From creating Sugababes to cultivating spices: How Arun Kapil started afresh in Cork 

Living Leeside is a new series, documenting wandering souls who have found their home in Cork. Kicking off the series, music producer turned spice expert, Arun Kapil talks to The Echo about finding a new love for life in Cork.
From creating Sugababes to cultivating spices: How Arun Kapil started afresh in Cork 
Arun came to Cork with nothing but a question; 'Can I cook?'Picture: Denis Minihane.

From masterminding the careers of 90’s popstars such as All Saints and Sugababes in London, to running a spice company in East Cork, Arun Kapil’s effervescent hardworking personality has seen him find success every way he turns.

Arriving on Corkonian soil for the first time in 2004, Arun Kapil, whose mother was British and Father was Indian, was a latecomer to the rebel county and its unique ways of living.

However, over the past 15 years, he has embraced it all with a ferocious energy that has seen him find friendship thanks to his amicable spirit and family through his wife Olive.

A bold entrepreneur Arun has never been one to shy away from a challenge and moving to Ireland at the age of 35, with little money and no plan, to reinvent himself as a chef is just one example.

From setting up his own record label in London when his own singing career was shunted by his then manager’s bad decision making, to transforming the music industry with a whole new sound, Arun has not shied away from the highs and lows of life.

But after 15 years on the London music scene where he introduced DJ sets to vinyl recordings in the late 80’s, Arun said he needed a change of pace.

On the recommendation of a friend, Mr Kapil took off to East Cork to attend the Ballymaloe Cookery Course run by the Darina Allen.

Arun came to Cork with nothing but a question; 'Can I cook?'Picture: Denis Minihane.
Arun came to Cork with nothing but a question; 'Can I cook?'Picture: Denis Minihane.

“I was always into food and I needed to stop the madness,” Arun said.

Leaving the record label, Arun had to sign a two-year non-compete, in order to ensure he would not set up another label or work in the industry outside of his original label.” 

“I came to Cork with nothing, just enough money to pay for the course and my accommodation and I was here with one question: Can I cook?” 

At Ballymaloe, Arun not only found he had a talent for cooking, he also found a grá for the straight-talking ways of a Garryvoe Woman who was working at Ballymaloe House.

“I got to know Olive through the course and down the local pubs, I used to drink then, I don’t anymore. She was well used to chancers like me from the cookery school.” Despite being well used to the likes of Arun, the pair struck up a romance and married on July 7, 2007, at Ballymaloe house.

The pair now live in Shanagarry with a Jack Russell called Nip, that they took in when a neighbour died.

Arun Kapil with the family pet, Nip the dog, who they took in after an elderly neighbour died, at Garryvoe beach, Co. Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Arun Kapil with the family pet, Nip the dog, who they took in after an elderly neighbour died, at Garryvoe beach, Co. Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Since learning to cook in Ballymaloe back in 2004, Arun has set up his own spice company ‘Green Saffron’.

“I starting selling in Farmers Markets in 2006 and I set up the company in 2007. We get spices direct from farms in India. We work with the heads of the villages. 15 years ago we were working with 7/10 farmers, now we are working with 750.” Arun works hard to ensure the business is run with sustainable and ethical principles.

As well as this, Arun and Olive are immersed in their local community, helping out in the local schools and with local charities.

“Olive and I love the Educate Together school in Midleton. I often judge cakes and help out to raise funds.

“I also do demonstrations sometimes for the students. I remember visiting a class once that had students from 26 nations in there.” Arun said he also has a deep affinity with the Hope Foundation, a charity started by a local East Cork family.

“I have a real affinity with them, they are an Irish charity helping Indian people. I contribute to them. There is a blend of spice that donates the profits to the Hope Foundation.” As busy as Arun is, the man always seems to find time for a little showbiz and the spice dealer will be appearing on our televisions next spring, offering insight into the history of the spice trade.

While the London high flyer has found contentment in Cork, Arun said he still has strong ties to the UK capital and enjoys visiting the bustling city whenever he can.

“Some say you can tire of London, but I think that is not true, I think I just had my fill and there is a difference.

“I love to visit London but I find Cork more open, more receptive. I see myself staying in Cork and growing old here. You’ve got me now, for better or for worse. Though hopefully always for the better!”

Arun and Olive Kapil, who met at Ballymaloe House, 15 years ago when Arun first came to Cork to learn to cook at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. of Green Saffron, with their dog Nip at Garryvoe beach, Co. Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
Arun and Olive Kapil, who met at Ballymaloe House, 15 years ago when Arun first came to Cork to learn to cook at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. of Green Saffron, with their dog Nip at Garryvoe beach, Co. Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

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