OPENING your first restaurant before a global pandemic lands on your doorstep and also giving birth to your first child during lockdown might seem like a big ask.
But because having her own business, and having her own child were big dreams of Anne Zagar, with the love and support of her partner, Dave Devereaux, both dreams came true.
“Max was born by IVF,” says Anne, aged 33, who is talking to me sitting in the sun outside her ‘first baby’, #51 Cornmarket. The staff are inside happily having breakfast of avocado toast and crab crumpet before starting work.
“Dave and I both see the cafe as our first baby!” says Anne, laughing as she offers me a raspberry and vanilla scone to compliment the welcome cup of really good coffee.
But Max is the couple’s first love?
“We adore him,” says Anne, who sometimes brings her son to work strapped safely onto her chest while he ogles the tasty dishes being readied for the menu.
“Max is still on formula food but his eyes pop with delight at all the colourful food in here when he sees it.”
So Max is a foodie?
“He’s as bright as a button,” says Anne.
“And he’s like one of the team here.”
Max is not tied to his mother’s aprons strings, because he often wears the apron!
“We took a picture of him on the counter wrapped in an apron!”
Anne and Dave are living the dream, delighted with life, thrilled with their happy healthy son and their thriving business, which is now a stalwart on the buzzing Cornmarket Street.
Opening a business during risky times, the ambitious couple took a risk.
“Having cheffed in kitchens most of my life; owning my own business was always a dream of mine,” says Anne, who is Norwegian born and who lived in New Orleans before coming to West Cork age 11 to live with parents.
Cheffing was good to Anne.
“Dave and I met four years ago on the job!” says Anne, who worked in hotels in West Cork in and hotels abroad. She also undertook the prestigious Le Cordon Bleú cookery pastry training course in London to hone her natural cheffing skills, keeping her eye on the end goal; to own her own business.
She has other natural skills to help achieve her dream.
“I am a very organised person,” says Anne.
“I get jobs done and I execute a plan to start projects and to complete them.
“Dave is good at the technical side and he worked in the hospitality industry for many years in well-known restaurants in the city and in Scott’s in Mayfair, London.”
Anne, full of drive and ambition, signed up for the world-famous 12 week course at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
“I loved that experience,” says Anne.
“I loved the place.
“Even though cheffing can be a hard slog and demands unsociable hours, I had the drive to achieve my end goal.”
Heading east to Ballymaloe House, the end goal was in sight.
“The school utilised the best of local organic produce like we do here,” says Anne.
“The course fuelled my passion to have my own place one day.”
One day she fell in love with fellow chef and Northsider, Dave Devereaux.
“He proposed while during the coronavirus when we were walking home in the rain one night,” says Anne.
Dave isn’t deterred by mere pandemics or by driving rain.
“He went down on one knee in the pouring rain and he asked me to marry him!”
What’s a girl to do?
“I said yes!”
The couple found their dream spot on Cornmarket Street to realise their dream, their ‘first baby’.
“We planned everything from where we would source fresh Cork produce to our chilled music playlist,” says Anne, who wanted her dream business to be just perfect.
Fate had other plans.
“We had to close our doors two weeks after we opened them!” says Anne, who had opened the doors of the newest cutest brunch spot on February 4 last year.
What was a girl to do?
“Obviously it was both devastating and disheartening,” says Anne.
Anne and Dave were deflated when their new premises had to be boarded up, closed for business.
“We were sat in a pub across the street when the news about lockdown broke. It was bizarre for us.”
The couple had invested a lot into making their dream come true.
“We had put all of our money, our passion and energy into our big opening,” says Anne.
The dream was in tatters. “The next thing we knew; we were emptying our fridges and the staff were taking the food home.”
Anne pondered the bizarre situation the couple found themselves in.
“There were nights, long nights, when I’d sit in here and start remapping our business model thinking; okay; if we shift to being a deli or a bakery we can stay open. I was just trying to think of something that would get us through because once we got the space; failure wasn’t an option.”
Being in lockdown got us all thinking.
“We had the time to perfect our menu and think about what we had to offer that Cork might be missing.
“We serve breakfast and lunch all day,” says Anne.
The couple cater for all tastes.
“So you can have a sandwich in the morning or Eggs Benny at 4pm the evening,” says Anne.
“We use all local produce and there’s a focus on Irish food in everything that we do.”
Duck and Waffle sounds like an English pub?
“Ah yes, we have unique names on our dishes. And we both lived in London.”
Ah that makes sense now with the well-named dishes on the menu.
The restaurant is brunch-centric with both sweet and savoury fare on offer. French toast with butterscotch and berries sound like the business to set you up for the day; as does steak and eggs with béarnaise sauce.
“We employ seven staff,” says Anne.
“And we are all very busy, and the place is buzzing outside.
“We can close in the outside area too, to make the atmosphere more intimate.”
There’s a relatively new member on the team. Four month old Max.
“Max is an IVF baby,” says Anne.
“During my first trimester, it was our first summer open.”
Anne had a dream pregnancy.
“I ate everything, even runny eggs! I worked away. In 12 calendar months, we were open for four months.”
Max is a welcome addition to the family and to the team.
“He’s a charmer like his dad!”
Dad couldn’t witness the birth of his son.
“It was horrible in hospital during lockdown,” says Anne.
“It was horrendous. Max had to go to the neo-natal for a few days.”
He began his charmed life in an unusual way.
“When he was 10 days old; he came with me to work in a vegetable box!”
He got around.
“Max was safely situated behind the coffee machine.
“Then, he was strapped onto me for service. People had to get out of the way for me to get behind the counter!”
Where is Max today?
“He’s at home having a cartoon day with his daddy.”
When is Anne and David’s Big Day?
“We hope it will be in Spring 2022.”
Max will have pride of place.
“He’ll be our page-boy,” says Anne.
Team #51 Cornmarket Street are one big happy family.
“We’re a real family here and everyone is raising Max together.”
So instead of a village raising a child, team #51 is taking on the role?
“Pretty much”! says Anne.
“We have breakfast as a team before we open each day and a lot of the time, Max pops in for part of the service!”
Was having a baby the same year as lockdown a daunting experience?
“It was both exhausting and rewarding,” says Anne.
“Between Max and this place; we were constantly on our toes!”
The trio are going places.
“When we get a day off; we head to West Cork to granny and granddad,” says Anne.
“We bring our Labradors, Charlie and Roux, with us and head to the beach.”
There’s a warm welcome waiting on the mat.
“Max is the first- grand-child on that side and the first boy on the other side.”
Max, living a charmed life has a whole lot of loving going on.
“They dote on him! In the restaurant he is passed around between staff members and our regular customers.”
He is learning on the job. Will he be a chef?
“Dave says he’ll be a chef!”
Anne and David have big plans to realise their dream even further.
“We are considering getting a full liquor license,” says Anne.
“We are re-modelling our decor. We’ve got plans for a once- a- month dinner ticket night and some day we plan to open another restaurant in Cork.”
Will Max be front of house?
“Possibly!” says Anne, laughing.
Or he may be chief bottle-washer?
“That too,” says Anne, who works front and back of house, has lots of roles in #51 Cornmarket.
“I am the chief-hole plugger,” she jokes.
Who does the cooking at home in Cathedral Road? “Deliveroo!”
Ah well. You really can’t bring your work home with you can you?
“We like to chill and spend time with Max. He’s a very happy baby.”