As stylist for contract caterer Houston & Church, Julia Holden spends her time with architects and designers, breathing life into clients' cafés and restaurants, and shopping for anything from cruets to flapjacks.
My day starts with an alarm call at 6am to feed my 10-month-old baby, Toby. Houston & Church are into café culture and, with our presentation, we try to get across what's going on in the fashionable café shops, so I often eat breakfast in one of our sites. Here I can have a gorgeous muffin and cappuccino, rather than tea and sultana bran at home.
At 9am I meet a printer to discuss having our own design on disposables. I always liaise with suppliers at one of our units, to give them an idea of the kind of "buzzy" retail operation we run. This time I send him to check out a smart take-away brand I've seen in a local coffee bar.
About 11am I'm off to collect some china from Wedgwood for a new client. It's my job to make sure the client gets the decor and design in keeping with the brand values of the business, and this means I shop a lot - which I love.
Being a stylist is a creative role similar to that of a chef, a window dresser or a clothes stylist. I trained as a chef, and for three years I ran the café at Designers Guild. Tricia Guild could just move a plate and somehow set the balance right, and some of that skill has rubbed off on me.
Midday and it's time to check out a new shop in London's Soho called the Bread Shop with operations director Jill Bartlett and marketing director Laura Stevens. The shop serves warm savouries that have caught my attention.
We buy chargrilled artichoke, black olives and Parmesan on puff pastry, and a pizza with ham and smoked mozzarella to sample.
Because it's important we keep up with high-street trends, I'm always sourcing interesting food items, like vegetarian pies from Fresh & Wild and almond macaroons from Costa. If it's not possible to buy directly from the shops, I get samples and then persuade existing suppliers to produce a similar item.
After lunch I visit a site that's expanding to accommodate 100 more employees. We are working with the architects and designers to create a completely new environment. My role is to bring the retail experience into what is traditionally office space; otherwise the client will end up with a classic, old-fashioned canteen atmosphere. Our niche market is cafés with food, so the offer is important.
Around 4pm I call our development chef, Adrian Cousins, about the Café 2001 show we're attending in Brighton. I go to a lot of trade exhibitions, such as organic, retail and health food shows. This is where you find the right products, like a small Devon company producing delicious crisps with no greasy aftertaste.
By 5.30pm I rush home to see Toby before he goes to bed. Then I'll cook a meal for my partner, Gary. I'm always trying to lose weight, which is difficult when I have to try so many goodies in cafés, so it'll be something quick and healthy like a stir-fry.
I work from home, so about 9.30pm I catch up on my e-mails and post.
What is your favourite restaurant?
I'm working my way through the restaurants in the new AA Good Pub Guide, but if I'm in London I'll go to the Japanese noodle bar, Satsuma.
Who do you admire in the industry?
Nigel Slater. I love his passion for food and his no-nonsense attitude towards it, using best-quality ingredients, keeping it simple and delicious - an inspiring and funny man.
What is your greatest achievement?
Every new caf‚ is my latest joy and creation, but I'm most proud of my beautiful baby, Toby.
Brightwell Grange, Britwell Road, Burnham, Buckinghamshire SL1 8DF
Tel: 01628 669500
Founded: 1997, by John Houston