As a food manufacturer, food distributor, chef, or a food business owner, ensuring that your food product is of the highest level of quality has always been important, however making sure that it is to highest food safety standard is also the key.
In Australia, The Gourmet Guardian does exactly that. The Gourmet Guardian has a growing portfolio of hotels, restaurant groups, catering companies and food manufacturers across the entire Australian continent (as well as in Fiji), providing cost effective and practical food safety solutions including Food Safety Programs, Food Safety Audits and a comprehensive range of accredited and non- accredited food safety training courses.
Heading up the company is Mr Gavin Buckett, the Founder and Managing Director of The Gourmet Guardian. A man who, as a chef by trade, soon discovered that his passion for food took him beyond simple cooking and preparation.
“In my last role as a sous chef at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, I was heavily involved in the internal food safety auditing and HACCP side of the business and I actually ended up enjoying that side of the work more than the cooking itself,” he says.
While still cooking, it was quite literally back to school for Buckett, earning a Diploma in Food Technology and a further Diploma in Confectionary Manufacture. After another six months, gaining the necessary approvals and qualifications, Buckett re-entered the food industry in 2004 as an approved Food Safety Auditor.
“When I finished my Diplomas I really envisioned working for an auditing company, doing regulatory audits and going into business and assessing against certain global standards,” says Buckett. “But The Gourmet Guardian has become much more than that. While we do conduct regulatory audits when needed, but now spend most of our time working side by side with a food business to look at what they are currently doing, then we help them make their product and processes safer, helping them achieve global food safety certifications including HACCP, BRC, WQAS and FSSC 22,000. The certifications not only make their products safer, but also enables them to grow as a business.”
One of the most important certifications in order for a food manufacturer or distributor business is the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Certification. This is an internationally recognised preventative management system that analyses the physical, chemical and microbiological hazards in their business - from raw material production, procurement and handling through to preparation, manufacturing, distribution or consumption.
It becomes clear then - No HACCP Certification, no business security and Buckett, through his practical experience working in kitchens (on the other side of auditing), understands the challenge of working in and managing a kitchen whilst obtaining HACCP Certification.
“A lot of people have negative feelings towards the HACCP. They think that it’s a difficult time-consuming process, that involves a lot of paperwork,” he says. “Some people actually go as far as saying that HACCP actually stands for “Hire A Consultant to Confuse People!” or “Have A Cup of Coffee and Panic!”
“What The Gourmet Guardian do is demystify HACCP, to break it down into simple manageable chunks. We then guide our clients through our tried and tested 11 step HACCP Certification process, so that we can guarantee that they receive HACCP Certification in the end.”
The Gourmet Guardian consists of a team of six people providing three main services to the food industry. The Gourmet Guardian provides:
The key for Buckett is in the client relationships that the company has developed across Australia, and more recently, internationally.
“We work with all kinds of food businesses, manufacturers, hotels, resorts, catering companies, fast food chains – you name it,” he says. “With each one we provide a tailored service. We are based in Melbourne but we travel all over Australia on a regular basis, as well as Fiji.
“There really is no limitation as to who we can help, it’s all about helping anyone that needs help and more importantly wants help.”
In the food safety space, there is no shortage of clients that require the guidance and support of The Gourmet Guardian, but this brings about a particular challenge, one that Buckett continues to work hard to overcome on a daily basis.
Buckett believes that a number of clients and customers seek out the support of The Gourmet Guardian because they feel they have to, through a warning or even a compliance failure.
“There’s an old adage of prevention being cheaper than the cure and it’s very evident in this space,” he says. “People often don’t feel happy to invest in the areas where customers don’t see and that’s a real challenge for us.”
This is where Buckett’s hands on experience on the other side of the kitchen counter comes into play, as when he connects with a client he has that understanding of the working environment - he’s lived and breathed it. He can see where the costs are and, more importantly, where the savings can be realised.
That’s what his vision for The Gourmet Guardian boils down to, helping clients see not only the benefits of having the right accreditations and certifications, but the significant cost savings now and in the future that the company can help them achieve.
Naturally, this cost aversion sees potential clients look elsewhere.
“There are others who claim to offer a similar service to what we do, but they will do it at a third of the price and frankly the service suffers. A few cut and pastes, and the client is ripped off. What you pay for is what you get. If you’re willing to cut corners, then the costs further down the line will be inescapable,” says Buckett.
As The Gourmet Guardian continues to grow and expand with a service offering that is successful, Buckett is all too aware that the company cannot rest on its laurels and must continue to adapt and respond to the changing demands of new clients in different capacities. This is why The Gourmet Guardian is a member of the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology, the Allergen Bureau, the Café Owners and Barista’s Association of Australia (COBAA) and the Food Safety Information Council. In fact, in news just to hand, Gavin Buckett has been asked to join the board of the Food Safety Information Council. We never stop learning and staying up to date.
“Every new client or job, we view it as a new challenge,” says Buckett. “We don’t apply a cookie cutter approach. We look at what the business needs in order for them to succeed and we shape our offering around that. It’s all about trying to develop the right individual solution for a client, using what we’ve successfully delivered over the past 15 years as a foundation.”
Can you really afford to trust anybody else with the safety of your business?