Sweet Dreams: Why bakers have become Quest backers!
Posted on May 16, 2015 by The Quest
The Quest Co-founder, Darren Brady talks to Paul Cons (CEO of Konditor & Cook) about his recent participation on The Quest Programme and the reason his company is supporting our Social Enterprise
Darren: Paul, I was so delighted when you recently became involved with The Quest. Could you explain more on how that came about?
Paul: I guess you told me about it a couple of years ago and I was interested, but also very involved in my own personal development work and possibly a bit nervous about trying something else out. However it planted a seed. So when you announced you were doing The Daring Way™ Program with Brené Brown, I was impressed by her TED talk, and again whilst a bit nervous at first, decided to take the plunge. It was an amazing weekend, and after that doing The Quest Programme seemed like a no brainer!
I’ve been on my own Quest over the past 15 years, therapy, Buddhist meditation, spiritual exploration and the work you do is very complimentary .
Darren: It feels like when you chose to take the plunge you really dived in there! You did the two Programmes within months of each other. What was that experience like for you?
Paul: Well, recently over the past 5 years I have been involved with a spiritual school called Ridhwan. It’s very much based around living an authentic life, fulfilling your true potential. My spiritual teacher is a Scottish gay man based in Hawaii!! So I think I’d done a lot of the ground work, so was ready to hit the ground running!!
The experience of the Programmes was very powerful. The theme of shame and lack of self worth has been a very dominant one in my life. Having the opportunity to explore this within a group of Gay Men (The Quest) and a mixed group (The Daring Way™) highlighted for me how this is not just my stuff, but something that we all experience.
Darren: Its a long way from your past experience as one of the great movers and shakers of the Manchester club world in the 90’s. I remember going to your legendary FLESH nights at the Hacienda. I seems you’ve been on a big journey since those days.
Paul: Yes, I blame Princess Diana!
Darren: LOL! How come?
Paul: I was very moved by her death, and it came towards the end of the 90’s when I was re-evaluating my life . Throughout the 80’s and 90’s I was obsessed with her. I think I identified with her loneliness and how unhappy she was whilst apparently leading an amazingly glamorous life. I’m not saying I was quite in her league, but I was a face around Manchester and club-land and successful but at the same time not very happy! I went to her funeral, stood in the street and watched her coffin come past. Somehow I was inspired to do something about my unhappiness and it was the beginning of my journey.
Darren: You once joked to me that you had gone from an industry surrounded by drugs to your new business, the cake makers – Konditor & Cook– which is surrounded by sugar. How did that come about?
Paul: Yes, you can certainly look at it like that! I think the connection for me is bringing people joy which both clubs and cakes do in a very experiential way. I wasn’t really a musician and I’m certainly not a baker! But I love the experience of both, the celebration and the social connection. In our culture drugs are not very far away from this sort of experience of course!!
Darren: Does this instinct to bring people ‘joy’ also inform your decision to support the Quest by offering your Gherkin outlet as a venue for our monthly The Quest INTRODUCTION Social evenings?
Paul: Absolutely!! It’s our company mission. And I love the opportunity to create a social experience with The Quest in this way.
Darren: As part of your cake range you produce something you call a ‘Fudgepacker Brownie’ – Its delicious…I’ve tried several! – What made you choose that name? I believe that some of your customers found it offensive?
Paul: Well it was Gerhard’s idea (K& C Founder and my husband), he loves cheeky innuendo. It’s a brownie, quite literally packed with Fudge. So he couldn’t resist the use of the name. I used to do the same in clubland. With FLESH we took the word ‘Queer’ and made it a positive statement about our attitude. By using FUDGEPACKER in this way we are doing the same at K & C. However some people don’t like it, especially if they don’t realise the business is Gay-owned!
Darren: I believe that you got Peter Tatchells’ approval of the name though. Is that true?
Paul: Yes, after one particularly aggressive complaint from a lawyer we decide to consult him, as we were concerned if maybe it was crossing the line. But actually he was very relaxed about it .
Darren: Ade and myself were very moved when you offered to make a donation to The Quest for every Fudgepacker Brownie you sell. Why support The Quest from all of the charities and other social enterprises you could have chosen from?
Paul: Well, it seemed like a natural idea. I love the work you guys are doing and it deserves support. Also I think the main issue with the Fudgepacker name comes from gay men not understanding we are gay owned, and the name historically has been used to make gay men feel worthless. So to raise money for a project that helps deal with this issue seems perfect! We will place a card by the brownie in each shop explaining what we are doing and I think this will also help any Gay Men who might be offended to understand the context!
Darren: Will there be plenty of Fudgepackers at the inaugural The Quest INTRODUCTION Social in June?
Paul: Absolutely!! Also maybe we could run a special Fudgepacker baking class at our Cake School as a fundraiser at some point!
Darren: I’m sure that would be very popular with the guys. We once did a similar cooking event and it was packed. I think gay men are hungry – excuse the pun! – to meet and connect in different ways.
In terms of your continuing development as a Gay man, what happens now that you have completed The Quest Programme?
Paul: Hmmm… well I will certainly build on what I learnt in my own continued development. I also feel passionate about being a role model for younger gay men, to help them process their shame a bit quicker than I did!!
Also Gerhard and myself are about to adopt (we go to adoption panel on Monday for approval), so I feel understanding my own hurt, will really help with the support an adopted child will need. I’ve also signed up for The Gifts of Imperfection course that you are running from June!!
Darren: Wow, adoption! that is amazing! You will make a superb father! I love the idea that you will use what you are learning and pass it on to a new generation.
Paul: Yes, I know it’s quite scary, but as with doing The Quest I’ve found that taking a risk and leaning into fear is so rewarding!
Darren: Paul, we are so glad that you have joined us on our Programmes. You are such an inspiration and role model. We look forward to seeing more from you, and growing our relationship with Konditor & Cook. Your support at his time is crucial, as we do not currently receive any external ongoing funding.
Paul: Glad to help. We’ve supported the Food Chain, Lesbian & Gay film festival, but the work you are doing is so important and I’d love to see the day when every gay man gets a free The Quest Programme as part of their coming out process. Hey wouldn’t that be cool !
Darren: Let’s make it happen!
The next Quest Social Introduction Evening, hosted by Konditor & Cook, takes place on Tuesday 2 June at The Gherkin. 7pm – 9.30pm.
FREE entrance – Fudgepackers will be on sale!
You can confirm your attendance here.