JOHANNESBURG - A passion for great food is Susan Greig’s business and life.
It is this passion that saw her taking a calculated risk five years ago to venture into the culinary service industry. The fervent has now given way to Beechwood Gardens, a haute venue that Greig says is for all.
Greig says she was not at all certain the passion would give way to a business would work.
“I was very inexperienced,” she says. “My enthusiasm and positive energy has allowed me to create a brand and a good following of loyal clients.”
Greig is today not only a proud business woman but some of her recipes have made the Conde Nast House & Garden Gourmet cookbook, The Gourmet Cookbook.
Greig it all started because of her ardent following of trends in the culinary services industry.
She describes herself as a foodie who has always had exquisite taste.
And five years ago she decided to take the plunge, starting her own business to serve her clients the best in the finest setting.
She says she had to convince her husband and daughters that they needed to move out of their home in Hyde Park to make way for the business.
The decision was not easy as the home had been the family’s for nearly 20 years.
But,in her view, it was the perfect base for her catering and events business.
After much discussion her family embraced her vision and Beechwood Gardens was born.
She says it was a no brainer because she had, after all, been been hosting family and friends who included corporate executives.
She also had an idea of what to expect as she had operated bespoke decoration shops in Parkhurst and Hyde Park.
Thus, it made good business sense to to her to turn her natural ability to host people exquisitely into a business.
She says she was also emboldened by the fact that she had then already acquired a culinary qualification and had tested her skills at the prestigious Miele kitchens in Bryanston as part of a deal she had with the leading household and commercial appliances local division.
Beechwood, since its inception, has attracted credible clients, many of which are leading corporations in mainly financial services and the beauty industry.
The press conference of the FNB Art Joburg, a major art fair in the country, which was sponsored by the Wealth and Investments division of one of SA’s five major banks, First National Bank (FNB), was held at Beechwood in September.
Blessed with a spectacular water garden with a scenic lily lake of exquisite grace, waterfalls, a rose garden and a stately colonnade, Beechwood is also wheelchair friendly.
Greig and her team of four, which comprise a sous chef and assistants, host the most well-heeled corporate clients in the country, on the property.
They also have a culinary school which attracts students from as far Durban and the Western Cape.
Greig says her delight is when her former culinary students tell her that their guests have raved about a dish they created that sheI taught them.
She says this gives her a genuinely gratifying feeling, over and above the stringent business aspects which concern rands and cents.
As general manager of the business, Greig handles the day-to-day operations, runs the culinary school and can be seen serving guests with great passion and merriment.
“I love serving people. I don’t have to do this, but I love it,” she enthuses.
Greig, who is a Kingsmead College alumna and a Wits University graduate, says after completing her undergraduate degree, she planned to pursue graduate studies, but life happened and she somehow did not get around to “doing it”.
She then travelled extensively trying to find her place in the world, which happened later in life when she decided to take a chef’s course, some years after she had completed her BA degree.
She says she was still trying to find her calling, perhaps be darn dead certain that her calling was really in the culinary space.
But, she soon got tired of doing that, and sought to establish her real life purpose, which through phases, finally led her to the establishment of her current business venture.
“I have not regretted that decision, since,” she says, with great elation.
“Seeing people enjoy the flavours I create gives me such pleasure. I love creating delicious food and making people happy. It’s the reason for my existence!”
Greig believes her business is thriving because of the risk she took to turn her passion for food and hosting into a business has fuelled a positive outcome.
She says her passion kept her focused during the trying times, during which she learned to appreciate what really matters in life.
“My greatest achievement has been just creating employment for my small workforce and training them so they are skilled and can be self-sufficient,” she says.
To maintain her success, she says she needs to keep learning.
She says, “I learn daily from other chefs and cooks. I think humility makes you learn your lessons from mistakes properly.”
Greig says she is currently reading, No Friend But the Mountains by Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani.
“The book is about the plight of refugees and what they give up hoping for a better life – tragic difficulty,” says Greig.