This week on Focus Friday we caught up with Aoife Martinho and Dominic Breslin both ‘food fanatics’ and the creators of Cultured Kitchen. Cultured Kitchen is an independent Irish fermented food company.
Can you tell us about how you set up Cultured Kitchen and what products you offer?
We have both had a long interest in food. We’ve been great friends for about 15yrs and a couple for almost six. I have a degree in Multimedia and have been working in the film and TV industry for almost six years. My work is mostly based in the art department, and for the last three years I have focused on commercials. Aoife studied Nutritional Therapy with The College of Naturopathic Medicine, and has been working in the health food sector for a little over five years. We’re both passionate about food, particularly healthy food and love to try new foods and recipes.
Our current product on the shelves is Kimchi. Kimchi is a fermented side dish, originally from Korea. Our Kimchi is an Irish spin on the traditional dish. It’s absolutely bursting with flavours; ginger, citrus, chilli, with an overall pickled taste and a slightly crunchy textures.
Fermented foods are foods which contain naturally occurring good bacteria and digestive enzymes. Vegetables already have bacteria on them. We create the perfect environment for them to multiply using salt and some elbow grease. These bacteria can help improve your overall digestion and absorption of food. In gaining the optimum nutrition from your food you can feel more energised.
The fermented food movement is gaining some traction and with our product we hope to help improve and educate people on how they can better their gut health and digestion.
Aoife, our star chef and in house nutritional therapist, has a passion for creating and trying new foods. While studying Nutritional Therapy in college, Aoife discovered fermented foods and began experimenting with new recipes. She began to refine a Kimchi recipe which I became addicted to. As someone who had suffered from years of stomach problems, finding a food that helped my digestive system and tasted delicious was a godsend! We soon became hooked and slowly everyone around us did too. One day in college, Aoife brought in a jar of the good stuff. Upon tasting, Aoife’s college friend Caroline – who ran her own health food shop – immediately ordered 30 jars. With clear demand for our Kimchi, plus the improvement it had made in my own health, myself and Aoife decided we would have to give it a go and start our own company.
What’s different about our product?
Our Kimchi is vegan friendly, has no sugar and is made with 100% natural ingredients. There really aren’t that many products like ours on the market, and the few similar products that are out there have a dramatically different taste. Of course we’re going to be biased… but we genuinely think that our Kimchi is the tastiest!
We officially launched in January of this year. Our original recipe has stayed the same and always will. There is a real science to fermenting food, even a degree of temperature change or an ingredient sourced from a different farm can have quite a distinct effect on the flavour. This has been a learning curve for us, but continued work and upgrades to our manufacturing process have made creating the same great taste easier.
Where can you buy your product and how much does it cost?
You can buy our Kimchi from a range of stores across Dublin. We don’t know what it is about the Hopsack in Rathmines but people can’t get enough of it there. We’re also stocked in Nourish, The Health Store and a range of independent health food stores across Dublin and Wicklow. Over the next year we hope to be able to supply every corner of the island. Our standard jar usual retails for €6.40 and our large jar €9.40.
What does the future hold for Cultured Kitchen?
We have big plans. Aoife has so many recipes that we feel Ireland would love. We’re currently working on our two new products. We hope to roll them out over the next few months, and we think everyone is going to love them. Once they’re available we’re going to focus on spreading the good word of fermenting food, and try to make our products available across Ireland.
What advice would you give to a small food business start up?
Go do it. Our journey so far has been full of blood, sweat and tears, but neither of us would change it. Starting our own business is the hardest thing either of us have ever done. But don’t let that put you off. We’ve learned more skills and more about ourselves since running our own business than all the years we spent in college or working. You’ll be surprised how many people want to help you and see you succeed. Running a business is a marathon not a 100m sprint! Ireland needs more entrepreneurs and is a great place for start-ups, particularly in the food sector. Get in touch with your local enterprise board, they’ll be more than happy to support you. Ireland has so much it can show the world, and with food and drink exports continuing to grow there is no reason your new business can’t be a part of that.
If you would like to find out more about Cultured Kitchen check out their website here.