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The Strangest Year on Record and Hope for The Future

A Bit About Me

It’s fair to say that we have all suffered this year. It’s been a year of change and restriction – changes to families, some being kept apart altogether, some unable to even hug or even see those they love; changes and unusual restrictions on our daily behaviours, our usual freedoms and routines; changes to the way we work, shop, socialise and educate our kids; changes to entire industries, with Brexit and the lockdowns impacting so many businesses – especially Hospitality and those businesses who support it.

So, in this bizarre time, I wanted to share a little more about me, and the company, for those amazing customers who have supported our independent business in its inception and rollercoaster journey since June 2019 we opened for business.

I’m Russ. I am 38. Born and bred in Hertfordshire, UK. I’ve always been a foodie. My Mum had me cooking from the age of 5 or 6 and I spent many an evening or afternoon with her in our kitchen, helping out with a wonderous variety of meals (or at least adding to the mess!) that she made for our little family. Mum was a gifted and adventurous cook, and this resulted in a lifelong interest in cooking, finding new ingredients, experimenting and enjoying all types of cuisine.

I’ve always worked hard; I did alright in school and was lucky enough to go to University in Leeds, where I studied Law. I always thought I wanted to be a Barrister and went on to qualify as such after a further year of intense study and exams in London after I finished my degree. But during this time, some things had changed. I no longer had the passion for the law, and despite being offered a great position to become a Barrister, I chose not to enter this world. Frankly, it wasn’t for me. I had worked 3 jobs, and funded my own way through university and found myself drowning in debt. I would have found myself stuck in a library 22 hours a day and the reality of that job materialised as something wildly different from what I had envisaged – keeping me away from friends, family and the balanced life I really wanted. So, I took the plunge into Recruitment and into the corporate world. 15 years later, I found myself quickly turning grey, disenchanted, at the world’s largest technology company, with a team of 17 staff across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Then I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t fulfilled, happy or able to see my family and friends. I left that world behind, and took an entry level Kitchen Porter job in a Michelin Restaurant where I finally felt at home. I was surrounded by talent and creativity and was quickly allowed to move out of the washroom, into the kitchen. It was here, I first tasted Fresh Truffle – and my god I was hooked!

I made a plan, and spent my evenings and weekends researching and testing fresh truffles and truffle products from all over Europe and beyond (Tough gig, I know!!!). I found two producers whose truffle products, quality, and flavour stood out head and shoulders above the rest. So, I flew out to Croatia and Hungary and set up exclusive relationships with these two producers to bring their amazing products to the UK. I spent time in Italy, Spain, France and even Australia building researching, identifying and visiting fresh truffle suppliers, so I could bring only the best, most naturally and sustainably sourced flavoursome and aromatic fresh truffles back home, to the UK.

And here we are; 2 years on having launched this business from scratch and traded within “normality” for only a few months, before Brexit and more devastatingly, before COVID 19.

For me and The Truffle Company, the last year or so has been largely a tough one. I lost my father to COVID in the first wave in April 2020. This loss has weighed heavy on me; especially as I could not be with him or see him for the 2.5 weeks he was hospitalised, suffering and fighting before he passed. We were very close, and my 5-year-old son and I mourn this loss and feel it daily. I lost my Mum, and my son had lost is Grandma as well, 2 years ago on Christmas day. So, it has been a very rough few years for us – losing Mum, then Dad, and then personally having a heart attack, from which I am still recovering – but feeling stronger than ever.

Despite these personal challenges, The Truffle Company has seen some huge positives as well as the obviously negative knock-on effects of the long-term hospitality shutdowns that have occurred. The support we have received from individual patrons and customers has been fantastic. Awareness of our fresh truffle offering has been increasing rapidly – mostly organically through word-of-mouth recommendations, customer reviews and social media. Even during the pandemic, we have seen loyal and many new customers cooking up fabulous meals at home using fresh truffles and truffle products, and Chefs innovating and pivoting with takeaways and amazing meal kits. All of this has kept The Truffle Company alive, and even helped us grow into a more established name in the food industry.

Of course, the pandemic has hit hard. Many of our wholesale customers disappeared overnight, and many individual customers’ circumstances changed – leading to justified caution around spending – especially on luxury treats and products like ours. But throughout all of this, I have seen and felt some amazingly positive changes. I have felt a resilience grow in our nation and people. I have seen people coming together and supporting each other like never before. I have seen love and sharing increase, even when physical contact was restricted. I have seen innovation and creativity like never before. I have seen the development of skills and strength that people didn’t think they had, or could ever have. I have seen and felt a growing sense of togetherness, despite the social distance, and the divisions caused by the government and Brexit. I have seen amazing cooks emerging from nowhere, given the chance to shine by isolation, boredom and a desire to do what they can to improve their experiences during a time where we’ve been forced to stay within the confines of our homes. I have seen an increased focus on the things that matter – mental and physical health, equality, our planet, positivity and well-being.

Now that we move slowly towards the reduction of restrictions, I feel overwhelmingly positive about the future. The future of The Truffle Company. My own future and that of my family. And the future for humanity. I hope the support for our independent company continues to grow, and that we can all enjoy many months to come back together with those we love – eating wonderful food from our own kitchens and from professional ones. I hope the togetherness continues and grows, and that we keep remembering the simple pleasures (like friends, hugs and truffles!) that make this world a wonderful place. I thank you sincerely for all of your support and hope you all continue to stay safe and well.

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