Wigan mum hopes her cookery book will inspire fellow food lovers
A mum-of-three who launched a business during lockdown is looking forward to the publication of her first cookery book.
Laura Billington’s delicious platters are already being enjoyed by celebrity customers and she hopes people in her home town of Wigan will like making their own tasty creations too.
The 43-year-old, who grew up in Ashton and now lives in Warrington, set up Graze Cheshire last summer, offering graze boxes and platters.
It was a change of career after spending 20 years working for insurance companies and solicitors, including running her own firm.
Laura said: “During the first lockdown I was very disheartened with the industry I was in. In July last year I thought, like a lot of people. I didn’t want to go back to sitting at a desk.
“I started Graze Cheshire first and quickly it got momentum, with the Real Housewives of Cheshire getting involved. That didn’t really fulfil my passion though and the creativity.
“At Christmas I was in the kitchen with my husband. I have got lots of cookery books - it’s one of my guilty pleasures - and I said I wanted to do my own book, so he said I should do it.
“I made one phone call and in two weeks, I was signing a contract.”
Laura got to work writing the book in January and spent two days each week with a photographer to get images of her creations.
It meant she often had platters to eat afterwards and admits she gained a stone from all the delicious food!
And after months of hard work, her book Inspired Grazing will go on sale on June 28.
It aims to help people make their own beautiful and tasty platters, giving hints and tips on pairing flavours for all occasions.
Laura’s recipes go on a tour of the seasons, through chapters representing spring, summer, autumn and winter, so the book helps readers prepare for even the simplest of events as well as show-stopping gatherings.
As well as the photographs, it features illustrations by her eldest daughter, 19-year-old Nicole.
Laura said: “I’m very pleased. I’m so proud of it. No-one tells you how hard it is to do something like this. I will never look at a cookery book in the same way again.”
She said she carefully considered every ingredient for each platter and wanted to inspire people.
And she hopes lots of people will pick up the book, not just talented chefs.
“It’s for anybody,” she said.
“It’s for people who can’t cook, because most recipes don’t include any cooking. It can be a kitchen novice who doesn’t have a clue about cooking whatsoever to someone who loves spending time in the kitchen.”
It has been a swift progression for Laura’s company, which was set up less than a year ago.
She saw platters being sold via social media but was aware of only a few companies offering them, so decided to start her own.
She linked up with people making platters around the world, particularly in the USA, forming online networks to share advice.
She said: “I started Graze Cheshire on the back of wanting to do something completely different and entertain myself, rather than sitting there doing nothing.
“I started it with all Cheshire produce - it was very important that everything I sourced was local, but as time went on I found more companies and had to be true to myself and use the best ingredients I could find.”
Laura produced graze boxes initially and then platters, all made at her home, and has been delighted with their popularity.
She said: “It’s been really successful. I turn work down on a weekly basis because I can’t keep up with it. There is only so much I can do.”
Word really started to spread about Graze Cheshire when she provided products for TV stars on the Real Housewives of Cheshire.
Since then, other celebrities including comedian Jason Manford, reality star Gemma Collins and Olympian Laura Kenny have purchased her platters, while she has also worked with car company Aston Martin.
“The doors seem to keep opening,” she said.
Laura also likes to provide platters for people who are not famous and hopes people in Wigan will enjoy her book.
She said: “I’m still a Wigan girl. In the book, I talk about how proud I am of my roots and where I am from.”
Laura describes herself as a “workaholic” and believes that is why her business is succeeding.
She has certainly come a long way from her time at Byrchall High School.
She said: “I left school with five GCSEs, so I have no qualifications. If anybody ever tells you that you can’t do something, it’s a lie.
“Twelve months ago I wasn’t even doing this and now I have a brand new career.
“I have gone back to the old career as well, because I have been offered an amazing job, so I am balancing them both.”
Laura does not know yet what the future will hold, but she is looking forward to seeing how people react to her cookery book and how her business grows.
“I will either carry on doing what I am doing, being creative and enjoying it, or do the next thing I think of. I am happy to go with the flow once the book is published,” she said.
Find out more about Laura and Inspired Grazing via her website or by following her social media accounts.
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