From 10 years working in New Product Development to ensuring Knapton Wright HQ remains as creative, inspirational and organised as our team, Rachel Davey sure likes to keep busy!
Our Studio Manager has had a fascinating career so far, which includes creating award-winning recipes, meeting Jamie Oliver, and developing our fantastic offer. Discover some of her favourite career moments and find out more about her Knapton Wright journey in this week’s #KnapChat…
KW: Describe your role at Knapton Wright…
Rachel: As Studio Manager, it’s my job to ensure the team have everything they need in order to do their jobs effectively, so our clients get the best service possible.
As well as the office administration (paying invoices, wages, keeping track of holidays etc) I chase up progress on client projects and reports each week. I like to be organised and I love a list, so it’s an ideal role for me.
I also keep an eye out for useful, inspiring training courses and events we may benefit from, attempt to secure funding for anything from building repairs to IT equipment, and organise the recruitment of local college students for work experience and internships.
Recently I’ve spent more time writing blogs for both our hugely diverse range of clients and Knapton Wright. We’re so proud of our KnapChat series, it’s really interesting to be involved with it.
KW: How did your Knapton Wright journey start?
Rachel: When my youngest son was two, it really felt like time to get back to work! Finding the flexibility you need as a mother who wants to work is still, very frustratingly, quite a challenge.
I already knew Louise, one of the directors at Knapton Wright, and heard she was looking for someone to help out with the office admin. It’s quite nerve-wracking applying for a job when you’ve been away from the world of paid employment for a while, but after a couple of my friends suggested I apply, I decided that perhaps I could do it.
I’m so pleased I did. The Knapton Wright directors, Alex and Louise, have young children like me, and understand the need for shorter/more flexible working hours, and the nightmare that school holiday childcare can be!
The team at Knapton Wright are also brilliant – encouraging, hard working and good company. They’ve looked after me!
KW: Before joining Knapton Wright, your previous role was as a New Product Development Manager for a chilled food company. What was your best creation?
Rachel: I spent 10 years developing chilled soups and sauces for a huge range of customers in both the foodservice and retail sectors. One of my favourite projects was developing a new range of chilled pasta sauces for a retail customer following a trip to the Emilia Romagna region of Italy.
Seeing the time and skill that goes into creating traditional but world-famous products – notably parma ham, ricotta cheese and balsamic vinegar – was very inspiring in terms of producing the most authentic recipes I could for the UK market.
I also won an industry award for a Tuscan Chicken soup I created which was presented to me by Jean-Christophe Novelli. He was incredibly charming and very easy on the eye, so that was an obvious highlight!
KW: You’ve met quite a few famous chefs. Who was your favourite and why?
Rachel: I went to a meeting at Jamie Oliver’s HQ to discuss a project we were collaborating on with his brand. I was expecting to meet one of his executive chefs, but Jamie himself turned up!
It was terrifying for a few minutes, but he was charming, polite, and just incredibly passionate about recipes and ingredients. He has had his critics lately, but I believe he is a force for good and think what he achieved with Fifteen was inspired.
KW: What is your preferred cuisine and your favourite dish? Why?
Rachel: Italian, without a doubt! I love their approach to using local, seasonal ingredients. Each area of the country has its own rich gastronomic heritage, with hundreds of festivals dedicated to specific foods.
Favourite dish – almost an impossible question! It changes all the time depending on what time of year it is and where I am. A lot of my favourite dishes are reminiscent of holidays – from grilled sardines in Portugal to haddock and chips on a beach in Norfolk. Good food with friends and family creates some of the happiest memories.
KW: How do you feel about the role of social media with food and cooking? Is it an intrusion or a great addition?
Rachel: On the whole, I think it’s a great addition. Lots of people don’t get the chance to travel widely or eat at expensive/Michelin starred restaurants, so seeing dishes served up in almost real time is fantastic.
Plus, if you’re really proud of something you’ve produced yourself, it can make for great content – especially if you add recipe tips and guidance. That being said, we don’t need to see every plate of food that’s ever left your kitchen… And I do find the trend for ‘clean eating’ a little worrying, and its ideology is mostly spread via social media. Food is not ‘dirty’.
KW: What has been your biggest lesson since becoming a mother?
Rachel: That nothing lasts forever. The sleepless nights, teething, potty training etc… They seem dreadful at the time, but they do come to an end. Most problems have a way of working themselves out over time.
Conversely, the adorable moments of babyhood and toddlerdom also go by incredibly quickly, so try not to get too frustrated and enjoy them. As they say, long days but short years.
KW: What advice would you give your younger self?
Rachel: Stop going to parties and do more work for your A-levels! Then remember that once you’re over 25 nobody asks you about your A-level results ever again.
So more seriously: Try not to be so gullible. Trust but verify.
As a woman, it’s important to learn to stand up for yourself without being made to feel you are simply being bossy.
You can’t please all the people all of the time. Not everyone will like or agree with you, nor you them. Don’t let it bother you, accept it and move on..
KW: Compared to your expectations as a child, how has your life panned out?
Rachel: When I was at primary school, I wanted to be a secret agent because I loved Bond films so much. Of course, no one will ever know how that worked out…
KW: Name one thing on your bucket list…
Rachel: I would love to take a long road trip – either from Northern to Southern Italy, or down the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s still all about the food…
KW: Who do you look up to as an inspiring figure?
Rachel: I love funny, clever, glamorous women – I can imagine Victoria Coren Mitchell, Nigella Lawson and Claudia Winkleman being the best dinner party guests ever.
Rachel says that “most problems have a way of working themselves out over time”, but this is only the case thanks to people like Rach, whose organisation, enthusiasm and passion for the team help to ensure everything at Knapton Wright not only remains problem-free, but continues to develop and grow.
As a child, Rachel wanted to be a spy. One look at her to-do list as Studio Manager would convince you she simply would not have the time to fulfil the duties of espionage, although if anyone could, it would most definitely be her…