Patchwork Foods, food lovers get potty about pate in Ruthin

Everyone from HRH Prince Charles to food lovers in Llandudno just can't get enough of the pates made by this Ruthin company WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

Margaret Carter has come a long way. Thirty years ago she was a single mum with three young children and �9 in her pocket saved from the housekeeping. She needed to make a living. Fast forward 30 years and her company, Patchwork Foods, has many fans in many parts of the world.

It was following a brief and unsuccessful foray into chutneys that she started making the pates the business is now known for. She began making them for a local restaurant but when that contract ended she had to act fast. Margaret, originally from South America but now living Ruthin, is the first to admit it didn’t come too easily.

She said: ‘I wanted to carry on with it so I went to Llangollen intending to speak to five shop owners. I came home not having got out of my car. I did that for three days. I didn’t want to get rejected.

‘On the fourth day my friend came with me and forced me to talk to people about my pates. I left my five samples with the shops and I was terrified. But by the time I got home all five people wanted more pates. It was an incredible feeling.’

Since then demand for Margaret’s pates has stretched across Europe and America. They have sold their pates in Bermuda and recently started supplying stockists in Malaysia. They also make other delicacies including ice cream for grown-ups – flavours include tequila-soaked cranberry and blueberry and bourbon - as well as chutneys, pies, arts and canap�s.

Celebrity fans include an A-list British actor - who has to remain nameless - as well as weather presenter Sian Lloyd. A thousand guests at last December’s Comedy Awards were sent away with jars of their unusual bacon jam and their pate is served to first class passengers on British Airways.

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Their products, which are still handmade from the factory in Ruthin, have also been given the royal seal of approval by Prince Charles. Patchwork Foods produced a line for HRH’s brand, Duchy, and when the future king heard they were involved he was delighted to have them on board.

Margaret said: ‘It was incredible to have this kind of feedback but we love hearing from all our customers. We do supply the likes of Fortnum and Mason and John Lewis but we still supply those producers that I started with in Wales.

‘We want to supply the world and hopefully one day we will manage it!’It was 15 years ago that one of Margaret’s sons, Rufus, became the managing director of the business. Speak to him for five minutes and you realise he shares that same passion and commitment to producing top quality food as his mum. But it wasn’t always that way: as a child he wasn’t so enthusiastic about helping out.

He said: ‘Patchwork was run from our home at first so there was no escape. A friend and I were peeling two big bags of garlic and it took us two hours to do each one. The next day someone else did it and it took 40 minutes. We’d been far too busy gossiping.

‘I never intended to work for the business. I had been in bar management. I had three weeks between finishing one job and starting another and mum said if I was at home for three weeks then I had to help in the factory. That was all it took, I just fell in love with it.’

Under Rufus’s stewardship, along with recipe developer Jenny Whitham, Patchwork Foods is now making a range of British pates to mark the Queen’s Jubilee and London 2012. Flavours will include marmalade and whisky, rosemary and thyme and mushroom and ale.

Rufus said: ‘I wanted to celebrate the exciting events we have in the UK over the summer. It’s also about celebrating Britain’s love of pate. It is a French product but when it comes to quality we really sock it to them and do far more inventive things with pate.

‘What we do at Patchwork Foods is a passion for every single person involved and we all want to make the best products we can. We get amazing feedback from our customers which makes us very happy.’



The print version of this article appeared in the April 2012  issue of Cheshire Life 

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