We speak to Adam Baker, ‘Choman extraordinaire’ – a job title that roughly translates to managing director (we think?) at ¡Cho! Gazpacho.
Tasting Britain loves Cho. There are many reasons. Firstly, in Adam, I may have found someone with a more irreverent sense of humour than Jack. But mainly, we’re really enthusiastic about what they’re doing…
Cho are trying to spread the word for an ancient, healthy and natural food. They’re not touting any bullshit ‘super’ ingredients, nor dipping into the often murky and scientifically dubious ‘health food’ market/trap/label/cliche. Nor are they adding the kind of refined additives that it seems the majority of their competitors, no matter how well intended, are. They’re making a ‘fast’ food that’s nourished Spanish & Andalusian people for centuries, and they’re bringing it to the UK. And we think that’s awesome.
So, we are honoured to bring you, dear Reader, a chat with one of the people behind it all…
Full name: Adam Baker
Role: Choman Extraordinaire
DOB: Before Neighbours
Twitter Handle: @chogazpacho
Fun Fact: Sammy Davies Jnr was my godfather [Ed: seems legit]
Could you give us a little backstory on how Cho was discovered in your Hispanic travels and how the brand came about? How did you first meet your team members, who does what (you have a Michelin starred chef aboard?) and why’d you pick Gazpacho, of all things?
Hiya! I always had a big piece of Andalucia in my heart & have many lifelong friends there, one of whom runs a film production company based in Almeria, and it was on his invitation in 2004 that my wife Karen & I first visited the amazing, sleepy backwater called Cabo De Gata.
We both fell instantly in love with the area as it was exactly like rolling back time 30 years to a raw and unspoiled Andalucia where life is an adventure and full of amazing people who have chosen to live off the beaten track! There are artists, musicians and creative people of all types living in a rugged rural landscape, and there are some amazing hidden restaurants run by maveric chefs on a singular mission to be different.
We first met our (now) partner Alejandro Sanchez, as customers at his tiny cliff top restaurant La Chumbera, we were blown away by his food and quickly became regular guests, and, after time, good friends with the young 24 year old genius chef! He has since gone on to earn his first Michelin star at his self named restaurant further along the Almeria coast, and it was in those kitchens that where we first began to look at how we could make gazpacho into a much more accessible and exciting on the go snack, Alex (alejandro) had always served a fruit gazpacho as an aperitif, a favourite treat of Karen & mine, as the combinations of tomato & strawberry, watermelon and cherry created amazing new flavours
We managed to convince Alex to explore & develop with us into longer, smoother Drinking Gazpachos. And Cho was born there & then in a kitchen in Almeria, Febuary 2012!
Why the Andalusian take on Gazpacho? As I understand it, there are some regional differences, and every family has a slightly different take on it, right? You use Andalusian ingredients? Until I tried Cho, I think I’d only had Gazpacho with tomato (and cucumber) and I’m not sure what region is was from….
Gazpacho has roots that go back to Roman times and before, it has always been a way to enjoy simple food on the move as farm workers would take an eathenwear jug of fresh gazpacho for sustenance when working the hard Andalucian terrain, and its documented that Roman Centurions also carried a similar refreshment on long marches.
Gazpacho has a base of olive oil, water, garlic, vinegar and bread into which ripe tomatoes and other vegetables are mixed, and this basic recipe has survived for hundreds of years. Its got all the great ingredients that make up the Mediterranean diet and it tastes great – whats not to like?!
For a long time Gazpacho was looked down on as ‘peasant’ food, but in recent times it has been re discovered by some of Spain’s leading restaurants as a fantastic, reliable and versatile menu choice, and for us it has always been the simple synergy between the fresh ingredients that makes gazpacho so refreshingly good, sadly many commercial varieties of gazpacho are made using cheap ingredients and taste nothing like you can easily make at home.
Asides from drinking it straight (which I did, and it is naice), what else can you do with Gazpacho?
Gazpacho is best made at home using good quality olive oil, and the ripest, plumpest tomatoes you can find, then eaten on the same day! Some people like a spicy variety with more garlic & onion, but you can quickly make a mild gazpacho base into which you can introduce fruit or almonds or other vegetables to take the flavour wherever you want to go, there are no rules apart from use fresh fruit & veg, as ripe as possible and a great quality oil. At one point in the Cho development kitchen we had 10 varieties on the go, and it was really hard to choose the 4 flavours we first introduced!
What are the current British public’s conceptions of Gazpacho?
Most people don’t have an exciting memory of gazpacho as it was so often served as a rather dull, cold soup in a hotel buffet on some distant family holiday, but Cho is received really well as its easy to introduce a fresh, great tasting concept to the uk public now, perhaps because we are, on the whole, really up for new tastes and our growing love of food exploring makes us an eager audience. However its really scary how many people are so fixed to the idea of everything in a bottle tasting sweet, that the idea of a savoury drink is almost inconceivable to them, in my opinion it has never been more important that we change this attitude and produce more honest food without loading everything up with sugar.
Why the ‘revolutionary’ branding?
Because we want to start a revolution! its time for a change and people should know whats going on with the food they eat, so we want more choice, we want good, honest food, and we want it NOW!
I like your green credentials too. You’re in Planet Organic, Whole Foods and the like – so I figure you’re going for the ‘health food’ market (please correct me if wrong)? Glass packaging too, which I think is a very wonderful thing indeed (also makes the food taste better…) Why’d you pick these approaches?
Cho is not a health food, its just good, old fashioned nourishment with no added nonsense! Glass is the most recyclable packaging material there the perfect choice for a great tasting, honest snack that also happens to be good for you! This back to basics message is more commonly found in ‘natural food’ or health shops, but we are on a mission to bring it to everyone!
What’s the process of developing a new recipe/flavour like? How long does it take and how many tries to get right? Did you taste test it on discerning Andalus foodies? Any new flavours coming soon?
New flavours are so coming soon! We had a job to choose from the 10 flavours we had on the go in Alexes kitchen, some things don’t make it through because its hard or impossible to get a particular ingredient in bulk, watermelon is one of them, as although being available in abundance locally, its so labour intensive to scoop out the pulp that it makes large scale production un-viable at this time. Look out for a very exciting green gazpacho coming soon!
What makes Cho unique?
Cho is the only range of savoury drinks in the western world as far as we know! Although we are technically not a drink but a soup, so we reckon we are the only true Souperfood (see what I did there!) [Ed: Oho!]
If you could go back to the beginning and start over, what would you change or do differently?
I would have tried to learn more about the food & drinks industry and how it operates, there is a lot that nobody will tell you and we have had some surprises on the way to market!
Did you ever have a point where you knew it was working, or that you’d ‘made it’? Do you remember that point?
There are always ups and downs, highs and lows, and with each new stage in the development the goalposts seem to move! So I would never say we have ‘made it’ beyond the first time we tried our new idea of a drinking gazpacho and really enjoyed drinking a whole bottle of chilled, Strawberry Cho. At that point we all instantly knew that this was the right thing to do!
What’s your ultimate aim and goal for Cho? If you could achieve anything with it, what would you pick? Money’s no obstacle, so shoot for the moon…
We want to put the CHO into school and get our young people’s taste buds exploring and enjoying stuff that isn’t all about sugar, that would make us really happy because we believe in great taste and that good food should be easy uncomplicated, and owned by the masses!
What was the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome and what did you learn from it?
Crawling was hard enough, walking just seemed impossible, but I watched my big brother and soon got the hang of it!
Who’s the person who’s most inspired you in your work – food industry or otherwise. Is there anyone that you draw inspiration or strength from? Do you have any specific culinary influences?
John Belushi in Animal House & the food fight moment really opened up my teenage mind to the idea of throwing food instead of just eating it!
What do you enjoy most and least about what you do?
I most enjoy seeing small children enjoying a Cho, I hate seeing them spill it down their tops, such a waste!
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing instead?
I’d be mainly annoying people, in a kind way…
What’s a ‘day in your life’ like? Could you give us an insight into the gazpacho business?
Phew, that’s a toughie as every day is different, when I’m in Spain its all about trying to speak Spanish without making huge gaffs, and when ‘I’m in the UK its all about making huge gaffs and trying to pretend its all part of the plan!
What advice would you give to aspiring food entrepreneurs who’d want the kind of results that you’ve had?
Be strong and take council from the other, brilliant small food brands around you, it’s a very sharing caring business at grass roots level & not to be ignored.
Anything I missed that you’d like to include here?
Yeah, I’d like to reassure everyone that every little thing is gonna be alright & not to worry about a thing.
And we always ask three customary ridiculous questions…
If you had to hire any of the Justice League Of America to come and work with you at Cho, who’d you pick and what would hire them to do?
Americans would be useless here at Cho, as the ‘I say tomato, you say tomado’ thing would be impossibly confusing [Ed: lol]
if you had to be transformed into any kind of household appliance, but retained your memories, ability to speak and personality, what would you pick?
I’d be a doorbell, a really informative doorbell – when you pushed my button I’d tell you all manner of useless things!
And finally, at what point is a flamethrower a good idea?
When you need to make a really big Créme Brulée