LITTLE did I know when I first started making a few bakes for friends and family a year ago that I would now be looking at making a business out of my passion.

The last few months have been an amazing experience and what a delightful surprise it has been for Tess’ Brilliant Bakes to win the first Thame Food Festival Bursary for Local Artisan Food Producers.

It just goes to show how things can change and the importance of grabbing opportunities when they come along.

I have always loved baking; even when I was a child. I find baking cathartic and comforting; it’s a very emotional thing and something that I reach for when I’m stressed or worried.

So with a full time job, my initial thought was to just have a delicious sideline business selling to friends and family to maybe fund the odd holiday. It was fun and had limited pressure.

Initially, my focus was just on cookies, as I had been working on my recipes for these for several years, constantly tweaking them.

Then one evening I made some to take into work and while they were cooling my little girl said “Mummy, you could sell those!” and that got me thinking. I just wanted to bake more and just baking for friends and family was not enough.

So, this is why, in 2017 I entered into the realms of artisan food markets, including a lovely local food market in my home village of Adderbury, just outside Banbury, and at Waddesdon Manor Artisan Food Market.

Starting at this scale gave me the opportunity to refine my recipes, develop new ideas and gather helpful feedback from customers who have now become regulars.

People seemed to like what I was doing. I started to believe in myself and genuinely started thinking I could make more out of it, so signed up to do more festivals and events. I also took steps to gradually extend my range to include various cookies, tray bakes, loaf cakes, cupcakes and larger cakes.

I am also really passionate about using local quality ingredients wherever possible including fresh eggs from just down the road from my home, and flour from WP Matthew in Shipton-under-Wychwood. Sourcing locally is something I want to do much more of.

Earlier this year I started looking at potentially being a stallholder at Thame Food Festival and noticed they were offering a bursary for a local artisan producer just starting out. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would actually win!

It looked like a great prize with £1,000 cash, a free pitch at the event, a free page in the festival programme, plus PR and social media support for one year.

The part of the bursary that is most important to me, is being supported by the high-profile Food Festival Mentors who will be helping and encouraging me over the next year, using their many years of experience within the food and hospitality industry.

Amazingly this includes chefs like Adam Johnson, head development chef for Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Chris Wheeler, executive chef for Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire, and Nick Downie, head of marketing for Stoke Park.

I can’t quite believe it. It’s wonderful to have such a group of people believe in me and what I make. I am already thinking about new recipes that I would like to share with the mentors to see what they think.

This success is also in no small way thanks to my partner Paul. Without his unwavering support I wouldn’t be able to do this. He is always with me at markets and food festivals, and amongst many other things, he designs our lovely chalk boards.

My little girl, Tess, can also often be found helping out. She loves working on the stall, serving customers. This experience has been so good for her, and her maths skills!

The future looks incredibly exciting for us. There is even talk of us developing a special Thame Food Festival Bake specifically for the event in September. I can’t wait!

Thame Food Festival is on Saturday and Sunday,

September 29-30

Find out more about Tess’ Brilliant Bakes at