WHEN Celeste Pianezzola, from Utah, was on a quest for someone to show her around Cork when she arrived here, she didn’t bank on meeting her future husband Dave Humphries, nor did she envisage they would go into business together.
“It was love at first sight!” says Celeste, aged 36, who is a master chef and who trained in the States over 15 years ago and has worked in many fine restaurants around the world.
“Dave brought me to Crane Lane and to Orso, and within a year we were married!”
The couple got wed over three years ago and they came up with the idea of A Good Mood Food when they launched their own line of yogurt-based dips in May.
“Between our passion for food, and our desire to keep busy despite being left unemployed by the pandemic, we decided to be brave and take the road less travelled and become food producers,” says Celeste.
“I came to Ireland in 2017 when there was a shortage of chefs.
“I was fortunate to get the option of a working visa. I always liked the idea of coming to Ireland, where the climate is similar to New Zealand.”
Ireland has other similarities to New Zealand.
“There are lots of sheep and the people are kind!
“Back home in Utah, it is very much the Wild West; either desert or snow.
“When I arrived in Cork, I was drawn to Kinsale, it was such a nice area, but we couldn’t afford a house there. We settled further up the Bandon River in Inishannon.”
Dave gave Celeste a beautiful gift to compliment their house.
“I shifted a ton and a half of soil and created a roof garden!” says Dave, whose background is in IT.
“His passion is connecting people and helping them,” says Celeste.
“Before Covid, we were working on our pop-up restaurants called Spoon and Scallop, offering private catering and intimate cooking classes making Irish dishes.
“I was working in Joe’s cafe in Kinsale and they let us use the space for the pop-ups. One night we did a Japanese theme night where we served five courses and local restaurateurs came along to sample the menu.”
Does Dave cook too?
“No, he worked front of house,” says Celeste. “He is the charmer!”
Celeste and Dave planned to open their own cookery school. Then Covid hit.
“We had the idea that we could offer cookery classes to small parties of people, to hen parties and to tourists. We’d supply everything including the recipes and all the cooking equipment.”
Celeste and Dave were on the same page when the pandemic hit.
“When Covid-19 arrived, it gave us the chance to hit reset,” says Celeste.
“We realised we wanted to work together and combine our passions. I saw a gap in the market for healthy, flavoursome condiments that are completely Irish. Hummus is great and all, but most of the ingredients are imported.
“Our dips are made with local yogurt and roasted root vegetables from down the road, grown just outside Cork city.”
They had a winning combination.
“We combined my passion for food by making things honestly tasty, and Dave’s passion for connecting and helping people by working with local farmers and growers to ensure that they can continue to grow and earn a living.”
It was their baby.
“My mother is a midwife,” says Dave. “Starting and developing the business; A Good Mood Food, was like the gestation of a baby that we began during lockdown! We wanted easy healthy and uplifting food. Our healthy dip and condiments made in small batches elevate the eating experience.”
A Good Mood Food took off.
“Luckily for us, the Local Enterprise Offices were so supportive and we were able to get mentoring and help along the way,” says Dave.
“We launched in May and we’ve been selling our products in Supervalu outlets around Cork and Cork county and in select shops.
“Previous to our product being on the shelves, we reached out to the Food Academy at Supervalu. We were delighted when they took us on, despite the fact that we weren’t in the shops yet or even sure what it was we were going to make! They gave us great guidance. Luckily, when we pitched our final product, they loved it.
“There is so much fresh produce on our doorstep like carrots, beetroot, parsnips, and garlic. Roasted vegetables and yogurt is simple, it is Irish and it is wholesome. Through the use of the Incubator Kitchens in Carrigaline, we could produce snacks for customers like the ones Celeste was making at home. We have a great relationship with farm suppliers.”
A Good Mood Food like spiced beetroot can be used as a spread or a dip; they are perfect if you love snacking or want to whip up a quick meal packed with flavour. Each flavour is crafted with roasted vegetables, specially selected spices and locally crafted Greek-style yogurt.
“Getting our produce up and running is like building a plane and then learning to fly it!” says Dave, who believes in supporting FoodCloud Cork Hub. Instead of food going to waste, FoodCloud matches the retailers and producers who find themselves with top-quality, but somehow surplus produce, to a list of charities whose chefs can use the free ingredients to whip up tasty meals for service users.
“We do all the producing, marketing, finance and distribution. During lockdown we didn’t want to sit on our hands,” says Dave.
“After 10 days of Covid we were bored - A Good Mood Food was an organic evolution. We believe is supporting Irish jobs. Celeste and I work 30 hours a week.”
Are they making money?
“The business is not profitable yet,” says Dave. “We are looking to grow and expand the business, otherwise we’d be at the hobby level. We are committed to the business and want to get more people to work.”
They have another ambition.
“I want to get my Irish citizenship!” says Celeste.
That will be the icing on the cake for the entrepreneurial couple.