A taste of Dorset – From Dorset with love
Katie Carpenter visits a small rural business park near Milton Abbas to find the home of Dorsetshire Sauce and much, much more
Published in August ’14
As Chrissy Regler stirs an enormous vat of raspberries, in preparation for making some raspberry balsamic vinegar, she talks passionately about how she came to be involved in food production and how she realised her dream of turning what had been a hobby onto a business,
It’s a journey that started in her mum’s kitchen, went via jobs in a shoe shop, a supermarket and training as a legal executive, and now involves all of her family: husband Karl and their young boys Koen (6½) and Jensen (4½). It was Karl who came up with the idea for the company’s immensely popular (and vegan-friendly) Dorsetshire sauce. Although Chrissy gently points out that he’s not done much of the manufacturing of it recently.
From Dorset With Love (FDWL) – which has to be the best company name in Dorset’s thriving food sector – came into being in 2010 and those who can perform rudimentary arithmetic will see that Chrissy had not long since given birth to Jensen and in fact was still on maternity leave. The business quickly grew (even though Chrissy was still working for the law firm) and in the first year of production, two products attracted Gold Stars from the Great Taste Awards. Chrissy left her job and took From Dorset With Love full time.
Karl then, as now, works full-time as office manager at his brother’s courier company, but was able to balance his job with the design and production needs of FDWL. Early in 2013 the Reglers moved production from their home kitchen to a converted barn on the outskirts of Milton Abbas. Six months of renovation work and equipment installation later, which was slotted in between day jobs, food shows, production, and last but definitely not least, family life, they moved to the Milton Abbas kitchen facility a year ago next month.
It was in a family context that Chrissy first picked up a pan and she originally started making jams when she decided that her shoe shop job wasn’t bringing in enough money, so she got a jam pan and started using the fruits of the fields and farms around in order to supplement her income with jam sales.
At school she was a diligent learner up to GCSEs, when she started to feel hemmed in as teachers asked her what she ultimately wanted to do. Science A Levels gave way to drama classes, leading roles and then the question of career cropped up again and Chrissy shifted course again. She got a job and started doing an OU science degree. She was a couple of exams from finishing when she got a job working for a law firm and the course fell to one side. Her company offered to pay for her training as a legal executive and she threw herself into that. As monotony – in the form of a 30-year legal career – stretched out in front of her, she finally paid attention to the friends who had told her she should make a career out of making her preserves and realised her dreams. Chrissy somewhat sheepishly admits: ‘I’m not sure I’m very good at working for other people.’
Whilst it seems very much that working for herself agrees with her, running FDWL has not all been plain sailing. Quite apart from the usual travails of equipping and then moving into specialised premises, creating new recipes and producing an increasing range of products, from Lebanese spice mixes to vinegar, jam to chutney, Chrissy had a very real setback in the build up to the Christmas rush a couple of years ago when she fell seriously ill. Typically, though, everything eventually got done, and the company is very much on an upward trajectory.
The cooking, preserve making, pickling and chutney making behind the company goes back nearly two decades, though, and Chrissy can identify when she got each of the progressively larger and larger preserving and jam pans she obtained to make more (and more) of her preserves.
Despite the variety that her job offers her, Chrissy, almost inevitably, also has a few other things going on. She works as a voice-over artist, musician, writer and editor on the creative collaborative site hitrecord.org; as well as being an outlet for her creativity, the revenue it brings in also helps to smooth out the peak-and-trough cashflow of FDWL, where ingredients bought in bulk to reduce the purchase price obviously form a big part of the running costs of the business.
This being said, there is no desire to go down the industrial manufacturing route, though and the only ways that the couple can expand the business are to work more hours, if that is indeed possible, or eventually to take on a production assistant.
It is more for philosophical than manufacturing reasons that FDWL products are handmade in small batches using open pans, though. That same philosophy extends to choosing whichever local ingredients are freshest from local suppliers that they can trust. All the products are bottled by hand, and all the labels, which Karl has designed, are hand applied too.
The range includes piccalilli (which was Chrissy’s Nan’s recipe), beetroot relish, ginger jelly, pear and walnut chutney and, of course, real ale chutney. It was the last of these which in some ways led to the creation of the From Dorset with Love business, when the Reglers noticed that the chutney being served with the local brewery’s ploughman’s lunch was actually made with a different brewery’s beer. They were challenged to make one with the correct brewery’s beer, and the rest is history.
With their sauces, vinegars and chutneys being used in restaurants up and down the county and beyond, and with Dorsetshire Sauce now being available at Fortnum and Mason, ‘from Dorset with love’ is not simply an aspiration, but a geographical fact. ◗
❱ For more information on FDWL’s products and stockists, visit www.fromdorsetwithlove.co.uk