We’re excited to share the third edition of this year’s Speciality Spotlight series, highlighting some of our trade customers from across the country.
In the third feature for 2022, we spoke to Toria Smith, founder of Grape & Fig. Grape & Fig were the first grazing platter company in the UK. Loved by celebrities and global brands, they bring people together through their care of quality ingredients and attention to detail. Our crackers & flatbreads are used in most of their work from charcuterie boards to cheese platters.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started Grape & Fig?
We brought the concept of ‘grazing’ over to the UK in 2017, and have since earned the reputation as the specialists in fuss-free, aesthetically stunning food that brings people together, creates conversation and lasting memories.
We founded Grape & Fig in 2017. My initial inspiration came whilst planning my wedding the previous year, when I quickly realised there was a huge gap in the market when it came to wedding food. Instead of stuffy and expensive canapés, I wanted to feed my guests with a four metre-long grazing table (full of the finest cheeses, cured meats, antipasti, dips and accompaniments) which would serve as canapés and starters combined.
At this time, the ‘grazing craze’ was huge in Australia (which I’d seen first hand in Byron Bay in 2013 whilst travelling) but hadn’t yet made it’s way to the UK. So starting with my own wedding, I introduced grazing to the UK and an initial passion project gained incredible momentum and has since grown into the brand that is now loved and adored.
In Spring 2019 I welcomed my sister Catherine into the business and we have since taken the business to the next level with a new focus on diversifying the concept of ‘edible art’ into a stunning selection of products, as well as teaching others how to create the perfect grazing platter at home using ‘The 6-step GRAPE & Fig Platter Method’.
What does your typical day involve?
So every day is completely different and that’s what I love about the job – and the days go so quickly too (too quickly for my liking!) Some days I come into the office and spend the day getting back to emails and working on upcoming partnerships, collaborations and large projects.
Other days are what I like to call ‘content days’ where I photograph and film new products or new upcoming ranges, or where I create prototypes for brand mailers or create content for our socials. One to two days a week require Catherine and I to travel to venues to set up bespoke food and floral displays (which is where the magic happens!), and on others I’ll find myself in the kitchen making gorgeous cheese platters, which is where I really find my ‘flow’. The list is endless, but as you can tell, there is no ‘typical’ day…which is how I like it.
What do you find most enjoyable about running your own business?
I’ve never been one to ‘sugarcoat’ the reality of running your own business – it’s really, really hard work and at times it can be really taxing on you mentally and physically. But I couldn’t imagine doing anything else now. I wouldn’t be able to work for anyone else either. I recently listened to Stephen Bartlett’s podcast ‘Diary of a CEO’ with the CEO and founder of Dermalogica, Jane Waurwand, and she said something which really resonated with me. She explained that when people ask her how she achieves a ‘work/life balance’, she instantly knows that they themselves dislike either one element in their own life, and that in fact she loved both her work and ‘life’. That’s exactly how I feel. I love my work, I love my life outside my work, and they go hand in hand.
What do I love about this job specifically? Too much to mention. I love that it’s been built and created from literally nothing but a desire to have grazing food at my own wedding. It involves creativity in some way every single day- this is when I’m most happy at work – I call it my ‘flow’. I love food – really, really good food – and I love that we create the most gorgeous products for hundreds of people a week which brings them together with others and makes their events even more memorable and beautiful. Using 100% British cheese & charcuterie is incredible too – not only is the quality unparalleled, we think it’s really important to support British farms and artisan producers.
It’s a family-run business and we’ve been careful not to grow too quickly and potentially lose that magic which you get from us now- we care so much about every single order which goes out the door. I love how many like-minded people (mostly other business owners) I’ve met and formed strong relationships with. I enjoy the flexibility- I can take and pick up my daughter from nursery twice a week, for example, and decide what large projects to take on, and what to say no to (a skill I found really hard, but am getting better at.). Running your own business is not for everyone, but for me, it’s an honour. At times a stressful and very very busy honour, but an honour all the same.
At Peter’s Yard, our ethos is all about taking time for the simple pleasures in life – tell us, what are your favourite pastimes?
A little cliché, but travelling is a priority for me. I’d prefer to spend my money on experiencing the world with the people I love rather than invest in cars or expensive satellite subscriptions at home. Whenever I get the chance I’m on a plane to Marrakech – my most favourite place in the world.
Day to day? Spending time with my daughter, Edie Iris and husband Adam. Listening to music (especially the Red Hot Chilli Peppers who I’ve travelled the globe to see 15 times over the last couple of decades). I also love learning about floristry in my spare time too- I’m self trained, so not always the most confident but always looking for inspiration and experimenting with new flowers and trying to remember their names! Oh and eating and drinking is a favourite pastime- it would probably be weird if it wasn’t considering my job!
What are your top tips for creating the ultimate grazing platter?
Our grazing platter method is a fail-safe way to create your own instagramable platter at home! Here it is:
FAN IT OUT
“The first tip is to show off the star of the board – the cheeses. We suggest having at least three options. A soft, cow’s-milk cheese (such as Brie), a crumbly blue (such as stilton), and a hard cheese (such as cheddar). But, instead of randomly placing your cheese wedges, we recommend cutting and fanning them out into a triangular shape. It instantly fills up the board and makes it look more appetising, creating a little more intrigue.”
EDGE IT UP
“Next, create an “edge” by using produce that’s a bit sturdier, such as oranges, grapefruits and cucumbers. If you wanted to add meat, you could also use round cured meats here. Cut those slices in half to create a sharp edge and place them around the perimeter of the platter. You’re essentially creating a little barrier between the rest of the platter and the outskirts. That way everything will stay intact, even as you move the board from room to room.”
PILE IT ON
“With what you have left (fruit, sun-dried tomatoes and the like), make mini piles on the board. Style them into little florets, sectioning them out across the platter. Whatever you choose, create whole, dense sections with one type of produce and one type of colour. It’s the key to keeping your cheese boards stylishly cluttered, rather than messy.”
FILL IT IN
“Even with those mini mountains, you’ll likely have small gaps in between your piles. That’s where looser objects come into play; think olives, blueberries, blackberries, nuts, or pomegranate seeds. Place whatever you have in those gaps to make the board look super dense and stunning. The idea is not to have any space left where you can see the actual board.”
MAKE IT POP
“As for the finishing touches, there are a few extra ingredients if you really want to go the extra mile. Grab your delicate ingredients — figs, honeycomb, some cut strawberries and ground pistachios — and place them on top of contrasting colours. If you have edible flowers, or herbs, that’s stellar — it’ll give the platter quite the sensorial experience. It just elevates grazing, taking it from normal to something that looks really gorgeous.”
We would love to know what is your favourite cheese/topping with Peter’s Yard crackers?
Without a doubt the Fig & Spelt sourdough cracker, topped with either Fen Farm’s Baron Bigod or Shepherd’s Purse Yorkshire Blue, topped with The London Honey Company’s British Summertime Honeycomb. Bliss.
Finally, what’s next for Grape & Fig in 2022?
More of the same I hope! We’re considering opening a store in London as that’s where the vast majority of our business is. And we are working on a top secret project which we can hopefully talk more about early next year.
Anything else to add?
We love Peter’s Yard! Thank you for always being to kind to us, and being one of our ‘friends in the business!’.
To find out more, visit Grape & Fig.
Sourdough crackers and crispbreads
Our hand-baked sourdough crackers and crispbreads are the perfect accompaniment to the ultimate British cheeseboard.