Rachel Marshall (RM) of FoodFutures met up with Pete Stephenson (PS), founder of Morecambe Bay Chowder Co. to find out more about this community supported business.
RM: How did the Morecambe Bay Chowder Co. come into being?
P: It started with a lot of chowder cooking in lockdown! From this we developed the concept of serving a dish that uses ingredients from the bay and the surrounding area. We also wanted our business to be one that our community could get involved in, and that has very low carbon emissions. We dropped postcards through around 10,000 doors in the district to survey local appetite for a chowder stall. The response was positive and over 130 people pitched into a Crowdfunder to provide a £3000 start-up fund. This was used to buy an old-fashioned ice-cream bike which we converted into a solar-powered hot food catering bike. We use solar energy to keep our chowder hot but we still have to pedal the bike places. Once we’d started to develop our dish we ran free trials with people who’d responded to the survey to fine-tune the taste and get feedback on our approach.
RM: What is chowder?
P: Chowder is a traditional dish of coastal areas around the world, which celebrates local seafood and traditions. You will often find us on Morecambe Prom where we sell the Baychowder. Ours is a creamy, hearty and moreish dish containing white fish with the option of adding Morecambe Bay Shrimp. We also offer the choice of Port of Lancaster Smoked Cumbrian Bacon or the dish served in a Filbert’s Bakery bread bowl.
It is important to us to offer a special experience for our customers whilst allowing them to enjoy their chowder. Customers can buy our product on Morecambe Prom and enjoy the views and clean sea air of Morecambe Bay. The shrimp are even caught from the boat which is moored just behind the bike!
RM: How do you connect to other enterprises in North Lancashire?
P: We like to connect with other local, independent businesses and support each other. We often trade at markets and micropubs in the local area. Most micropubs don’t serve food so we team up to provide food and drink. We designed the chowder with six local suppliers and producers. The idea was that the dish would celebrate the produce of this area and use the best of what is local. So, as well as the producers mentioned earlier, our fish is sourced from a local merchant and our veg is from George Speight and sons (with much grown locally). Our dairy comes from Stephenson’s free range dairy.
Sourcing locally has meant we have kept the food miles down. It also means we know more about how the products are made which is important to us as we want to source as ethically and sustainably as possible.
RM: How important is sustainability to you and your business?
P: It’s very important and I’m particularly interested in continuing to develop the idea for a low-carbon approach to catering. One experience which shaped the business idea was being at the park with our little girl. There was an ice-cream van there with the engine running. All we could smell was diesel fumes. I used to be a physics teacher and I knew that it was possible to power food trucks using alternative low-carbon technology. Apart from in the winter, our stall runs fully on solar and I have a dream of setting up an eco-commercial kitchen. This would use efficient electrical cooking methods powered by renewable energy, probably small wind turbines as we’re in Morecambe!
RM: What do you think businesses can do to support local people in this cost of living crisis?
P: Businesses are going to find this time tough as we’re experiencing the same increases in energy and other costs as everyone else. But I want to find ways to help people access warm, nutritious food at an affordable price. We are developing a vegetarian dish that can be produced for a lower cost offering a more affordable winter warming dish. We also offer a reduced kids meal for those on free school meals. The idea was to serve a dish at a lower cost than a fast-food meal. We’re also currently developing a pay-it-forward scheme so customers can give a little warmth this winter. This is also being supported by local business sponsorship. The plan is to use this funding to offer free hot meals at community hubs locally.
With all of these decisions we consult our customer community – many of whom supported our initial start up. We want to create a business that local people are proud of.
To find out more visit www.baychowder.com