recipes. I needed to consider all of those ideas, and then start to think of recipes around those themes. After agreeing on everything with the publisher, I did about three months of recipe-testing, eight days of shooting everything, lots and lots of editing and off to print. It’s hard to go into all the fine details but it’s fun!
What recipes can we expect to find?
Everything I’ve said above and lots more. There are more complicated recipe like a courgette, basil, lime and pistachio cake with lime cream and raspberry jam or a multi-tiered chocolate orange ice cream cake if you want to impress friends; or simpler recipes for brownies, biscuits, muffins, quick cakes, breads and desserts and even homemade chocolate I definitely think there’s something for everyone in my book.
Have you got plans for another one?
YES! As I’ve said, I also love to cook with proper butter and rye, wheat and spelt flour too so (hopefully!) my next book will have an even greater mix of recipes, not just with gluten and dairy free ingredients. The more I develop as a chef and read about food and health, the more I realise that variety is so good for us. Obviously cutting out gluten and dairy is vital for those with allergies, but when we can eat them in their minimally processed forms, they have lots of benefits, not to mention their awesome flavours. I also want to go a bit simpler, a bit more ‘back to basics’; I think so many of us love to cook and bake, but we’re always so rushed so I want to develop more recipes that can be made quickly, that taste great, give you energy and satisfy you and all your family’s taste buds.
More cookery classes (I love to teach!); hosting afternoon teas in my edible flower garden, here at my kitchen in Walthamstow; developing more recipes and hopefully starting to work on another book; I want to travel and get inspired too so I hope to go to Amsterdam and New York soon to visit friends in the food world and taste some new flavours and ingredients… and one day a shop/ café, that’s always been my dream ☺ … and what about an alternative baking round on Bake-Off?! I wouldn’t mind going on telly too! Lots to do and I look forward to the exciting things to come and to growing my business, slowly but surely.