A Day in the Life with Anthony Creswell of Ummera Smokehouse

Anthony Creswell, Ummera Smoked Products
Anthony Creswell is a second generation artisan producer of smoked salmon and local meats. Ummera Smokehouse is situated in rural West Cork, on the Argideen river where his father first caught wild salmon for smoking. As an artisan in a region rich in specialist producers, Anthony is a keen participant in local food events, festivals and markets. He is also generous with his time and knowledge, welcoming tours, visitors and enthusiastic trainee artisans to the smokehouse to  share in his expertise. Here he gives us an insight into the day to day life of a multi award winning producer of one of Ireland’s most famous products.
 
When and How Do You Begin Your Working Day?
 
It depends on the time of year and the day of the week.  If we are particularly busy, it could be a 7am start. Sometimes I have to drop my kids off to school so I might arrive in around 9am. The smokehouse is situated at home, so I don’t have far to travel. Before I start work, I always have a bowl of muesli and some good coffee made with freshly ground beans from Urru Culinary Store. The smell of McCabe’s Sumatra Lintong  brewing generally wakes up the rest of the house! 
 
How Did Your Passion For Food Production Begin?
 
I used to work in the wine trade, so there would have been a lot of food and wine matching involved in that business which started my interest in food. When I came back to Kinsale from working abroad  in the 1970’s,  I was involved in a lot of the gourmet festivals.  I left the wine trade to work at the smokehouse alongside my dad for fifteen years.  We smoked Irish wild salmon, smoked chicken and bacon, which we still do today.  But since the wild salmon drift net fishing ban in 2007, we now use Irish organic farmed salmon, which I usually source from Clare Island off the coast of Co. Mayo. 
 
What Gives You The Most Satisfaction From Your Job?
 
When someone says Ummera Smoked Salmon is the best they have ever tasted! Also when customers enjoy our products as a real food experience and want to order more; that shows us we are doing things right and gives great satisfaction for all the hard work. 
 
Which Part Of Your Job Do You Like The Least?
 
All the unneccessary paperwork you have  as a food producer. It takes up so much time.
 
What Advice Would You Give Someone Looking to Become a Food Producer?
 
Have passion for what you do. Don’t sell your product too cheap. Don’t think you can only grow your business by getting bigger. You can also grow it by getting better. That’s what we strive to do here every day. 
 
If You Weren’t A Food Producer What Else Would You Like To Be?
 
I would probably go back to the wine world. I worked abroad in France, Germany, Spain and Australia and was involved in all aspects of the business, from production to running a specialist wine shop. 
 
Are You A Technophile or Technophobe?
 
I think I was always ahead of the posse in many ways when it came to using technology for the business. Ummera had a website long before many other businesses did. It was a great tool for communicating what we were doing to our customers, and keeping in touch with people in an inexpensive and efficient way.  So I would have kept up with buying the latest computer technology and smartphones from that point of view, because there’s no doubt they do have a place. But I must admit these days it’s all gone beyond my original needs! I don’t have the time or the brains anymore to devote to learning new platforms.  I am happy with what I have now and don’t feel the need to wait for the next iPhone to come out! 
 
How Do You Manage the Work/Life Balance?
 
This job takes over your life! I work at home so it’s always there, you never get away from it. You can just end up having a one track mind for the business.  But I have had to learn to manage the work/life balance a bit better, because I have three kids aged 14, 12 and 10, who are a very lively bunch, as well as two grown up sons and three grandchildren, with one more on the way. So there is always lots happening in the family  and I have to make sure I take time out to keep up with that.  It’s very demanding! 
 
How Do You Relax When You Get Time Off?
 
I don’t find it very easy to relax because I am always rushing between meetings and the smokehouse and doing things at home.  But I do manage to get proper holildays with my wife and children, which you can do when you have a good team around you. 
 
What Is Your Guilty Pleasure?
 
Having said I don’t need anymore technology in my life , I do have a robot lawnmower called Mo! You can programme him to mow the grass whenever you want it done,  even when you are away. He just comes out and does it himself.  It’s brilliant!
 
What are the daily challenges of being a Food Producer?
 
The daily challenges really centre round the constant multi-tasking and trying to be all things to all men, or maybe I should say all people!  I often find when  I am in  the middle of sorting out one challenge, maybe a production question, the phone will go which brings a whole new other thing to attend to. Two hours later I remember  that the production issue has still not been sorted!  In the meantime, a printer has gone wobbly and that has to be fixed, then I discover we’ve run out of labels, which have to be ordered,  which prompts me to check other possible items that might be out of stock. I could be in the middle of doing that  when a couple from New York suddenly appear unannounced on the doorstep, wanting to see how we smoke salmon  - and so life goes on!  Every now and then I get a To Do List up and running, but somehow  it never lasts! However, I'm on to a new To Do List system right now so I will persevere!
 
Daily challenges come in all forms, not just work ones.  I was out the other day when I got a call from my wife,  who had just arrived home with the kids  and couldn’t get out of the car because one of our free range pigs,  which we rear for ourselves,  had escaped and wouldn’t let them out of the car! It was one of those days in West Cork when it was absolutely belting rain,  and I ended up running round in mud getting soaking wet, trying to lure the pig back into his field with a bucket of food. By this time, the family were safely indoors watching me out of the window! The kids found it all very funny! 
 
What’s Your Favourite Good Food Ireland Place To Visit?
 
Brooklodge Hotel and Spa in Macreddin Village in Co. Wicklow. I love the food ethos  and the hotel is set in beautiful surroundings. 
 

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