What foodie doesn’t tune-in when we hear about the start of a food-grown adventure. In honesty I should mention that I know Chef and Owner Jim Casey’s sister, but that had little to do with this post.
The concept is great too .. Wine Food .. think Pate’s and Rillettes (mostly) .. made by hand from low-mile ingredients that are free range and as far as possible organic. I tried the Free Range Duck Pate with Beetroot Jelly, the Wild Rabbit Rillettes and also the Free Range Duck Rillettes.
It’s my kind of food. I make pate every Christmas, and Rillettes now and then, so I reckon my standards are reasonably high. Ooh man these are good. I loved that you can taste and feel the ‘home made’ difference. No, the duck and beetroot pate doesn’t hold into a gelatinous wedge after it is cut, and who want’s that? This is fresh and pure without any additives. It has a lovely deep smooth duck taste, with the beetroot imparting a moreish sweet note. I had just a quick taste of the Duck Rillettes on recent Market trip. I loved the spice hints and it’s on the buy-list for next visit. The Rabbit Rillettes we shared over a bottle of wine one Sunday afternoon, I did wonder at first bite if perhaps it was a little salty. But the thought passed quickly and it was devoured with great gusto. Great rabbit flavour was there throughout and it will be hard to beat that fall away texture of the meat. The jar was empty all too soon; added bonus that it comes in very cute little clip top jars that are well worth collecting.
I wanted to hear more about the Little Acre journey and what it is like setting out. So I introduced myself through the Little Acre Foods Facebook page and Chef and Owner Jim Casey agreed to be interviewed for this post.
Thanks Jim, I hope people will enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed our chat.
Best of luck – and I can’t wait to follow your adventures!
[Note: Stockists and Contact Details are below].
Slice: Who is Little Acre Foods?
Jim: That would be me. But I couldn’t do it without the endless support I get from my wife Kate, in all areas of the business and in life. I also have an arrangement with Jetty Foods Store at Normanville for use of their commercial kitchen in exchange for some consulting hours.
We are a small South Australian Food Company that specialises in food made for wine with friends. I think these days people want quality without the silver plate and stuffy shirt. So Little Acre is all about great quality rillettes and pates that people will scoff into while having a few wines with mates.
A lot of people fantasise about starting their own food business – what was the tipping point for you?
I grew up here in South Australia but I’ve been working as a Chef in WA for the last decade or so. Kate and I got married in Port Elliot last year and although we had talked about a move, that was really the big trigger – to be closer to family and friends, and for me to finally take a shot at doing something for myself and see if I can make it work. And here we are.
I like the concept of ‘Wine Food’ – what comes first, the wine or the Food?
It doesn’t matter. The main thing is that you ask yourself what do YOU feel like drinking and eating. If that’s a bottle of red with King George Whiting (like we did last night) then do it. I reckon if you are spending too long trying to choose the “right” wine, then you’ve probably missed the whole point. The whole concept of Little Acre is built on forgetting old rules and formalities and just sticking with enjoyment.
You strive to use local and low mile produce – how easy is it to do?
Having grown up here I wanted Little Acre Foods not just to be based here, but also built on the community of food businesses around us. We have suppliers and producers from Loxton to Paris Creek; even the fortified wine I use is from Patritti Wines in Dover Gardens. We’re pretty spoilt for choice.
What I’ve had to come to terms with pretty quickly though is that my suppliers are small businesses like us; regular quantities can be difficult. I’ll give you an example, my rabbit man has broken his leg so it’s bye bye rabbit rillettes for a bit. But you know what, that’s life isn’t it, and I like the feeling of being tuned in with with my local food community, responsive to what’s available right here, right now. I’ve started developing a mushroom line as a result.
The one exception I’ve had to make is with the duck fat. I just can’t get sufficient commercial quantities in SA so I get this from Victoria.
How important was market research in coming up with the Little Acre concept?
When I was growing up, one of my local idols was Russell Jeavons with Russell’s Pizza at Willunga. Here is a place that only opened once a week (these days two I think), doing great pizza’s in a pretty pared back way with no utensils and on wooden tables and customers love it. Life isn’t always about being the biggest.
I did talk to a lot of people as I tested my ideas and worked out what I wanted to do, from farmer’s markets, wineries and wine bars, as well as people generally passionate about food. I wouldn’t say it was any kind of formal research, but it did help me work out in my own mind how and where I wanted to start.
I’ve really been blown away by how much help I’ve received in South Australia from so many different people. Everybody I spoke to was willing to give me some time, hear my story, and provide plenty of advice and encouragement. I found that pretty amazing; I’ve worked in some environments where it can be a bit dog eat dog.
What’s been the best part about starting Little Acre Foods?
Following through on a dream; that’s definitely been the best buzz. Just seeing where it’s going to take us. And it’s been fun. I’ve met some awesome people, and I’ve been able to share it with my family. My niece Lily drew the bird design that we use on our label; she was 4 at the time; that’s pretty cool.
.. and the worst part?
It’s bloody scary! You’re basically putting yourself, your dreams, and something you’ve made out there for people to love or hate. I think that really kicked home when I was walking, pate in hand, into potential future customers. I got a good reaction, but it was nerve-wracking. One wine bar said to me “thank you for not bringing us crap.”
Where would you like Little Acre Foods to be five years from now?
Still going, still married and with a house!!
I’m starting to play around with some organic stocks, vegetarian options and I might look at some of our local game meats like Kangaroo.
We are also doing some catering. We’ve just been booked for the 15th of December at Cantina Sociale as part of their Sunday Sessions, which will be great.
I’m trying not to think too far ahead for now because it’s still pretty early days and I would rather let it evolve organically.
Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about starting out?
Someone said to me to keep in mind that you need to be making money. Sounds obvious but it’s critical. Food producers don’t often become rich but passion and drive will fade pretty quickly if you aren’t covering the bills.
So you need to have a pretty good idea about the costs of running your business, work out where your risk is, and how much you are willing to take. For us, working out things like quantities has been pretty important. We don’t use nitrogen or anything to extend the shelf life, so whatever I make that week has to be sold that week (we have a 3 week Best Before date on the pate, 4 weeks on the Rillettes).
Test your product. Don’t just share it around family and friends because they wont tell you what you need to hear – which is whether it’s good enough for people to buy it.
Just do it. But do it with your head screwed on.
At the moment, you can purchase Little Acre Foods from the following stockists:
- Say Cheese & Smelly Cheese: Central Market, Adelaide
- Cantina Sociale, Adelaide
- Six Acre Grocer, Normanville & Port Elliot
- Jetty Food Store, Normanville
- 3Three Monkeys, WIllunga
- Blessed Cheese, McLaren Vale
- The Market Shed on Holland, Adelaide
For updates on Little Acre Foods, follow them on facebook here.