Search for Great Places To Stay & Eat

Foodies Fight Back with Lucinda

Foodies Fight Back with Lucinda

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Mueller & O'Connell Bakery & Cafe was started in 2016 by Swiss baker Adrian Mueller and Richard O'Connell. Describing Adrian as "the pro" and himself as "the enthusiastic amateur", Richard says: "I was a member of a local craft beer brewing club here in Abbeyleix. Adrian joined and within half-an-hour of meeting him, I said to him that we must set up a bakery."

Kicking off from a development kitchen in the Mountmellick Development Association, they supplied local markets and food service customers, including the prestigious Ballyfin Demesne.
In 2017, they moved forward with their bakery and cafe, where they blossomed with their breads and pastries, along with what Richard says is "probably the best ham, cheese and onion toastie in Ireland".

When Covid-19 struck, they lost their wholesale business overnight but the team adapted brilliantly and were determined to keep the operation going. An idea they'd looked at previously of selling a box of four sourdough breads beyond their local market came back to the table.

"With help from a nephew, we had an online shop set up and our first 30 orders shipped to Dublin in a space of four days. It has grown since to be a key part of our business."

They also increased production of small pastry products as people rewarded themselves with little treats while adjusting to the new reality. "The crisis forced us to rapidly adapt and that has energised everyone in the business. We've a very positive outlook on the future."

In 2017, Kylie Magner and her husband, Billy, started their small pastured egg farm near Fethard in Co Tipperary, with just 20 hens. Now, they have more than 800.

"It's really satisfying to see the eggs we've hatched grow up to be laying hens," Kylie says. "We love the diversity of the different breeds and the multicoloured eggs they lay."

Seeing another gap in the market, they began raising meat chickens on grass for bone broth, and in October 2018 their chicken bone broth was awarded the Chef's Choice at Blas na hEireann. They followed this up with a 2019 Gold Star in the UK Great Taste awards.

"Our business was 50pc local retail and 50pc restaurant and cafe trade. When restrictions were put in place, our hospitality sales fell away overnight. Thankfully as people stayed at home, they also began to bake, and our local sales increased within a week. Eggs seemed to be the new toilet paper!"

With the local farmers' markets in Cahir closed, they began a 'Farmers Market Drive Thru' on the farm and uploaded products from the various stallholders to their own website.

"We're lucky to be surrounded by a fantastic network of other food producers in the Tipperary Food Producers Group who have banded together to offer solutions. The Apple Farm in Cahir has been a hub of activity - dropping off orders to be collected and transported to other areas of the county."

The whole family has pitched to help with the business throughout this difficult situation. "The children have been a fantastic help the past few months. My mum and dad were both from farming families and I guess a lot of my love and interest in farming and good food came from them."

Barry Canny opened Peploe's in a former bank vault on St Stephen's Green in 2003, since when it's been a bastion of good food, great wines, and fun. But it hasn't all been 'beer and skittles'.

"People used to joke that to make a million in the restaurant business, you needed to start with two million. Now you'd better start with three," says Barry, in the wake of Covid-19.

Having got through the last recession, Luas construction work began. "This turned the city upside down with daily upset from trucks, diggers, and concrete tanks pumping diesel fumes around St Stephen's Green. It was a very challenging three years, but again we got through it. During that time, we spent a half-a-million euro on a redesign, acquiring a full alcohol licence, reinventing our offering with a new look, uniforms and menus, and we returned with a super restaurant focused on our customers.”

Read More

First Published In The Sunday Independent