Cherie Metcalfe (30) lives in the Bay of Plenty with husband Shannon kids Pepper (3) and Kit (8 months). Cherie is a chef by trade, and launched her business Pepper & Me almost three years ago. They now have seven staff in two units, making, packaging and shipping the most delightful spice rubs, salt blends, sauces, crumbs and cooking pastes – which have proved to be a huge hit all over the country. This is the story of Cherie’s journey with Pepper & Me.
My food journey prior to Pepper & Me began when I was 15, waitressing in a local restaurant – I was always drawn to the food and eventually convinced the owners to let me have a crack in the kitchen, helping out with the desserts and salads. I eventually moved up the ranks and then made the move across the ditch to cook on Hamilton Island for a few years. I went on to work on a super yacht for a couple of years, travelling the world and cooking, learning about the local produce and cuisine at every port. The markets, fresh food and culture just spark absolute passion – I guess Pepper & Me is my way of bringing this passion into the homes of busy families, bored of cooking the same old same old weeknight meals. The idea has always been that bythrowing some Pepper & Me at any meat or Veg, you’ll make an amazing meal full of vibrant flavour, quickly and easily at home – without the fuss of needing twenty ingredients.
My daughter was the first to be christened Pepper (a name I had read in a book a long time ago and always loved) so when it came to deciding on a name for my potential business venture (at this stage the idea was a market stall selling two or three products) Pepper was three months old, and the market squad was just her and I. Pepper and Me. We actually decided on the name before we knew what the products were going to be! It just fits perfectly.
The first inspiration I had for products actually came from my own breastfeeding journey with Pepper. The ‘Whatevz mum salt’ is a powerful blend of lactation boosting whole spices and himalayan pink salt sprinkled with citrus and dill, which is a pretty magic milk maker. This product inspired the original spice pastes, and then as my journey with feeding ended, my focus gradually changed to fit a differenttarget market. We have the Man Grind (lemon, herb and garlic spiked salt) and the Man rub (Smokey BBQ rub) that were originally fathers day special products – and now probably the most popular. It’s just the perfect gift for blokes who are hard to buy for, as well as being family friendly – Staple ingredients in so many households now. My current favorite products are the Wing A Ling A Ding Dong sauce (a beautifully balanced Hot sauce – mild enough for most people to enjoy) because i am an avid hot sauce lover and our ‘Get Lit’ Chipotle BBQ sauce. I love having a savoury sugar free BBQ sauce that’s absolutely packed with flavor in every drop, yet has none of the syrupy sweetness usually found in a BBQ sauce. The hint of smokey spice rounds it off perfectly, always a winner around the dining table.
I honestly can’t pick a best seller, but during the colder months the Mexican, tandoori and moroccan cooking pastes are used in most curries, slow cooker dishes or hot pots, whereas during summer, The Mother Dukkah is great sprinkled on salad, and the wok sauce perfect with fresh crispy vegetables.
You can purchase directly from Pepperandme.co.nz – orders usually ship the same day and are delivered overnight. It’s a pretty quick turnaround, the girls in the warehouse do an amazing job. However if you wanted to have a look at the physical products, we now have around 25 stores stocking our Pepper and Me products now, and will be working on growing that further this year. Check our online stockist map for your nearest store.
In December, we launched the Pepper and Me club, which is a subscription based ($5 monthly) recipe website. We pop all our recipes straight up there, along with all the old classic fav’s.. Butter chicken anyone?! There’s over three hundred recipes on the club page now, and every week we post a new Meal plan with seven fresh recipes. We do the shopping list, and keep the weekly meal plan as simple, homely food for under $120 per week. It’s been so popular, and I love to bring new recipe contributors on every month.
My own personal foodie inspiration hasn’t really come via celeb chefs, more the places ive visited and people I have come across. Whilst in Russia, we met a Babushka who made borscht and stroganoff, and shared her recipes with me. The way that each culture has these amazing dishes featuring whatever is easily grown or caught in that particular region is just so inpiring to me – im always digging through my old recipe books and finding ways to simplify these recipes by just adding P & M instead of all these different spices. I get creative when there is fresh new season produce in veggie stores, or my dad gets a fancy new BBQ. It doesn’t take much to spark my interest when it comes to food, I just adore it in every state.
Being a young woman finding her way in business has taught me so much over the past few years. Every day I learn something – usually from my mistakes! Every day I grow and become a better boss, a better mum and have more confidence in my ability to run a successful business. My top tips for anyone who’s just starting out?
There are no secrets to success. It’s about perseverance, hard work, dedication and learning from your mistakes.
It’s so important to love and have a passion for what you are doing! Worry about getting that right first, and the money will come later.
Find a good support network, who believe in your business purpose. A sounding board that you trust. Sometimes my best ideas or decisions have come after a coffee with trusted friends.
My favourite part about running Pepper & Me is that my hard work has paid off in terms of being able to manage my own time. That was always the priority, to have a great family/work balance – and we have finally achieved that goal. I trust my staff 100% to get the job done on a day to day basis that leaves me free to grow the business, work on new ideas, projects and creative development, in a schedule that fits in with naps and coffee dates. I feel so lucky!