I’m constantly grateful for the opportunities I get to meet amazing food producers, especially the outstanding producers we have in South Australia, but sometimes I meet someone whose intense passion and drive just blows me away. Hugh Flint of Hughsli is one of those. I had seen Hugh’s stall and products around at the local farmer’s markets and finally met him earlier this year when he took part in Adelaide’s Cellar Door Wine Festival. We chatted briefly and he later emailed, inviting me to catch up for a chat and an up-close look at his work and products.
At 26 years of age, and in less than five years, Hugh has gone from making his own blend of toasted muesli for some appreciative friends in a share house to running his own food production business employing seven staff members, producing a range of around 70 different products, depending upon the season, and wholesaling to some of Adelaide’s premier outlets. Pretty impressive by anyone’s standards.
An Intercontinental Hotel-trained chef, Hugh realised that there might be a market for his popular muesli and talked a local store into stocking it. The success of this led him to taking a pop-up stall at Adelaide Hills Farmer’s Market, before moving on to also take on a stall at Adelaide Farmer’s Market. He began his market days initially selling a modest range of two cereals, one snack bar, one nut pastry and tubs of home-made hoummus, which he kept chilled in an esky.
A few years back Hugh moved back in with his father (in order to take over his house as far as I could tell) and extended his production facilities – as a result his range now includes cereals, bars, seasonal jams, relishes, chutneys, baked goods and wickedly delicious dessert treats. His desserts are particularly seductive and include not only cakes and pastries, but a prune-based brownie which I found life-changing and a sublimely exquisite toffee fig filled with marscapone. Sigh. Unsurprisingly, while his treats can still be found in farmer’s markets, they are also in over 40 other outlets with much of his product appearing in high-end establishments like the Intercontinental on their tables and as VIP gifts.
Hugh is rigorous when it comes to his ingredients, looking for the very best and sourcing most of it from local producers. He’s not content to make a quick call or email to get his supplies, though, and builds a personal relationship with each of his many suppliers. He’s proud of the ingredients he uses and could tell me exactly where each product comes from and the names of the growers/producers.
His ingredients aren’t the only thing Hugh is rigorous about. His work ethic is simply astonishing. He has assembled a dedicated and hard-working crew around him, which includes chefs Joel and Richard who put in an average of 50 hours a week. Hugh tells me he works for 70-80 hours per week but, given that he also develops all his own recipes and personally liaises with customers and suppliers, as well as being very hands on in the kitchen, I’d suspect that is probably erring on the conservative side.
Hugh Flint is an authentically passionate and extraordinarily industrious example of some of the faces behind the exciting current food scene here in South Australia – and one of the reasons for headlines like this one in the paper today!
A week after my chat with Hugh, circumstances arose which convinced him of the need to take a brief break and rethink his approach to his business but, rest assured, he will most definitely be back on deck better than ever in a short time.