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Business / Number of new catering businesses double as more people cook up a storm at home

Amy Henderson is one of a growing number of people in Shetland selling sweet treats from her kitchen. Photo: Shetland News

FIGURES show that the number of new catering businesses in Shetland has shot up over the last 12 months – with most of these based at home.

Fifteen new catering businesses have been registered over this period, according to Shetland Islands Council’s environmental health team leader David Robertson, which is more than double than the previous year.

Fourteen of these are in a domestic setting, which includes homes as well as the ever-popular cake fridges.

With the pandemic and its emphasis on working from home forcing people to think differently, there appears to be a growing number of folk creating food in the comfort of their own kitchen before selling it to hungry customers.

In particular there is something of a boom in local people who are indulging in their baking talents to sell cakes and fancies from their home for those with a sweet tooth.

Last year Amy Henderson started pastry and cake business Fyanna from her kitchen at home in Burra. It wasn’t specifically pandemic related, as she went solo after leaving her job with Mirrie Dancers Chocolatier due to the effects of working with an autoimmune disease.

It is not a hopeful punt, though, with Amy already having tangible pedigree. She has previously worked at the Ritz in London and boutique hotels after enjoying a stint at catering college, where she came second in a young Highland chef of the year competition.

She moved to Shetland six years ago, working at Scalloway Hotel and more recently the chocolatier.

Henderson said Fyanna is the “tentative beginnings” of a long-held idea of opening a patisserie/bakery.

“During the original lockdown my youngest sister and I would do a Sunday bake off, and this reminded me how much I loved the world of making and creating all things sweet,” she said.

“It was a great way for us to stay connected and stopped me feeling so stuck as being immune suppressed I was supposed to stay inside as much as possible.”

Henderson said she had to leave the catering and hospitality industry due to an autoimmune disease which prevents her from standing and working for the long hours required.

“This was a real blow for me,” she said. “During these bakes offs I rediscovered my love of making, baking and creating.

“From there and after much persuasion from my family – they were persistent even from Caithness – and friends, I decided I could at least register with the council and take it from there and maybe put my years of experience to good use at my own pace.”

Henderson works from a large kitchen, which includes a designated storage area for equipment and separate stainless steel benches for making items on which she says is reminiscent of a commercial kitchen.

“I could do with a bigger oven and mixer making larger batches easier. My poor mixer does work very hard kneading all the doughs as I am not able to do them by hand as my hands are affected by my autoimmune problems,” she said.

“I also have a huge passion for local and seasonal ingredients as well as keeping things as environmentally green as possible and as a small business I am able to do that fairly efficiently.”

Henderson sends a selection of pastries to Scoop in Lerwick each Friday morning, getting up at 4am to get them ready.

“I also take orders through my social media and will sometimes do something a little special like afternoon tea boxes for which I will experiment with some recipes, take photos and put it up on social media with plenty of notice,” she added.

“I do have plans to join to honesty fridge community here in Shetland but these plans are very much in their infancy.”

Her most regular items are pastries, and she said favourites seem to be bramley apple turnovers and iced cinnamon buns, although her new raspberry and almond kouign amann is getting plenty of interest.

Another new catering business which originates in the home is Rachael’s cake fridge in the south end of Lerwick, which opens every Friday.

Owner Rachael Arthur said with her children at school and lockdown offering more time, she took the plunge in September and realised her dream of starting a food business.

She joins a number of other do-it-yourself bakers who have begun selling sweet treats in honesty fridges and boxes.

“Being home during lockdown, it kind of gave me a chance to evaluate what I was doing in life. I was working at the school in the office at Bell’s Brae, which I enjoyed, but it wasn’t my passion, so I saw the opportunity and decided to give it a shot,” Arthur said.

She said the cake fridge cycle tends to involve two or three days of “solid baking” – while planning and packaging takes up plenty of time too.

Arthur said her millionaire’s shortbread is a favourite, as is anything cheesecake based.

“I’d quite like to eventually do some savoury options, possibly tapas-type stuff, that kind of thing, but I’ll see how it goes.

“I think this is a good starting point because I wanted to see how it went, test the market, see if there was demand for homebakes…without the outlay of premises, staff, all the rest of it, and there definitely is.

“The novelty that you can go for a drive and stop at somebody’s house, and there’s this cupboard and you don’t know what might be in it. I like to change it up every week, and vary it. So I think it’s that excitement of seeing what’s in the sweetie shop kind of thing.”

The cake fridge opens at 10am every Friday, and in some instances people have been outside at 9.30am waiting in the pouring rain.

Arthur has also used social media to promote her goods, utilising eye-catching graphics and colours to showcase what items will be on sale.

She roped in the help of her children to navigate her through the ins and outs of photo-sharing platform Instagram, where Rachael’s has over 1,200 followers.