Question and Answer with:- James Morris, Head of Business Development at James T. Blakeman and Co Ltd, based in Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire.
The business is one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of sausage and meat products.
1) Was there a light bulb moment that led you to the food industry?
Although I had always had a keen interest in food and nutrition, I was heading more towards a career in physiotherapy before I came across a food science course at Reaseheath College near Nantwich. Part of that course included a placement in industry. I came to Blakemans in 2003 and never left. I worked here part-time while I finished my foundation degree and after college went full-time.
2) Who is your business hero and biggest influence?
The biggest influence on my career has undoubtedly been Philip Blakeman, the Managing Director here at the business. I admire the way he conducts himself and I have learnt so much from him. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say he has taught me everything I know in business.
3) Biggest industry achievement/recognition to date?
Winning the Manufacturer of the Year category in the Staffordshire Chambers’ 2018 Business Awards – our first entry in the awards and a huge honour to win.
4) If you weren’t doing what do now, what job would you be doing?
Would love to have kept on with rugby and developed into a pro rugby player – or professional poker player.
5) What do you do to wind down outside of work?
Love sport and play football. Also play in a poker league.
6) What has been the biggest change for your business over the last five years?
The introduction of a seven-strong Executive Management Committee who take responsibility for running Blakemans on a day-to-day basis.
7) Have you got a favourite food memory from your childhood?
Baking with my mum and my nan. Loved it.
8) What do you regard as being the most important factors for success in your business?
Quality and consistency in our products and excellence in customer service.
9) How would you describe your desk?
10) Is there a memory trigger that makes you crave for food and if so, what food?
Don’t really have a memory trigger but our company does a huge amount of business with the fish and chip industry thanks to the popularity of our sausage products. And whenever I visit a fish and chip shop I get a craving for fish, chips and curry sauce.
11) If you were someone else what/who would you liked to be?
I love my music so someone iconic from that world would be great – Frank Sinatra for instance.
12) Is there a dish that you enthusiastically share the recipe for?
My Bolognese sauce. If I say so myself it is lovely and made with all fresh ingredients.
13) What is the biggest challenge from Brexit facing the company?
I think it will be the impact of our departure on prices. For our business it will obviously be the price of pork but I am also concerned as to how Brexit will impact on our customers and their supply chains because if they are impacted then that is likely to have a knock-on effect on us.
14) What is your favourite music to eat to?
Soul or R&B.
15) Who is your favourite celebrity chef and why?
It has to be Jamie Oliver. His enthusiasm inspired me as a youngster and made me love cooking and trying new culinary things.
16) Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman?
Wonder Woman – have you not seen Gal Gadot who played her in the most recent film!
17) What is your favourite movie or food programme?
Favourite movies are the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
18) What do you always carry with you?
My phone – it even comes to the bathroom with me!
19) What do you regard as your biggest threat, opportunity or challenge for the next 12 months?
All of the work we have put in over many years means the next 12 months are undoubtedly an opportunity for our business. We are going from strength-to-strength and the next year is certainly going to be an exciting one.
20) What do you predict to be the next big food trend/fad and where from?
Insects! The growth in population numbers means that over the next few years we will have to look more closely to insects as a food source.
21) Tea or coffee?
22) What is your favourite pudding?
Warm chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream.
23) What is your favourite fish and how do you like it cooked?
Once again I am going to hark back to our company’s links with the fish and chip industry and say cod cooked in batter the traditional chip shop way.
24) Coke or Pepsi?
25) What is your favourite fast food brand?
26) Where is your favourite worldwide holiday destination?
27) Dogs or cats?