Alice Norman is the Director and Chef of Pinch, a pastry shop specialising in crullers and gelato based on a Suffolk farm. Recently included in the 30 under 30 Class of 2023/24 by a hospitality platform, she shares her journey back to Suffolk, via Amsterdam, India and Thailand
I’ve been a chef for a decade now. I used to work in professional kitchens in London until Covid led me to take a step back and rethink my place in the industry. I wanted to continue cheffing, without the intensity of a fast-paced professional environment.
Are you Suffolk born and raised? Where in the world have you worked?
I grew up in South Suffolk on the Shotley Peninsular and moved to East Suffolk almost three years ago. I’ve worked in Amsterdam, India and Thailand and love to cook a lot of Asian food at home. This year I’ve chosen two cookbooks to dedicate my home cooking to. One is ‘Bao’ (Taiwanese) and the other is ‘The Korean Cookbook’ a Korean cooking Bible written by the team behind Atoboy in NYC. Korean cooking is brilliant way of elevating plant-based food – something I’m trying to do more of this year.
When did you first have the idea for Pinch and what is the thinking behind it?
I had a dream of taking over a fish hut on Aldeburgh beach and serving grilled seafood, lobster sliders etc. but this sadly never came to fruition. I got in touch with William Kendall, a local farmer and entrepreneur, he gave me some brilliant advice and lots of ideas for potential options of where to set up a food business. In the end he kindly offered me a newly renovated kitchen space at Maple Farm, and I’ve been there ever since. It’s been about 2.5 years now!
What do you specialise in? People can take home your products?
We call ourselves a pastry shop, rather than a bakery or café, as we don’t really do bread or savoury food. We are known for our Crullers, deep fried rings of choux pastry made from the flour and eggs from Maple Farm. They have been described as ‘cloud-like doughnuts’ because they’re so light and airy. We glaze them in five or six flavour options depending on the season. We try to let our local environment inspire the flavours e.g. fig leaf icing or Tosier Chocolate icing. We also make several flavours of gelato and some savoury products to take home from the farm shop next door. Things like Bolognese, granola and Romesco sauce.
How is running a pastry shop on a farm working out?
This end of Suffolk thrives in any holiday period, so that’s always our busiest time. During Easter, Summer and Christmas things really kick off, and in between it can get a little tricky. We are in the middle of nowhere so it’s a lot harder than being on a busy high street like in Aldeburgh or Southwold.
Who else is on the team and is everything locally sourced as much as possible?
I have a brilliant assistant and a part-time barista. We will be expanding our team this year when we move into our bigger site on the farm. We source as much as we can from our local suppliers like St Jude, Pump St Chocolate and Fen Farm Dairy. However, about 60% of the ingredients we use are from Maple Farm.
What does it mean to be named as one of the 30 young trailblazers in hospitality?
It’s a massive compliment and a great motivational boost for the year ahead.
Any plans for 2024 you can share?
By mid-Spring this year we will be moving into a bigger space on the farm which is currently being renovated. This will allow us to expand our offering and finally start making savoury food. We’ve bought an impressive oven from Rome and will be making pizza using the flour and vegetables from the farm with local cheese and charcuterie too. We also hope to create a small cocktail menu that rotates monthly. I’ve asked the farm to try and grow lemongrass in the polytunnels so we can get some zingy flavours into the drinks!
Pinch, Maple Farm, Kelsale, Saxmundham, IP17 2PJ, reopens on Friday February 2. Visit eatpinch.com and follow @pinch.suffolk on Instagram. The full list and details of the those included in the CODE Hospitality 30 under 30 class of 2023/24 can be found at codehospitality.co.uk.
Featured images – supplied