From his Deli Shack in Tiverton, Iain Thompson promotes local produce, rare breeds and good food, but his was a long journey into being a cheerleader for the best of regional fayre.
You can catch Iain out and about at Tiverton Pannier market on Fridays and Saturdays, meeting people, sharing tips and passing on the best advice he comes across.
It was in the Pannier Market that The Deli Shack was born, and that personal interaction is also on the website, which aims to replicate that knowledge, along with tips and recipes.
Setting up a regionally focused deli wasn’t what Iain had in mind when he first ditched his job as European commercial director for a leading corporation. He enrolled into East Devon College to train as a chef, and the idea was to set up a bistro with his wife using the equity from their home.
It’s an enormous leap of faith to just turn your back on everything you’ve strived for over 20 years. From being top dog in the boardroom and working with equally successful business people, “I found myself in a kitchen with a bunch of grumpy 16 year olds, talk about culture shock!” said Iain.
But the recession kicked in and that plan was untenable. So once he’d qualified as a chef, Iain started display cooking in the market. And it was that love of sharing the joy of cooking top quality local produce that set The Deli Shack on its way.
Being born in the recession has meant The Deli Shack had to steadfastly keep to its core principle – to ‘promote some of the very best of our regional fayre, supported by in-depth knowledge and a passion for serving the very best of food’.
It’s a claim that has been backed up by the extensive research and commitment to good food and rare breeds. Iain travels the region meeting farmers and searching out new produce and suppliers. And it can often be a word of mouth thing – the market is a great source of information. Then Iain passes that on to his customers and the next generation with his trips to primary schools where he works with the children to ‘help them keep an open mind’. It’s a passion that makes business sense.
“To compete with supermarkets, you need to find out what they’re not doing and do it better than they ever could… easy!” he laughed. And you get the feeling it’s his passion for what he’s doing that’s the powerhouse of the business.
The Deli Shack is also involved with members of the Rare Breed Survival Trust and that, too, feeds into Iain’s educational work, as he keeps skills and traditions alive while enthusing people about the benefits of top quality local produce and the joys of cooking and eating it.
To find out more, you can grab Iain at Tiverton Pannier market on Fridays or Saturday, or visit The Deli Shack website.