This article was originally published in the Winter 2021 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in December of 2021.
Tell us about your role.
I am CEO of Galmere Foods, based in Galway. Galmere is an innovative food producer specialising in soups, sauces, meal bowls, salads and dips. We produce more than ten million pots of soup annually, for private and major brands, and a further million pots of salad pesto and sauces. We also produce our own multi-award-winning brands, including Pestle + Mortar pestos and hummus, and Roots and Shoots vegan meals. My day can involve dealing with customers, planning production or sourcing, as well as consulting with the team and growing the basil for our pestos on our on-site vertical farm.
How has the last year been for you?
Like all food producers, the last year has been very challenging. We have remained open throughout the pandemic, endeavouring to supply our customers with all that they required while prioritising the safety of our staff and our wider community. We implemented in-house PCR testing on a weekly basis for all staff and visitors to our site in January 2021. Nothing stifles creativity, and in spite of the challenges, our great team have developed, introduced and launched new products throughout the year, winning food awards along the way.
Tell us about your career so far.
Straight from school, I started running a convenience store in South Dublin before joining Fyffes in Ireland and, a year later, moving to the UK – with Fyffes UK – for the next decade. I did a wide range of roles – everything from running a flower wholesale business to travelling to source fresh produce in Europe and South America. On my return to Ireland, I spent over a decade in Allied Foods, then owned by DCC plc, latterly as managing director. A short stint at Dunnes Stores followed, after which I took the decision to utilise the skills I had gained to raise finance to invest in the Irish food industry. Galmere was a business established in 1989, but in severe financial difficulty when we took it over in 2013. I’m also involved in the supply chain sector, which is a great fit with food.
What was your best professional decision?
From my role at Allied Foods, recognising that its distributor business model would not survive retailers’ transition to central distribution, and establishing Allied Logistics, which went on to be the largest supply chain business in Irish frozen food. In Galmere, our best decision was investing in the most efficient production and packing equipment in 2018, which really underpinned the turnaround of the business.
What was your most challenging moment?
February 2014, when we realised exactly how dire Galmere’s position was! What was your most embarrassing moment? Arriving at Heathrow Airport to travel to LA, and on to Mexico, on a preorganised, packed-schedule sourcing trip in the early nineties, and realising that, as an Irish passport holder, I needed a US visa for the stopover.
What three attributes do you wish you had?
Twenty-twenty foresight, the need for less sleep, and a better golf handicap!
What is your favourite restaurant?
Chapter One and Pearl Brasserie.
Favourite holiday destination?
The Dordogne, France.
What was your worst job?
The first six months in the UK with Fyffes were challenging!
What was so bad about it?
In the fruit and flower wholesale markets, the working day started at 4am, but we also took orders by phone between five and eight o’clock every evening.
If you could do any other job, apart from the job that you are doing now, what would it be, and why?
I’m actually doing what I love right now, making great food with a top team. Otherwise, I can only think that owning a vineyard could be pretty satisfying, too!
Do you have any pet hates?
No – nothing specifically!
What is your business motto?
Never give up.
What is the best advice that you ever received?
Never assume, and always have a good book on the go.
With which fictional character do you most identify?
Sherlock Holmes – the devil is always found in the detail. Name one thing that you always have in your refrigerator. Good cheese.
What is your recipe for a successful food business?
Invest in the team, buy the best ingredients – locally, if possible – and prepare them in house, and build partnerships with trusted suppliers and customers.
What do Irish hotels do best?
Genuine hospitality, and a phenomenal food standard.
Your death-row meal?
Fresh John Dory or Dover sole, simply prepared.
What is the most enjoyable part of your career?
Having had excellent mentors myself, I really enjoy providing opportunities for others. What has been your biggest disappointment to date? Over the years, opportunities that slipped away are always a disappointment at the time.
Complete this sentence: Nothing is more important than …?
Good coffee, an inquisitive mind, and integrity.