Asher Flowers runs Rogue Preserves. Based in the Rhondda and handmade in small batches, Rogue uses traditional cooking methods to create luxury preserves with a provocative twist.
Whenever possible they source produce locally from Welsh orchards, farms, breweries and allotments, and to add variety they include global fruit, vegetables, alcohol and spices.
You can find Asher and Rogue Preserves at this year’s festival in Tiverton Place market.
Tell us about how Rogue Preserves came about?
My family is almost completely centred around the enjoyment of food, so looking back it was a natural progression that I’d end up working in the industry.
Finally I grew all too disenfranchised working for someone else that instead of just talking about having my own food business, I decided to fully commit.
So after living in London for around 6 years, I moved back to Wales and started learning from my mum how to make these Rogues and challenging my own taste buds.
I was fortunate to learn from my mother who had been making these beautiful chutneys, marmalades and jams for years.
Fortunately every job role I’ve held from retail, hospitality, fashion and advertising has been a huge impact to the business. The first jar of Rogue Preserves was potted last July.
How has the business evolved since you started?
It’s funny you should ask this, the first farmers market that I’d traded at was on the 19th of August last year. I remember sitting in the car, feeling pangs of nerves and anxiety that I’d taken essentially the biggest leap of faith in my life in completely changing my career and hoping to sell to someone that wasn’t one of my friends parents, haha.
We’ve since gone on to sell Rogue in Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, London, Exeter etc; testing out new flavours in Pontcanna Farmers Market in Cardiff.
We’ve fortunately been able to supply to some fantastic delis and a few restaurants.
The food service side of the business I had never even thought of previously however its going to become a huge part of the business in the next year.
I’m really excited for what the future holds for Rogue and the opportunities that Welsh food festivals provide.
As well as your mother’s recipes what inspires you flavour wise?
Probably naivety if I’m honest. I’ve not had a formal education when it comes to culinary arts, so I scour recipe books for cocktails, desserts and just try and absorb as much as I go along.
We always look to use the best ingredients whether that be local or global fruits, you can taste that when you try our Espresso Martini Marmalade using Coaltown Coffee or the Porter in our Shwmae Cwm Clydach Chutney.
What Welsh produce do you particularly love working with?
We’ve been very fortunate to collaborate and work with some fantastic Welsh producers. In February I’d travelled up to Ammanford to meet with Coaltown Coffee and discuss a potential collaboration, following a months of research, testing and experimenting we’d created our new Espresso Martini Marmalade using their award winning Black Gold No3 Coffee Beans.
We use Wye Valley Organic Lavender based in Rhayader for our Lavender in Amber Marmalade, which is beautiful indulgently spread on toast or in a G&T.
We also use Cwm Rhondda Ales Shwmae Butt Porter in our Shwmae Cwm Clydach Chutney, which has this beautiful depth of flavour thanks to the spring water that in the porter.
When you converse with these other producers, you can really hear and feel the passion that goes into their craft. It almost makes you feel something of a guardian, so when you make a product there’s this wonderful pressure of wanting to make a product that those producers would also be proud of.
What do you get from being based in the Rhondda and in Wales that is unique?
There’s a real pride in the history of Welsh food and drink. You can see that when you look at the Welsh cake shops that are bustling in Cardiff, the Rhondda Rarebit based in Tonyrefail or how big an impact that Brains Brewery has had on Wales.
Good food seems to connect us all in Wales and we’re always looking to have our own take on a classic, this is evident when you have artisan producers like Green & Jenks in Monmouth being rated as one of the best Gelato producers in Europe and the incredible variety of blended teas that are available from Mrs Delicias Teas and Cakes in Llantrisant.
Or the street food scene in South Wales with businesses like Lazy Leek who do the most phenomenal vegan burgers. Mr Laverman who create these incredible Asian/Welsh fusion of lava bread spring rolls. There’s this contemporary welsh street food vendor called The Pink Peppercorn that I’ve been dying to try. It’s incredible seeing the journey of these businesses on social media.
What is so special about coming to Abergavenny Food Festival as a producer?
I’d read that “Abergavenny is to food as Cannes is to film – an annual festival for spotting rising stars in Britain’s artisan food firmament.” It doesn’t get much better than that. The way producers light up when speaking about Abergavenny is something we really can’t wait to be a part of. It’s a big achievement to be in Tiverton Place. You’re always able to learn so much from the producers at these events as well, when I’d first started at Pontcanna Farmers Market there was something of an education that you couldn’t pay for from the renowned baker Alex Gooch.
What do you enjoy about being part of the modern Welsh food scene?
I think the Welsh food scene is really exciting. You don’t have just fantastic producers but writers, food photographers, bloggers and stockists who are always looking to push the envelope with what they are offering. The people I’ve met in the Welsh scene have always been so kind, supportive and ambitious and this is helped by the customers we meet at festivals. People in Wales aren’t afraid to be passionate if they love a product, it’s great to be a part of that.