My philosophy is simple, I am a Ballymaloe trained chef, I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, testing new recipes and trying new ideas. I find a recipe that I like, sometimes I have to tweak it or adapt it to what’s in my kitchen, and I go with it. I believe in simple, local, seasonal food that tastes delicious. My goal is to inspire others whether they are struggling to find new recipes, in a rut with the same recipes or needing a little help learning a new style. I hope I can inspire people to slow down and enjoy food with family and friends around a table.
When did The Ruby Apron get up and running?
I ran my first class at the end of July 2015, quit my job a few months later in September, and after a bit of a struggle with the city received my license on October 8th, and incorporated my business on November 2nd, so it depends what date you look at. After my first class, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue, I’d say things were up and running fairly smoothly by the end of September.
When you finished the Ballymaloe 12 Week Certificate, what was the next step? How long before you launched your business?
I came home and was back at my job two days later, constantly running out the door with not a second to spare, often smelling of whatever had been cooked or with flour on my face I’m sure. My mind was constantly wandering to the kitchen, and I couldn’t get, “just get up and do it…” out of my head. I started toying with the idea of starting a business as soon as I got home from Ireland at the end of March. The process began with a logo in May, and continued from there.
What would you say were the key benefits or areas of influence the 12 week course had on your decision to start your own food business?
I often think people (especially in North America where the school isn’t as well known) wonder how much you can learn in 12 weeks. I don’t quite know how to explain it, and perhaps I went in with the right mind set and at the right time in my life, but the course changed my thinking, further instilled and built a confidence in my beliefs, as cliché as it sounds, taught me that anything is possible with hard work, and taught me that doing what you love is so important. It’s hard to pin point what specific part of the course that influenced my decision, I’d say a big part was being around like minded people for twelve weeks who were so passionate about what they did, and about teaching others. Also, the constant reminder that good food comes from quality ingredients, and it starts with the basics – in the kitchen and in life.
What have been the highlights and challenges of starting out on your own?
Although the course taught me a lot about starting my own business, being Canadian it (not that I expected it to) didn’t teach me a lot about starting a business in Edmonton, Alberta. It took a lot of perseverance and fighting with the city to finalize my license. And, I’ll admit there are days where I think what have I gotten myself into, can I really do this? The highlights well, one of them was quitting my job (although I loved it), and deciding that The Ruby Apron could in fact be my full time job. Catering the Christmas party for the company I used to work for, that started as a 60 person canapé party and ended up being for 100 was pretty great. Realizing that if you’re passionate about something it oozes out of you and people want to learn and get on board, and having support from my family, friends, and strangers who hear what I’m doing and want to help build my business.
Who inspired you to become a food entrepreneur? Would it be silly if I said Darina and Mrs. Allen? No, I don’t think would be. I look at what the two of them have done to change the face of food in Ireland, and not only that to teach people about quality ingredients, supporting local, and knowing and caring about how our food is produced… It’s the ethos behind my business, it’s what I want to share with people in Edmonton.
What are the plans for The Ruby Apron for the coming year?
To continue to grow and learn as an entrepreneur, to hopefully take a few small courses in things I am passionate about, to continue to teach my philosophy, and hopefully start to plan a commercial space, which like the dream of doing the course at Ballymaloe and The Ruby Apron was to begin with, will hopefully be my reality one day.
Any advice for anyone considering doing the 12 Week Certificate?
My biggest piece of advice for anyone doing the course would be… Do your research. It’s a brilliant course, it changed my life, and I am so thrilled that I was able to do it. But I think it’s important to do your research. Doing the course started as a far away dream that I never thought would really happen, and slowly it became a reality, I spent hours reading blogs, visited the school and talked to past students prior to making a decision. If you do your research you’ll love every single second you’re there. And my second piece of advice is… When you’re there, be there in every minute, enjoy it, take in the knowledge that Darina, Rory, Rachel, Tim, and ALL of the teachers have, pick their brains, learn everything. Be inspired, and try to hold onto that feeling. And third, write a blog. I wrote a blog to keep in touch with people at home, but I still love to go back and re-read it and remind myself of how inspired I was every single day. There are bits and pieces I remember so vividly, and other parts I’m so happy to have written down.