The Business of Food and the Best of Dublin

As many of you know, I had spent some time in Ireland after the 12 Week Ballymaloe Cookery Course. What did I do, you ask? Besides writing for the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine, I took a 2 Week long Business of Food course. We all hear about food businesses that close, a lot of which have great food, a great clientele.. you name it! So what happens?

To be honest, I wasn't even sure why I should take this course without having a solid idea of what aspect of the food industry I wanted to be in. All I knew that in some capacity, it would benefit me to know the business side of things. Money, accountants, where to start.. it all eluded me.

The course was taught by Blathnaid Bergin of The Restaurant Advisor and I would highly recommend it for anyone thinking of entering this business. We covered everything from marketing, to kitchen organizing and layout, to food waste, energy waste, accounting and menu and brand development.

Ever since completing it, I look around with wide eyes whenever I go out for a coffee or to eat. Taking mental notes, I've become a profoundly picky restaurant critic. But.. not in the way that looks for a crack in a ceiling and says it's a horrible experience. No, it's more than that. The realities of the financial risk of owning a business coupled with the general public's demands for food at a low cost makes me really feel for the restaurants. I am painfully aware of where businesses are losing money and I just want to help them.

The most challenging part about the course was accepting the fact Mrs. Bergin insisted we look to fast food chains as good examples of running a business. The indie artist in me scoffed, rolled my eyes, wanted to run away screaming. But then we got a book called The E-Myth.. a book by an entrepreneur adviser about how most business owners start a business because they are a great technician.. photographer, cook, etc. But they don't have enough of the entrepreneurial side.. they don't know how to forecast growing a business properly. Or, they don't have enough of the business side.. Everyone wants organic and local food, but who is going to buy it at an appropriate price?

Another great example is comparing a very successful coffee shop to an independently owned coffee shop. Why does the independent have 8 employees for the same amount of seats in the bigger chain that employs 3 per shift? It's usually in the standardization of kitchen, service and cleaning practices. Not to mention the menu itself plays a part on the whole picture right off the bat.

Naturally, when I went to Dublin I checked out the places where Mrs. Bergin and fellow students said were good examples of great places to eat and drink.

First I checked out 3FE, an incredible coffee shop by an award-winning Batista. Check out his story below:

Then, downtown, I checked out Avoca. It's an Irish retail chain with gorgeous take-out food and a small restaurant.

Then the Fumbally. AMAZING food. Quirky layout.

Finally, Meet and Meat. It was a deli and wine bar. Had the best vibe, and consistent branding throughout the look and menu.

I was only in Dublin for 2 days. If you have any recommendations for where to eat, we'd love to hear from you. Post below!

As for me and what I'll open up one day? Only time will tell..

RBC Bluesfest 2014: We Saw and We Ate.. Local?

Hey ya'll. I'm writing this as two lovely locals (Jamboree Guest Atherton and Sound of Lions) grace us with their musical stylings. This past week Dan Rascal took photos of Punk-Rockers Average Times and Jamboree Guests Ukrania!

Since I started Eva Bee's Jamboree, people would often ask me why I decided to combine local food and music in a cooking show. Well, music and food have many things in common..

1) They set the tone of an evening.. either enhancing or clashing horrifically with the celebration or event in hand. 2) They both require an intuitive ingenuity to really be something special. Technical training to execute a master piece of classical music cannot go unnoticed, but a real unique and truly amazing experience of music or food is ultimately done by someone who pushes the boundaries incorporating technical training, spontaneity and intuition of how to please the audience. 3) Teaching someone to cook shouldn't be a stuffy experience. Or a sport. Or in food-porn. It should be made fun and accessible. We all need to eat so why not teach someone how to make something delicious and have some music on the side and show that even they can cook ;)

Now, why local?

Without going trying to be too obvious or preachy, all I'll say is that people are craving more and more to have delicious, nourishing food. Did you know that the indie movement is so strong that large corporations are modelling their businesses around those trends? For example.. check out how many mass produced food items say 'Natural' on them but are just the same as before?

When we bite into a nice juicy Hintonburger (River Stage at Bluesfest) we know that the 100% local beef patty is healthier, but more importantly tastes better, than McDonalds. However, cost becomes an issue.

Especially as a food vendor at Bluesfest. I know from friends who have sold food there, it's an enormous cost to be there. Unfortunately, the first thing that usually gets pinched when in a food business is the quality of ingredients. Hearing that Hintonburger charges $3 more for a smaller burger may be the only way to survive as a local foods vendor without using meat that comes from who-knows-whose-cows.

I have to give it to Jamie's Cracked Corn for being GMO free and Organic. And snack-tastic.

At least Poutine is a Canadian dish..??
At least Poutine is a Canadian dish..??

I don't get the feeling that there are very many food vendors that provide locally farmed food. The fact that Molson Canadian presumably has an exclusivity contract on the festival feels like a giant step backward. A friend, who is also a local musician, said it best that 'God forbid an Ottawa festival support a locally brewed product'. Many people miss Mill Street beer and reluctantly go for one of the bigger beer options.

How do you feel about the changes in beer? Leave a comment below or share this post if you want to make a change!