How to Start our Own Cafe
So we had almost converted a 150-year-old building into premises for a café, but how were we going to go about setting up a café business.
We decided to learn from the experts and so on the Friday I finished in Xilinx we headed off to Ballymaloe in Co. Cork to embark on their wonderful Start Your Own Café/Teashop Course. Wow, the day we arrived the stunning scenery around Ballycotton Bay, including its beautiful beaches, the cliff walk and Lighthouse, blew us away. We stayed on site in the gorgeous self-catering accommodation and were free to enjoy and explore the lovely organic farm, gardens, dairy and greenhouses, which provide much of the seasonal produce that we cooked with all week. We were also there to learn so we got stuck in straight away. The day usually began with demonstrations from the resident expert teachers, including Rory O’Connell, Rachel Allen and Darina Allen.
Their generosity to share their wealth of knowledge is one of the more impressive features of this course. In any demonstration, the teachers show 20-30 dishes, it’s incredible. Then there are practical hands-on sessions where we got to practice 3-4 dishes from the demonstrations. Here comes the best part, we then we get to eat what everyone makes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Who would have thought that a course could turn into the perfect holiday that would bridge one career to the next! Many of the dishes we made in Ballymaloe became favourites on the Riverside Menu, namely our Irish Soda Bread, Vegetable Soup, Beef Stew, Blueberry Madeira Slices, Tunisian Orange Cake, Chocolate Biscuit Cake, Fluffy White Scones; the list goes on and on. The bottom line for us were that the Ballymaloe recipes were so tried and trusted, they were error proof and so it meant they always worked, which was an invaluable resource to us.
A crucial session is with food business consultant Bláthnaid Bergin, detailing essential costs, profit management advice and the reality of running a successful, high quality café. A real high for us was when Bláthnaid later visited Riverside when we were up and running when she was on vacation in Mayo.
Ballymaloe School and gardens was the inspiration for us to start our own kitchen garden and chicken coup so that we could have our fresh produce to cook and bake with. Their ethos of cooking from scratch, using local produce, and eliminating waste has stayed with us in the Riverside Café.