I started Cafe Môr in 2010; I was sitting at my desk in Swindon wondering how on earth I had ended up there. I was missing the sea and the beaches of Pembrokeshire and was thinking I needed to find a way to get back home quickly - spending hours every day in front of the computer in the middle of the country was not what I wanted to do.
So one night I sat down and really looked at what I enjoyed in life and it became clear that the sea, food, and being creative were my passions. The next day I told my boss that I was going to work part time to allow me to start my new mobile catering career which would be based on the best of Pembrokeshire produce from the sea and wild seashore plants and seaweeds.
I remember my first ever stall which I set up outside "The Really Wild Farm Shop" at Nant y Coy (sadly no longer open), the owners Brian, Julia and Adam were really supportive of my ideas and let me set up shop on Saturdays during the summer. I got so excited I spent 14 hours prepping and cooking on the Friday. I had Pembrokeshire sushi, several salads, quiches, deli products and crab and lobster. It took me two hours to set up I had so much stuff, it was raining but I had so much fun, met so many people, talked so much that my jaw was aching at the end of the day.
It's funny, I ended up working 30 hours in two days, I was aching all over and after counting my takings for the day I worked out that I was on £1.42 and hour, but it still felt like the best days work I had ever done.
That summer was mostly spent racing down the M4 to Wales to prep up for weekend markets and local festivals, by the end of the summer I knew that I had to do this full time and so spent the winter planning for the big step into full time mobile catering.
May 8th 2011 was the first day of going full time into the business. I had spent the winter booking events for the summer and the calendar looked full, I wanted something big straight away to get my teeth into and so I booked onto Hay on Wye Book Festival which was only a few weeks away and was going to be the biggest catering job of my life.
I arrived on site two days before the start of the festival and I was blown away by the scale of the site, 250,000 people, 10 day event, this was going to be completely different to my gig outside the farm shop the previous year.
In truth it was a high risk strategy, a massive catering job at the beginning of my new full time business simply soaked up all of my savings in stock, equipment hire, catering kit and disposables. On the first day of trading I arrived at the campsite and didn't have a penny to my name just a small float and a mountain of seafood stock.
Fortunately Hay on Wye Book Festival proved to be a success and really helped launch me into a wonderful summer of food festivals, locals markets and private gigs.
To cap off a fantastic first season trading, Cafe Môr was shortlisted for the finals of the British Street Food Awards which was due to take place on Jimmy's Farm, Suffolk at the end of September. To help impress the judges, I and my brother Ben (boat builder extraordinaire) built a Beach Shack out of local drift wood.
Cafe Môr took the finals by storm winning Best looking Mobiler, Best Drink and most importantly of all Best of the Best 2011!
The prize was too cater for the athletes at the London Olympic Games in the athletes village.
It was a good first year!
As a result of winning Best British Street Food Vendor lots of opportunities arose, perhaps the most exciting of these was supplying Cafe Môr's signature dish "SeaShore Wraps" to the athletes in the Olympic Village, the biggest peace time food operation in history! A truly fantastic experience!
2012 went on to see another amazing year with Cafe Môr winning more and more fans across the country. Susan Davenport invested in the business and pushed developing the award winning concept into new markets such as Food Service and Retail. It was during 2012 that Cafe Môr became part of a new company called The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company.
While Cafe Môr continues to exist as a mobile food outlet at Freshwater West beach in Pembrokeshire, The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company represents the travelling beach shack which pops up at festivals across the country and the retail business products.
All sorts of sea foraged deli products were created to test the high end food retail market in 2012, everything from Welshman’s Caviar to Laverbread Pesto. All of the products were developed from recipes used on the street food scene. Welshman’s caviar and Ship’s Biscuits took off the most and soon dozens of independent retailers were stocking them all over the UK. The lead products won The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company a free place at the BBC Good Food Winter show in Birmingham and the products found themselves in hundreds of Christmas hampers.
The street food arm of the business is going from strength to strength, this spring achieving a first place award at the BBC Food & Farming Awards in the category of ‘Best Street Food/Take Away in the UK’. Jonathan has made several appearances on national and European television and radio foraging for seaweed and telling the world about The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company. We won silver for ‘Most Sustainable Trader’ at Glastonbury festival.
In June 2014 Mermaid Confetti was introduced to the ambient range, a product that celebrates North and South Wales blending our Welshman's Caviar with Halen Mon Sea Salt embracing the essence and soul of the sea.
Welshman’s Caviar, the original lead product was given a Great Taste award at the close of the summer. Hopefully more of the deli range can follow suit, perhaps the newest product to launch: Captain Cat’s Môr Seasoning!
Ah yes another vintage year, with Beach Food being 4 years old! 2015 saw a rollacoster of emotions, from the highs of seeing Tom Jones singing his heart out in a sunny field in Somerset to van break down on the way back from Glastonbury. We have seen some of the old guard move onto to pastures new, with Mermaid Amy trying her hand at a spot of building and gardening at Warren Farm. The rest of the original crew have been as awesome as ever, with Danuta becoming a true tyrant in the Kitchen while the infamous Doc Roc is approaching Legend status in the office.
The rookies made a big splash, with Laurie blossoming into something wonderful at Café Môr, Freshwater West and the best festival crew ever, with King James leading the troops at Festival No. 6, Shelly, Sandy, Richy Rich, David, Yogi, Ms Neath, Libby, Eleanor, Nerys I take my hat off to you.
This year we brought in a new flavour of Ship’s Biscuits – Captain Cat’s flavour. Together with the original flavour and our Captain Cat’s Môr seasoning, they were the first of any of our products to appear on the shelves of a major Supermarket -Marks & Spencer. This was huge for us, and the mermaids worked tirelessly to put the initial launch order together in time.
Meanwhile Café Môr experienced it’s best season ever at Freshwater West. The trusty trailer underwent an aesthetic makeover as well as being kitted out with a brand new solar and wind energy system meaning we did away with the old petrol generator in favour of clean, renewable power. Crowds enjoyed the new everyday opening hours between Good Friday and the last day in September.
2016 was a big one! We launched our Sea Herbs range which brought us up to producing and selling eleven different products into deli's, farm shops and export markets. We also collaborated with Tomos a Lilford brewery to create a new seaweed beer, Fresh West continued seven day weekly opening times and as ever we hit the festival scene hard. A real highlight was being invited to Japan in the autumn to serve up our lobster rolls drenched in seaweed butter in Hankyu department store in Osaka! We visited the monument dedicated to Dr Kathleen Mary Drew Baker, the British lady praised as the mother of the sea for her scientific discoveries on the cultivation of seaweed.
Big changes this year as the huge decision was made to stop doing festivals. In the May we did Hay on Wye book festival for the final time and the entire summer was focused on Cafe Mor at Fresh West which had become dizzy new levels of busy! The biggest team to ever work at Cafe Mor absolutely smashed it! We launched our YouTube channel full of seaweed recipe videos, and seemed to find ourselves adding to the ever growing list of TV appearances, beside James Martin, Countryfile, Coast and Country, Brian Turner and Escape to the Country, the most notable by far was Kate Humble's Back to the Land. That show saw us packing orders received through the online shop for days!
Wow another very busy year! The decision not to do any more festivals back in 2017 was the right one, with the help of our newly up-cycled fishing boat trailer we saw even more visitors to Fresh West than ever before and we were certainly glad to be at home in Pembrokeshire to welcome them!
This year we've been able to keep pushing the quality of everything we do at Cafe Mor, we've expanded what we offer in the way of sauces and trimmings, we've upped our specials game and we've added more sweet treats to the menu! This teamed with a boiling hot summer meant we kept up momentum right through and decided to open during October half term for the first time, which proved to be a good move!
After a crazy seven-day-a-week season at the beach we went straight into Christmas, thanks to those who bought our products in shops and online in 2018, I know some were disappointed to see we didn't have time to launch anything new... times are changing... watch this space...