Christchurch-based chef and TV personality Jax Hamilton talks about food creations, her latest video series and how she runs her unconventional business.
What does your business do?
I'm an innovator in food and digital content. I specialise in recipe development, brand photography, content production and online food content demonstrations.
I provide the food industry with recipe development, recipe packages and then I also do interactive cooking demonstrations, event hosting, MC duties, foodie travel tours and speaking engagements. At the end of October I launched my own web series Jax Food Hax which is a series of really short, snappy online video clips [with cooking tips].
What sparked the idea?
It all began 11 years ago when I found myself as a single parent and realised that I had a pantry full of ingredients that I was really quite bored of but I didn't want to throw anything away, and so I emptied it all out and put things together in a different way to create different meals.
It really started, though, when I went on MasterChef in 2011 and had 20 weeks worth of master classes with amazing chefs such as Josh Emmett, Simon Gault and Ray McVinnie, and they gave me the impression there were no limits with food. That, combined with growing up in a predominately Jamaican family, my mother always had an outdoor pantry and I was always surrounded by food - all of those pieces of the jigsaw came together and I thought; "This is what I want to do, this is my passion".
How did the opportunity to be on MasterChef come about?
At 42, I applied for MasterChef and that was it. It was like strapping on a seatbelt and taking the rollercoaster ride of my life, but the most important thing about that was I realised during that journey, that to achieve the best out of me, I needed to be pushed to my absolute limit and at that place I performed at my very best.
Tell me about your background, how it has helped running your business?
I was a qualified quantitative researcher and had a business in Notting Hill, London, and I wasn't seeing much of my children; leaving home at 7am and coming home at 7pm, so I knew what it's like to work hard. My ex-husband is from Timaru, and so we decided that we'd come to New Zealand give it a go. In 2001 I said goodbye to my friends, family and really good shoe shops and have never looked back.
What are you currently working on?
I'm working on Jax Food Hax which I put all of my savings in to. Every week two new food hacks come out on a Thursday and I have the whole range of social media to go with it. In parallel with that I'm doing a series of Hax It Up workshops such as Spoon Lickers and Finger Dippers where people can have a glass of wine and are shown by me how to use the hacks in action.
Who are your clients?
My clients really vary. I've been working with WOMAD NZ for the last eight years. I do a lot of work for Bunnings, Diabetes New Zealand. At the moment I'm doing production packages for newly released products. For Diabetes New Zealand for example, I put together a package of recipes and did a cooking demonstrated and for Bunnings, I set myself up in the BBQ section and create atmosphere. I've worked on a number of television ads for Countdown and Kitchen Things, too.
What's been the most challenging part of running your own business?
Well, because I'm not an organic businessperson and I work on my own, it's really hard to get up every morning and think of what is the next thing that's going to be different and also within my brand. People always look at everybody else but I don't believe in that so it makes it harder to come up with ideas that are homoeopathic to brand Jax. As it's just me, I don't have another person who I can rely on for income stream so I have to consider all of things when I make decisions.
What are your long term plans?
Having just returned from England I've realised that digital online food content is really growing, and I have the expertise to be able to create online foodie demonstrations for the food industry, that's where I see my place in the industry.
Producers can come to me and say: "Hey, listen, I've got this amazing milk, can you show it to us in its organic state and then create two recipes" - and they can do what they like with it, so that's what I want to do.
How will you unwind ahead of the New Year?
To really relax, I have to leave my home otherwise I can always see something to do. Two years ago I promised myself the next five Christmases would be in a different city. Last year it was Queenstown. This year, New Plymouth. Next year, Edinburgh, but I haven't thought any further than that. I have a house right on the beach, so I'll be reading, fishing, cooking and sleeping.
What's your advice for people thinking about staring their own business?
If you've got a passion and it aligns with your instinct and gut then go for it. Never let anyone tell you "no" and never let anyone else's experiences be part of your experience. Regret in business, I think, is the worse thing you can have.
It's really hard running your own business, especially when you're a one-man band but it gives you the most amazing rewards - it's soul deep.