Exclusively for Premium Plus and digital website members, Hospitality Ireland presents a piece originally featured in the February 2017 issue of our print publication in which we talk to Florrie Purcell of artistan food production company The Scullery.
Don't currently subscribe to Hospitality Ireland? You can read the interview now if you sign up for a Premium Plus subscription, which is FREE for 30 days. Click the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page for details on how to sign up.
Where did your original passion for cooking come from?
Florrie: My mum instilled a passion for food in me from a very early age in our scullery at home in Nenagh. I set up the business in 2004, catering mostly for the foodservice industry. However, with the downturn in the economy, I diversified the business, rebranded and decided to focus on retail. Now, with the help of Excellence, I am delighted to say we are re-entering the foodservice market.
You went to Cathal Brugha Street to study Catering Management. How important was that in your professional development?
Florrie: Business acumen is in my DNA, having been afforded at an early age the business knowledge from my dad who was involved in Purcell Exports. As much as I had the passion and skillset of cooking, I needed an overall view of management, and found that Cathal Brugha Street ticked all those boxes.
For most chefs and food producers, it seems that experiencing different countries is a rite of passage in broadening their experience in food. Would you agree?
Florrie: Absolutely. Travel, to me, is one of the best forms of education. During my time in Cathal Brugha Street, each summer I travelled and worked in the US gaining experience of different cultures. When I finished at Cathal Brugha, I was off again to different parts of the US and Australia to gain more experience. Working with different ethnic groups and learning about food trends was an invaluable experience as it helped me on my journey with The Scullery.
Can you tell us a bit about how you established The Scullery?
Florrie: When I came back from travelling, I embarked on a journey the length and breadth of Ireland doing market research, as I wanted to open a delicatessen with a difference. I called it The Scullery because that was where my love affair with food began. I had great fun introducing all my customers to new ingredients and flavours that many people in Ireland had never heard of. It was so popular I ended up opening a wine and food bar at night time. Everything was homemade except for the cheese. I made a ranch sauce that was extremely popular. In 2003, a director of O'Brien's Sandwich Café came in and had something to eat with my sauce. He approached me and asked me if I would be interested in making it for them. So I started making the product in a factory in Waterford and that's how The Scullery journey began.
Do you think there's been a significant shift in how much people think and care about the origins of their food?
Florrie: In my grandmother's and mum's time, there were no additives and preservatives. It was all about farm to fork. Food was natural, fresh and tasted wonderful. Now bread and milk have a shelf life of up to a week due to the preservatives that are added to them. People are becoming more conscious of what they eat and increasingly take the time to read labels. Thank God we have had the sense to go back and cook the way our mums did.
What would you describe as your philosophy of food?
Florrie: Sourcing local, using the best quality ingredients possible, cooking simply and sharing with friends.
Can you tell us about your latest range of products? And which ones, in particular, do you think hospitality businesses should be sampling?
Florrie: The Scullery Irish Country Relish has always been one of our signature products, which we have further developed specifically for our Excellence range, lowering the salt content. Alongside our corn relish and onion marmalade, we are now offering an exclusive range into hospitality. I envisage The Scullery Irish Country Relish to be one of the biggest wins for hospitality through Excellence.
Innovation is a huge part of the life of an artisan producer. Can you tell us a little about what you might have in the pipeline over the next 12 months in terms of food innovation?
Florrie: Accompaniments for ethnic dishes, and I am also looking at expanding my current Christmas range into foodservice through Excellence.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Florrie: Follow your dreams, be true and believe in yourself. Having suffered burns to one-third of my body in a kitchen accident in my twenties, I subsequently overcame my fear of cooking and started The Scullery and here we are.
What are your favourite restaurant, pub and hotel in Ireland?
Florrie: Restaurant, Brocka on the Water, Nenagh; bar/restaurant, Donegans in Monasterboice; hotel, Connemara Coast Hotel, Galway.
If you could do any other job apart from this, what would it be?
Florrie: Helping other food producers to understand and set up their business.
What do Irish producers do best?
Florrie: They work tirelessly to promote good, healthy local foods.
What could they do better?
Florrie: Ensure they take time off.
What would your death row meal be?
Florrie: Bacon and cabbage with my Irish Country Relish.
Complete this sentence: "Nothing is more important than…"
Florrie: A really good relish!
© 2019 Hospitality Ireland – your source for the latest industry news. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.