In the face of the pandemic, creators in Limerick have responded in force, founding products and services that are as innovative as they are necessary. Despite the detrimental effects of lockdowns on the hospitality industry, the food scene in the city has never been more vibrant. There is a hum of life and expectancy amongst the business owners who took the last two years as an opportunity to pivot their careers and follow their food dreams. As many returned to their hometown when the virus took hold of the world, there is a melting pot of talent brewing up a new generation of food and drink professionals, and it’s a very exciting one.
Robert Meyer and Philip Geraghty may have been friends since the age of four, but they have only been in business together for just over a year.
An engineer by trade, Rob had retrained as a baker while living in New Zealand for a number of years, starting a mobile bakery back home called Holy Bagels. “I mean, when I started the bagel company people were like 'what’s this doughnut-shaped bread with sesame seeds on it?', but once they tried it, they loved it.” The pandemic made a mobile bakery difficult, and at the beginning of the first lockdown, Rob pivoted, baking out of his mother’s kitchen in Corbally, teaching himself the art of sourdough and distributing bread across the city.
Making loaves, baguettes, bagels, and do-it-yourself pizza kits using the best-quality ingredients he could get his hands on, the business quickly took off. “Within a week or two, my mother was ready to kick me out of her kitchen and it was clear I needed to find a premises and that’s how I found myself renting one."
Firm pals for three decades, when it became clear to Rob that he needed to bring on a business partner, there was no other person who came to mind but Phil. With a background in the events and marketing industry, Phil brought business nous to the table and a plan that would bring Our Daily Bread to the next level.
They quickly identified the wholesale market as one which would be lucrative for the business and thanks to a number of local contracts have been able to grow to a staff of 10. “We got a huge amount of support from local businesses, local enterprise office and from the community of Limerick as well,” says Rob. “We definitely built a strong customer base during Covid, and it’s wonderful to be able to build on that.” With plans to expand their offering into pastries and a commitment to using Irish organic ingredients, the future is bright for Our Daily Bread. “We are really excited about the future,” says Rob. “I never could have conceived being where we are today when I was starting out the businesses, and I am so excited to see where we go next.”
Limerick natives Alice Carroll and Tony Foote are the entrepreneurs behind Foxes Bow, a new whiskey brand. With a background working for some of the world’s biggest drinks brands, Alice had always had her eye on branching out on her own, but it was only when Tony — an old neighbour of hers — approached her with the idea for whiskey that she was sold.
“There is a perception of Ireland, particularly from a North American perspective I think, that is of castles and old world, and that just isn’t reflective in the young vibrant Ireland that Tony and I know,” says Alice.
Contemporary Ireland, so steeped in creativity and edginess wasn’t being represented in the global drinks market, she says. “In many ways, Limerick is almost at the core of this feeling, because there are so many creatives here doing such different things.” In the course of the research, whiskey became the focus very quickly.
“We felt that Limerick could be an amazing representation of the new generation of this new generation of whiskey.” Teaming up with graphic designer John Slade — another Limerick man — they charged him to come up with a branding that would lean into the creative spirit of the city. The artwork is both arresting and intriguing, full of what Alice calls ‘Easter eggs.’ “Hidden in the artwork you’ll find the walls of Limerick, the triple crown, a rugby ball, Foxes Bow.” The duo worked with a Limerick brewer and blender to get the finish and character that they felt reflected their city.
“It’s aged in bourbon barrels and finished in Oloroso (sherry) and rye casks, which is unusual in Irish whiskey and gives it that something different.”
Launching this month, the whiskey will be on sale in select Supervalu's and stockists and online at foxesbowwhiskey.com, but this is just the start of the journey for Foxes Bow.
“Our goal is to build a Foxes Bow from a brick and mortar distillery in Limerick city. We decided to bootstrap the project ourselves at this stage so that we could drive our vision to welcome customers to our distillery one day soon.”
Pastry chef Anna Coffey Lynch learned the art of chocolate while working in the kitchens of Cocoa Atelier in Dublin, quickly rising the ranks to secure the position of Head Chocolatier. She moved home to Limerick with her Scottish husband after the birth of her son three years ago, taking a job as pastry chef at Adare Manor, an experience which she says was one of a lifetime. “I learned so much working there. It is a 24/7 operation at the highest standard and I made so many amazing connections while working there.” When the pandemic hit, Anna was led to start her own company, and Braw was founded. A nod to her husband’s heritage, the name is a riff on the Scottish phrase meaning 'pleasing', just like the Irish 'go breá.'
Initially, Braw was a kitchen table project of care packages for loved ones, but word quickly spread of the delights being produced from Anna’s kitchen and demand dictated that a business be born.
“It happened totally by accident. I started to get calls from people asking if I could send cakes up to their loved ones and soon I found myself sending stuff all over the country.” Today, Braw supplies cafes and restaurants in Limerick with bakery items and sells chocolate made in small batches direct through the website.
Now, Braw sells chocolate bars, in fantastical combinations like peanut butter and jelly. With a careful eye on ethical produce, she sources all of her chocolate from Luker, a Colombian family-owned chocolate manufacturer which produces chocolate that is ethically sourced and developed for both the farmers and the environment.
Limerick, says Anna, is a thriving hub of creative talent: “I think that Limerick is sometimes overlooked as a food destination, but I think that is changing rapidly.”
Pointing to the changing face of food and drink in the city and county as an example, the entrepreneur says that there has never been a more exciting time to be part of a food scene that is as diverse as it is innovative.