By Ellen Turner Hall
Running three businesses, the tapas bar La Cuisine, a catering business and cooking courses, Victoria Robinson describes herself as “a project machine”. Other ideas simmering in her mind: a cooperative for local food producers and a cookbook. In the meanwhile she has gone back to university to study social- and solidarity-based business management.
How does she do it all? Hard work and single-mindedness helps. As an adolescent Victoria Robinson moved from the UK to the PO 30 years ago. No surprise then that she speaks English with a French accent. In 2004 she started a catering business and then opened the tapas bar the next year. The cooking courses were added in May of this year. One of Robinson’s tenets is to use fresh produce, locally sourced and in season. Her colourful tiled kitchen with a large table running down the middle provides plenty of space for would-be cooks to learn new skills and to collaborate in creating a meal. (More details about Victoria’s courses to follow in a future article.)
Many of the people from whom she buys her ingredients are what she calls “recycled professionals” (a banker turned winemaker, a fireman who raises cattle) – people following a passion. Not unlike Victoria herself. We all know how difficult it can be to slice and dice your way through French administration. To those thinking about starting up a business in the P.O. Victoria’s advice is first to contact the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie (CCI) and the Chambre de métiers et de l’artisanat (CMA). Both institutions offer free training and advice on business practices. According to Victoria, subsidies from the region are most likely to be given to innovative projects and enterprises in new fields. Conclusion : it pays to stir things up!