Meet the 'fearless' female caterers of Cork

Balancing business start-ups with families, career changes, and making a home in a new country are just some of the challenges these women working in Cork’s catering sphere have taken on, writes KATE RYAN
Meet the 'fearless' female caterers of Cork
Caterer Jayne Ahern of Wicked Wholesome.

CORK’S melting pot of great produce and creative cooks means that catering has taken on a somewhat different meaning in recent times.

Bold, colourful, delicious and nutritious plates of food are the order of the day — this is the food being championed by a new wave of female-led catering companies all around Cork.

You’ll find them in food trucks, repurposed containers and bijoux catering kitchens. They are cook, host, and teacher all in one, offering services that range from small private catering parties to hosting workshops and cookery demos where they share their love of cooking for others to inspire us to do the same.

I caught up with a few of these fearless females to ask them about their catering businesses, their highlights, challenges and what keeps them motivated.

Celeste Pianezzola, Spoon and Scallop Food, Kinsale.
Celeste Pianezzola, Spoon and Scallop Food, Kinsale.

Celeste Pianezzola, Spoon & Scallop, Kinsale

Celeste, from Utah in the US originally, is the head chef at Jo’s Cafe in Kinsale during the day, and by night is the owner of Spoon & Scallop offering private catering, pop up events, cooking workshops and foraging trips. She is a gardener and a keen world traveller.

“I established Spoon & Scallop in 2019, based in Kinsale, but we also do events across Cork city and county. Spoon & Scallop brings cookery classes to you, and I’ve been doing a series of pop-ups in Jo’s Café in Kinsale to get the word out about what we are doing.

“After graduating as a qualified chef from culinary school in America, I travelled the world working in restaurants in some of the world’s biggest cities. Here in Ireland, I want to share my passion for food with people. I love teaching people about cooking and foraging and working with the beautiful local produce.

“I have so many tricks of the trade to impart and I really enjoy working with people who get a chance to realise how much fun, and how easy, cooking can be.

“Spoon & Scallop arrives at your door with a chef, recipes, food and everything you need to transform your space into a cookery course. In the end, we sit down to an incredible meal!

“I love it when someone attends a cookery class who has convinced themselves they are hopeless in the kitchen, but then I help them see they have within them the ability to create something delicious and beautiful. The whole world has to eat, and yet you have the chance to create a genuine connection with people when you create food that not only nourishes them but speaks to their heart.”

Find them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Or at www.spoonandscallop.com

Jayne Ahern in her kitchen.
Jayne Ahern in her kitchen.

Jayne Aherne, Wicked Wholesome

Corkonian Jayne operates her business, Wicked Wholesome, from a bright yellow shipping container converted into a modern commercial kitchen. She says she is always striving for perfection while often operating on very little sleep!

“I started practicing different business ideas out on family and friends about three years ago. They would order a three-course meal from me which I would cook at home that morning and deliver to them around the city and suburbs that evening. I did this from my own home for about six months, then took a break from it while and I got my own commercial kitchen ready and kitted out. I’ve been operating from there for about a year and a half.

“For the last year, the business revolved around the pop-cafe I had in O’Sho on Barrack Street. But now I am turning to cooking really healthy and delicious freezer meals that I will deliver directly to the customer myself.

“And also of course my treats… I have my own vegan and gluten free version of chocolate bars. They are available in Crawford & Co on Anglesea Street, and O’Sho too. Customers often tell me they cannot believe that food this healthy actually tastes good, and honestly, this is one of my favourite things to hear, ever!

“I worked for Simon Community for years, but decided to take a whole new career change. Cooking has been a passion of mine for the longest time, so I took a career break and did the 12-week Ballymaloe Certificate Course, and I’ve never looked back.

“There really is no such thing as an average day for me anymore — I never ever sleep in and I always hit the ground running. I spend mornings sourcing what I need for the day, then I go to the kitchen for anywhere between four and 10 hours, depending on what I’m cooking that day. Evenings are spent with my notebook in front of me doing my order of work for the following day and planning my next week.

“My toughest challenge has been, and still is, not to under-value myself. Valuing yourself and realising your own worth is one of the most important things to do in order to just survive when starting up your own business, but it’s definitely the thing I find the hardest to do!

“People are free to contact me about my freezer meals, nachos bowls and treats directly on Instagram or by email on wickedwholesome@gmail.com”

Orla McAndrew, of Orla McAndrew Catering.
Orla McAndrew, of Orla McAndrew Catering.

Orla McAndrew, Orla McAndrew Catering

Roscommon native, Orla, set up her catering business in 2018 at the same time she became pregnant with her third child, after a chance encounter with a bride in desperate need of a wedding caterer.

Based in Firmount, Donoughmore, Orla and her husband converted part of their double shed into an on-site production kitchen.

“My background is in Business, Culinary Arts and Event Management, so it was a really natural progression for me to create a business out of my greatest passions: food and entertaining! We work with local artisan producers and foragers to bring the very best of Cork food to our clients. We cater for private and corporate clients, offering a very broad range of services from canapé receptions to marquee events, christenings, communions, big birthday bashes and everything in between.

“Having taken a career break to have my first two children, I had been mulling over lots of ideas for when I was ready to go back to work in earnest. As serendipity would have it, I met a girl who mentioned she was struggling to find someone to cater for her wedding which was taking place in two months. It was a lightbulb moment for me. I was ready for a challenge and the following eight weeks were spent devising menus, offering tastings and getting to grips with the various suppliers I needed to make contact with in order to pull this wedding together. I felt mad alive! I loved every minute of the preparation and uncertainty and when the bride and groom and all their guests were thrilled with the very unique offering, I knew I was on the right path.

“I am a feeder! It’s in my blood. My mum and grandmother have both been professional cooks and for us feeding people is an expression of love. So when I’m entrusted with the responsibility to deliver for someone, I take that responsibility seriously.

“I understand the importance of delivering not only fresh, delicious and seasonal food but also in making sure that their event is a memorable one for all involved.”

See www.omcatering.ie. Also on Facebook and Instagram

Fiona Tuohy of Fiona Tuohy Food and Catering.
Fiona Tuohy of Fiona Tuohy Food and Catering.

Fiona Tuohy, Fiona Tuohy Food and Catering

After being encouraged by friends and family who loved Fiona’s food, she decided to go for it and set up her own catering business. Physically and emotionally invested in Cork, it’s Tipperary she’ll be shouting for in the hurling; but we won’t hold that against her!

“I set up my catering business two years ago, operating from my newly refurbished kitchen in the heart of the city centre. I specialise in personal catering, curated specific to the clients’ needs.

“I can prepare and cook in your home or bring everything table ready. I also run cookery classes for intimate groups at my house, designed to meet the needs of the group. Think: Christmas, evening meals, salads and cakes.

“I like to work independently and have a strong aptitude for meeting the needs (and budgets) of a variety of different environments — from weddings to home catering.

“I wanted to challenge myself and broaden my horizons and this felt like the most natural progression for me.

“I spend my days designing menus, discussing the priorities of my clients. Once we agree a menu we’re both happy with, I put together the shopping list, which more than often takes me straight to the English Market for the best produce available in the city. I have a staple of go-to suppliers in there that always provide the best ingredients and never let me down. Without this I couldn’t maintain the very highest standard of delivery.

“Then it’s back to my kitchen and the work begins: preparing the meals, and when everything is ready, I transport it to the venue.

“Sometimes, budgets can be challenging and it really forces me to think outside the box. I will not take on a job if I cannot deliver work that I am proud of so, from time to time, I have really had to get creative.

“I’m proud of consistently maintaining the standard that I have set for myself, and I take great joy witnessing people enjoying my food.

“There is no doubt that you have to love this work; it’s not easy and it feels almost vocational. If you love it, you love it — I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I have a real flair for it and thoroughly enjoy it.”

See www.fionatuohycatering.com

Sharon McSweeney, Soul Fix Food Truck.
Sharon McSweeney, Soul Fix Food Truck.

Sharon McSweeney, Soul Fix Food Truck

Remember the summer? Well, Sharon took it by storm as she rolled up to beaches across West Cork with her incredible slow cooked, fast service street food from her vintage Citroen food truck. Since then, she has been catering for functions and private parties and is relishing doing so!

“I’m Rossmore born and raised, now living in Kilbrittain, and I’ve always thought I was good at bringing people together, cooking and entertaining people,” she says.

“I originally started off cooking and working from home, now I rent a kitchen at Phairs Pub in Shannonvale and serve and cook on the food truck. That’s where you’ll find us during the winter, in a black, old vintage-looking food truck that I serve food sourced from local West Cork, family-run producers with Farmers’ Market quality ingredients.

“It was always a dream to have my own place. After many years working in Deasy’s Seafood Restaurant in Ring, just outside Clonakilty, for the Blackwell family and with Caitlin Ruth, I knew I loved both working back and front of house. My boyfriend Bertie helped and encouraged me to follow my dream to set up my own business.

“I’m very proud of the fact I set up my own business and even more so that I’m still maintaining it. Also very proud that I bring people together regularly, families and friends. The toughest part of running a food truck was moving from place to place — it’s not that easy. The weather can be challenging too!

“Most days I’m up at 6.30am, and I have to have a coffee before I start to function! I’m on the road by 8am for Shannonvale to start cooking and prepping, then it’s time to set up the food truck so I’m ready to open the hatch by 12pm. This is the easy part for me then! Serving and interacting with the people, and by 4pm, close the hatch, wrap up and clean down. I’m usually done for the day by 7pm.

“I love the positive feedback from people or through social media — that helps to keep me motivated, but I have to switch off from the world and the business as best I can. Mondays I like to meditate, and any chance I get I go to Dzogchen Beara Buddhist Meditation Centre on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork.

“I love spending time with my boyfriend, Bertie, my family and my friends. Oh, and I love food so any chance I get, I’m trying out new places!”

Food Truck times: Wednesday and Thursday 12pm to 3pm, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 12pm to 4pm. Contact Sharon on 087 331 8036 or sharonsoulfix@gmail.com. You can follow soul_fix on Instagram and Facebook

Galty Valley Customised Catering.
Galty Valley Customised Catering.

Mary O’Farrell, Galty Valley Customised Catering

Originally from Drinagh in West Cork, Mary has called Kilbehenny, Mitchelstown, home for years. In 2014, she set up her mobile catering business and quickly become a familiar sight at food festivals and events. This year, she added a mobile mini bar to the food truck offering, making hers that rare thing of a full service food and drink caterer.

“I’ve been a customer and a fan of good food since I was a kid, spending every bob I had on restaurants, cook books, food shows and markets. I add to this my years’ experience of various food programmes, courses and working in kitchens, such as Ballymaloe.

“I pour my heart, soul and any ingredients I can find into Galty Valley Catering! My passion is food and making people smile when they taste something exciting, innovative and new.

“My motto is ‘My Kitchen, Your Place’. After spending time in Australia, I was fascinated with the concept of the food truck and listening to couples coming home to Ireland with the idea of a funky wedding rather than the traditional hotel style. They were talking about castles, marquees, hay barns — we even catered for a wedding in an old army barrack.

“Food writers, John and Sally McKenna, summed up what we do perfectly, when they said, ‘Your Place, Mary’s Kitchen — that’s the best slogan for a food business that we have come across in yonks, and there could be no better kitchen to get over to your place than Mary O’Farrell’s Galty Valley food truck’

“We’re unique because we have a state of the art kitchen and mobile bar that complements any party.

“We bring our food truck to your venue, work around your needs, tastes and budget, cook the food you choose fresh to order, serve it and take away all of the dishes. This leaves you free to entertain your guests, enjoy delicious food and soak up the atmosphere!

“No matter where we go, people are always delighted and very complimentary about our food and service, and I really enjoy working in the food truck as no day or event is the same and I get to meet so many new people.”

You can find them on Facebook. or email catering@galtyvalley.ie

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