The Interview: Darren Henaghan, Borough Market

Darren Henaghan, managing director of Borough Market, talks people, passion and provenance

MAKING IT WORK
I’ve been at Borough Market for a year, and what a year it’s been. We’ve run The Evening of Cheese – to which nearly 50,000 people turned up in less than two hours – and of course had the terror attacks in June. Leading the market through that has been a challenge, but we’re healing. It’s a great place, a really close knit community. All the traders know each other, and we do a lot of work with the community around us. What came out of the attacks in June was that it made us stronger, and we’ve rebuilt some of the relationships we’d had with customers who’d last visited us years ago and had drifted away.

The market itself has been around for a thousand years and has been through a lot of models in that time. In its modern incarnation it’s been about making the fine food sold into restaurants available to retail. The market has blossomed thanks to its dedication to excellence, and has become the epicentre of London’s food revolution over the past couple of decades. We have more visitors coming to us than ever before, and are very well regarded throughout the world. We receive filming requests from the Middle East, Australia and the US – we’re a worldwide institution now, and I put that down to being clear about what we stand for.

We allow primary producers to trade for only a few days a week if, for example, they need to be milking the goats at the beginning of the week in order to sell the cheese later in the week. We also don’t open on Sundays and Bank Holidays, because we recognise that our stallholders need a rest, and appreciate seasonality. It’s the right way to live, to understand that in this fast-paced culture you can’t have products being made and sold 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and out of season. We have a dwell time of an hour and three quarters, which is very important. It shows that they enjoy the space, and the environment we’ve created.

At the moment, we at Borough Market are having conversations about how we’re going to move forward and catch the next wave. We’re bringing all of the voices in the market together to create the next trend to wow the market as street food has recently done, and discuss how we’re going to ‘go forward by stepping back’, by embracing the high quality produce Borough is most famous for.

HOW TO MAKE IT IN FOOD…
Be true to yourself. Understand what makes you tick and stick to it. Don’t get swept away by fashions, but understand them and hold fast to what you believe in. When you find out what fits best with the person you are, really get behind it. It’s about building relationships and really living your beliefs. All the stuff around brand, produce and reputation follows on from those genuine roots.

INSPIRATION…
I’m inspired by the stories of people who have succeeded after having been handed a difficult hand of cards. We have people visiting the market and need support in life, they could have mental health issues or physical disabilities, who are so passionate about food. Apart from that, I’ve learned so much from people throughout the food industry who have dug deep – I’m be eternally grateful to them.

PHILOSOPHIES…
I’m not someone who’s charted out what I’m going to do throughout my life. I’ve never led my life by a plan, I’ve just gone with what feels like the right thing to do. I’m not sure if that’s strictly a philosophy, but it’s worked well for me thus far.

Read the full interview in the latest issue of Speciality Food, free to download here.

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