If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Mary Brons, you can see why she gets invited to a lot of dinner parties by her friends. She has an insanely good sense of humour and warm personality – she would certainly be quite the character to have at a dinner party.
But for Mary, the dinner invites always came with a bit of a catch. Her friends say: “bring a jar of chutney with you when you come.” Then “can you bring two jars next time? I’ll give you some money for it…” As long as she can remember, Mary has always made chutney. She’s always been a home cook and believes in making things from scratch and knowing exactly what’s in her food.
Her friends became very big fans of her creations (hence all of the dinner party invites). After a long career in the corporate world, Mary was looking for a bit of a change. A friend at the time said: “why don’t you do something with those [chutneys]?” To which she replied: “don’t be stupid!”
But stupid she must have been, because she did do something with those chutneys. She started selling her NoShortcuts Gourmet Chutneys at the Hobsonville Point Farmers Markets, she is now selling her dinner-party delights on the shelves of Farro and other stores around New Zealand.
“It all began very simply – I would use fresh surplus produce from my own or friends’ gardens and trees, from very traditional (some may say old-school) recipes, handed down through family and friends. The flavours in my products no doubt reflect my heritage with my Dutch parents, who spent time in Indonesia before finally settling in NZ. In essence, I like to use completely natural produce and cook them the old-fashioned way, in their purest form, with no unnecessary additives, in small batches – just like mum made!”
“My passion and love of fine food led me to develop an artisan range of gourmet chutneys, relishes, pickles and jam, which I branded NoShortcuts – because there are none taken in the way I prepare and cook them!”
Mary makes all of her pickles and chutneys herself – except when things pick up at Christmas time and she gets a few extra hands in to help at her small commercial kitchen space, just a hop, skip and a jump from our Constellation Drive store.
The cooking and preservation process may be time consuming, but this labour of love achieves great taste, aroma and colour.
We asked her what her favourite product in the range is. Much like a proud mum who would never pick her favourite child, “there isn’t a favourite,” she answers diplomatically. “It depends entirely on what I’m eating and what mood I’m in. One day it might be a cheese and cracker with some classic Tamarillo Chutney, the next day might be more of a feijoa and ginger kind of day.”
“ I use my products in all sorts of ways; as a garnish, topping or side dressing and also blend it into other cooking as a flavour enhancer.”
She sources her ingredients from local growers – feijoas coming from a grower up north, while she generally gets her beetroot from a grower out in Hobsonville; each summer she nabs a bumper crop of outdoor-grown tomatoes from Kumeu, which she roasts and peels by hand, like everything else in her kitchen.
She was very excited to be able to give us a sneak peek at her latest creation, fresh from first tastings at the Food Show, and just waiting to be presented at the next Farro new – product tasting panel… watch this space!