In February 2018, she began the journey to bring her dream to life, starting with registering the business name, Raw Country and set about creating a mobile catering enterprise that could be versatile and agile, and offer something a little ( well, a lot !! ) different to the standard fare.
Having grown up in a farming community where her family raised and ate their own beef and lamb, and they only ever used fresh food that was in season, Carolyn knew that she wanted to use this childhood connection to the land, combined with her many years of cooking experience to design seasonal menus around what she was able to access directly from Gippsland producers, growers and suppliers.
"The quality of the produce in Gippsland is amazing, and the ability to be able to meet the people who are growing and producing the food is really important to me and what I want to achieve with Raw Country"
Juggling her growing small business with other part time cooking work elsewhere, Carolyn has focussed on building her Raw Country brand around private catering and events right across Gippsland, with a keen eye for what is a good fit for what she offers to appeal to the individual event demographics and target markets.
In the last 12 months she has worked hard to build relationships with local suppliers, and showcase the quality and diversity of what is available in Gippsland, and minimise food miles wherever she can.
Sometimes that showcasing extends to naming rights - as is the case with one of her popular pizzas - aptly named the Gippsland Pearls Pizza as it features gourmet mushrooms grown by Gippsland Pearls, a thriving start up in Lakes Entrance that now supplies mushrooms many of East Gippsland's leading eateries.
Carolyn credits a particular event earlier this year for giving her the kick start in a direction that she had been wanting to head towards to refine her real and tastily tangible point of difference.
"When I got the opportunity to be part of the Feral Forage and Feast event in Bruthen back in May, the ability to use some really different ingredients like wild venison on my pizzas gave me a real connection to what I'd been building my Raw Country brand to represent"
In fact, the two most popular pizzas are now those with venison. See if you can read this without your mouth watering.. there's the Raw Country Blue which combines the gaminess of the venison with the sharp, intense flavour of the Gippsland produced Maffra Blue Cheese, Carolyn's Raw Country cherry sauce, caramelised onion and sage. Or the Wild Crew, which is the delicious combination of venison with bacon, red onion, fruit chutney and mozzarella. ( Maybe it's easier to just order both ! )
Carolyn puts a significant value on what her membership with Food & Fibre Gippsland has been able to help her achieve in this start up phase of her mobile catering business journey.
"Being part of events that Food & Fibre Gippsland are either part of, like the Feral Forage and Feast, or that they manage, like the Feast on East at Metung, has really helped my exposure in the region, and they've also been great to help with connections to producers, big and small "
"I really enjoy being part of the Food & Fibre Gippsland membership network - it just makes connecting with growers, producers and suppliers in the industry a lot easier, which when you're time poor and juggling a lot of things, makes a big difference "
And she says the momentum is building for the gourmet product offering that she makes with love, and a lot of attention and effort.
Carolyn describes her delicious wholesome culinary delights, made from quality free range, organic and local ingredients to be takeaway that really is good for you, and good for the environment with only bamboo, paper and compostable packaging used.
"Mobile catering definitely puts its own limits on what you can do, but that just inspires me to get more and more creative at every different location I am working at, but I set out to create a food brand that doesn't stick to a formula and I love having the freedom in the business to deliver whatever the client wants or needs for their particular event or location "
"There's a huge amount of work that goes into making a quality, bespoke product - I do everything myself - from the sauces to the marinades and everything in between, and it's this, combined with the stories about where my ingredients come from that draws people to want to try my food"
"That human time factor delivers its own set of challenges when it comes to keeping costs at a price point that works for each event, but we are now in a pattern of getting return invites and requests for us to attend events, so we are definitely getting there !"
With 12 + months of business under her apron, she is looking ahead to where she sees future opportunity.
"I think there are big opportunities to create a unique, tasty, sustainability-focussed vegan menu offering as part of my brand - I'm really excited about what that might look like, and the places it could take me"
When we asked her to describe what makes her happy about starting Raw Country ;
"Oh absolutely the joy I see on people's faces when they tuck into my cooking - it's that moment that makes all the hard work worth it"
Well done Carolyn on what you've achieved in a short time with Raw Country - we are so delighted that you're part of our Food & Fibre Gippsland membership tribe.
To find Carolyn's Raw Country, head to Facebook