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Women to Write Home About: Fiona Richmond

Fiona Richmond

In this month’s Women to Write Home About  blog interview series we’re delighted to hear from Women in Tourism member Fiona Richmond, Head of Regional Food, Scotland Food & Drink.

In July 2019 Fiona was awarded the accolade of being one of the UK’s top 20 Icons of Food and Drink by Speciality & Fine Food Fair and Speciality Food Magazine

Tell us about yourself and what you do

I grew up in Ayr and studied at University of Glasgow and University of Surrey, specialising in sociology and social research, then moved around across England, The Channel Islands and then Northern Italy to work with the international association dedicated to protecting traditional food cultures and small producers, Slow Food.

I’ve lived in Edinburgh for just over 10 years since taking up a post with industry leadership organisation, Scotland Food & Drink. The role has been varied, evolving and always interesting! I’m currently Head of Regional Food, part of the UK market development team that works to provide business opportunities for Scottish food and drink companies and to coordinate the implementation of the national food tourism plan that we launched with our partners Scottish Tourism Alliance in 2018.

Outside of work, I’m a trustee of Smart Works Edinburgh, a regional branch of national charity Smart Works, which helps disadvantaged women get back to work by providing them with an outfit for interview, training and styling advice. I lead on events which have included, most recently, brunch with one of our national patrons, Betty Jackson CBE, at The Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian.

What, about your work, makes you most proud?

I feel very proud to work for an organisation like Scotland Food & Drink that’s at the forefront of driving the success of the industry and to be part of a wider community of people, businesses and organisations which genuinely care about our food culture and its sustainable future. I love having the chance to work with and support so many brilliant producers who work relentlessly, and with great passion, to bring good food and drink to the marketplace. Seeing top Scottish produce on menus and on shelves makes me very happy, indeed.

What other projects are you involved in?

One of the main projects I’m working on is the delivery of Scotland’s national food tourism plan, together with the Scottish Tourism Alliance. This is a major project that has brought the food and drink and tourism industries more closely together than ever before. We are on a big mission to show the world that our food and drink experiences are worth travelling for, and Scotland that can be up there with the food tourism destinations in the world. We have the produce, people and stories in abundance. It’s up to all of us now, from producers and wholesalers to retailers, visitor attractions, tour operators and restaurateurs, to work together to make this happen.

Share a moment in your career that you cherish

I’ve been lucky to have had many great moments in my career. What I cherish most is the moments where I’m able to visibly see the fruits of my labour by providing platforms and tangible business opportunities for Scottish producers. One standout must be the 2014 Ryder Cup, where we worked closely with the appointed caterers to deliver a very strong Scottish catering offer. To see local and regional produce being served at such a prestigious event was very satisfying.

We also created a food village at Glasgow Green for the duration of the 2014 Commonwealth Games which saw more than Scottish mobile traders serve their fantastic food and drink to thousands upon thousands of visitors every day. We were so proud of them for stepping up the plate like this, managing huge volumes and challenges around catering at such a major event. The camaraderie, atmosphere and buzz were something I don’t think any of us will ever forget.

What are your hopes for Scottish tourism in the next 5 years?

I really hope that Scotland continues to attract visitors from near and far and retain its position as a strong and attractive tourism destination, and one that is unashamedly focused on quality.  And, of course, I’m particularly determined that our national food tourism plan work will be reaping benefits and that we’ll be well on our way to becoming recognised as a global food tourism destination. If I could see an even greater rise in the use of Scottish produce in shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and accommodation, where the producers are recognised and stories told, that will be a great result.

Where is your favourite place to visit in Scotland? In the world?

My favourite place in Scotland must be St Andrews. I come from a long line of fisher folk who were the lifeblood of the town for generations (the East-Enders!), and I’ve been going there every year with my family for as long as I can remember. I’m proud of my heritage and of what my ancestors did for the fishing industry. I’ve grown up with stories about the old days, and the incredible local bounty, not least the famous crabs and lobsters that my Mum talks about to this day. It’s one of the reasons I love fish and seafood so much – it’s in my blood.

In the world, it’s Italy, without a doubt. I fell in love with it even before I visited the country. The food culture, style, ‘bella figura’ attitude (the emphasis on beauty/making an impression) and romance of the country is second to none. They place such an importance on quality food and drink, convivial eating and have exceptional pride in very local and regional produce, all of which greatly resonates with me. I must also mention to another place very close to my heart, which is Jersey in the Channel Islands. Adore the beaches, seafood and pace of life. It’s my happy place and feels like a second home.

Share a moment that, at the time, felt like a setback, but propelled you further into the career you have now

I’ve had some very personal setbacks over the years and there was a time, especially in my younger days,that I didn’t think that I would have a career of any sort at all. I never thought I would be where I am now. When I got back on track, the turning point for me was when I started volunteering, which led to igniting my interest in food culture, and everything happened from there. The big message I would like to send to others is to never give up, don’t feel you need to have all the answers when you’re starting out as things happen in their own time. Like many women, I’ve struggled with confidence (and still do), and supportive organisations like Women in Tourism can help with that.

What motivated you to join Women in Tourism?

I really admired the organisation and the women behind it and felt that it was something that I should support and contribute to. It’s doing such great work to raise the profile of women in the industry and to motivate and encourage others to both enter the profession and progress. I feel so strongly about the power of networks and our collective responsibility to help each other.

When family and friends come to visit, which local spots do you take them to?

St Andrews, of course! No trip there is complete without a visit to Balgove Larder to stock up on superb local & Scottish food and drink (including their own homegrown produce) and a walk along the West Sands to clear the cobwebs away. I also have a soft spot for East Lothian (being by the sea is a must). My new favourite spot is Drift café in North Berwick, run by family farmers who have converted shipping containers into a fabulous café with the most stunning views of the sea. They are part of the agritourism monitor farm project, so watch this space for more developments. In Edinburgh, I have a long list of food hotspots. Too many to mention here, but must mention brilliant Café St Honore, Contini and L’Escargot Bleu who have the most impeccable sourcing policies and do so much to support Scottish producers.

What one piece of advice would you give to women starting out in the industry?

Be open-minded, enthusiastic and grab every opportunity you can to get involved.  I’m a big believer in volunteering and would strongly encourage this for gaining experience, learning skills, understanding the industry and building a network. It can be so personally and professionally enriching. And, above all, do something that you love!

With kind thanks to Women in Tourism members Erin McLelland, our industry interviewer, and to interviewee Fiona Richmond for her contribution.

We’d love to hear from Women in Tourism members interested in contributing to the Women to Write Home About interview series. Please email info@womenintourism.co.uk