In this series of mini interviews we are going to put the spotlight on some inspirational women to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021.
In this post, our Chief Cat Lady Farah chats with Aimee aka The Sweetie Witch from the Lucky Cat Co. A vegan for more than 20 years, Aimee gave up her full time work at Infinity Foods Brighton to establish her own little world of vegan fudge.
Hi Aimee, how are you today?
Hello Head Cat Lady! I’m pretty good thank you, looking forward to the spring and the beginning of the end of lock down!!
Tell our readers a little bit about you and what inspired you to make your yummy fudge?
Well I became vegan when I was 16 which was back in 1998. There was very little in the way of vegan chocolate or sweets available then. Especially in rural Derbyshire where I was living. I used to spend hours trying to make nice chocolate but I didn’t really know where to begin. I didn’t have the internet or access to many ingredients but I kept trying! I always wanted to be a chef but back then there weren’t really any vegan restaurants or cafes so I didn’t think it was possible and I decided to become an archaeologist instead and went off to university. It was there I heard about this place called Brighton where apparently there were vegan cafes and restaurants! I came down to visit and never really left. I somehow blagged a job in a restaurant and spent the next 16 years working as a chef in various places , learning so much about food and how it works!
I feel so lucky that I get to make vegan fudge and treats for a living, I would never have dreamed this could actually happen! I wish I could go back to young Aimee with her 500th pot of failed choc making experiment and tell her it is going to be ok (and maybe slip her one of future Aimee’s recipes!).
How did you come up with the business name?
Before I really knew where I was going with my business, my friend Hannah (the artist @takoratakora) made a logo for me. She based it on my two black cats and Lucky cat seemed the obvious name. It has changed from Lucky Cat Cakes to Lucky Cat Fudge and is now Lucky Cat Company. I am hoping that the latest change will be the last change!
Have you got any cats? Tell us about them?
I have 2 beautiful boys. Indiana who is nearly 10 and Ziggy who is nearly 5. When they are in the house they don’t really get on, Indie was much happier being an only cat and I feel really guilty. But when they go out they form a little cat gang with Max who lives downstairs. If any cat even looks at Zigs funny then Indie goes into battle for him. Ziggy is huge, much bigger than Indie, but unlike his big brother he is really not a fighter. Zigs greatest achievement is catching an old egg boxe he found in the alley or once or twice he has brought in a stray sock through the cat flap! When I see Indie looking out for him I feel better and I wonder if deep down he has a soft spot for his little brother after all.
Where in the world are you based?
I am originally from Wales but these days I live in Brighton.
When / how did you start making vegan fudge? Is there a story behind it?
Previous to the fudge I had been the head chef at Infinity Foods kitchen for 10 years. It was an amazing place to work and I loved it…but I was getting restless. I am the kind of person who likes change and I needed a new challenge. I didn’t know what was coming next but I just decided to jump so I handed my notice in and hoped for the best! I have always particularly liked making sweet things so I just started experimenting in my kitchen at home. I decided I would start a little business and find a product that I could make from home and sell wholesale. A few months later and many many experiments down the line I had 3 flavours of fudge ready to launch.
Fondest fudge related memory?
When I was still in experimental mode I was running around getting my friends to try all the different ideas I had. I popped into Infinity one afternoon and went down into the kitchen. I had my first attempt at fudge with me. I wasn’t that sure about it but I gave some to my friend Duncan who was running the kitchen that afternoon. I wasn’t expecting him to give it a glowing review as he is more of a savoury kind of guy but he actually shed a tear! Duncs has been vegan for a long old time and he said he didn’t think he would eat something like that again and it had made him emotional (I think it was also perhaps the effect of a late night and a stressful day!) I thought it was pretty funny that he would cry over the fudge and have to admit I maybe did tease him a little bit! But it made me think maybe I was onto something with this latest experiment..
Can you reveal a little about your creative process? How you come up with new flavour ideas?
I think the creative part is trying to re-create traditional flavours but without using processed sugar or dairy products. I am constantly trying to make it better and had a bit of a break through last week when I realised adding the ingredients in a different order creates a much smoother and buttery tasting fudge. I am really happy about this!!
The thing about making sweet things is that it is all very scientific and this suits my brain. It is a case of coming up with formulas and recording / tweaking all the different variables. For example the humidity of the day will effect the fudge texture and so it must be cooked and cooled slightly differently according to the weather!
I am constantly scribbling down recipe equations and studying the results of different fudgey experiments in my quest for the purrfect batch!
We have heard you use industrial drills to make your fudge! Can you tell us a bit more about the fudge making process?
Haha yes! Fudge has to be beaten as it cools in order for the correct crysatlisation of the sugars to occur. I got a little impatient doing it by hand as it can take a fair while so I tried to do it with various different kitchen appliances. I blew up several hand blenders and even a free standing kitchen aid (this was quite an expensive fail!).
Then one evening at the Brighton fringe festival a man came over to chat to me about his one man show. He was a power tool chef and he was going to show the audience how to scramble an egg with an electric screw driver and cook bacon with a blow torch or something. As a vegan I didn’t really want to see this but I had a thought and ran home to see what would happen if I stuck a wooden spoon in the end of my drill. My mechanic friend who I was with told me it wouldn’t work but it worked better than I could have ever imagined! This friend quickly saw he was wrong and has become the drills personal mechanic, recently giving it a full a MOT. He also shapes the ends of my wooden spoons so that they fit better!
2 and a half years on my £30 drill is still going strong and has drilled countless batches of fudge, I am so glad of the inspiration to try that!
How can our readers get their hands (and paws) on your yummy fudge?
You can order it online through my website – http://www.luckycatcompany.co.uk – and also in various shops. There is a full list of stockist on the website.