2018 has been a landmark year for women. At the vanguard stand many who have steadfastly pioneered with their ideas, their work and their methods – they are a reflection of our strength, ability, determination and drive. At December’s Networking Breakfast, we celebrate the many achievements of our speakers and hear more about how they have successfully paved the way in their chosen field.
Here, celebrity chef, author and owner of Ballyknocken Farmhouse & Cookery School in Co. Wicklow, Catherine Fulvio tells us about her career path to date, and the food that makes her heart sing.
Join Catherine, along with our MC, IMAGE contributing editor Melanie Morris, WarDucks game studio CEO, Nikki Lannen and Helena Ryan, co-founder of the award-winning festival Wellfest at our final Networking Breakfast of the year this Thursday, December 6.
- Do you still take a lot of inspiration for your recipes from your childhood growing up on the farm?
Without a doubt, it is what is the basis of I am made of. As a child, I was always helping my parents out on our farm and B&B in Ballyknocken House in Wicklow, milking cows, tending vegetables or cooking with my mother. I learnt a lot about the origins of food at a very young age.
- What would you say is the biggest inspiration for your recipes?
Growing up with and close to the production of food, so many of my childhood memories revolve around food whether it was collecting the eggs in the morning to plucking the turkeys at Christmas or stirring the Christmas pudding.
But the biggest influence has been access to good quality fresh produce – this is the cornerstone to all good recipes and secondly for me is making them doable and accessible.
- What have been the biggest challenges in your career? How did you overcome these challenges?
The recession was the first big challenge that I had to overcome. However through strategic management, careful positioning, budget planning and constant monitoring of current tourism and food industry trends, I managed to redirect my business and thereby increasing the turnover of two particular sectors. I increased my international profile by playing to the American market which was very receptive. I found myself becoming an ambassador for quality Irish food and produce this opened many doors.
Apart from the recession, the increase in competition would be my second biggest challenge but I do believe there is room for all and that by successfully adapting the business adding new elements while at the same time becoming more creative in my marketing approach that I have managed to offset these major challenges. The Cookery School Calendar and class contents are always being adapted and tweaked to reflect trends and more emphasis is on creative home entertaining and family cooking including simple home-cooking and entertaining to "7 Days, 7 Dinners, 1 Plan".
- Is Ballyknocken something that you would like to pass on to your own children?
Of course, this is something I would dream of but it has to be right for them too. For the moment they are getting a good exposure of what it is like to run your own business while earning a pocket money!
- What would be your top tips for someone looking to venture into the food industry?
Believe in yourself and you will succeed! And always use the best possible ingredients available within your budget.
- If you didn’t choose the food industry as your career path, where do you think you would be?
I thought I wanted to be a teacher at one stage growing up… so I suppose I am lucky in that I have managed to combine my two great passions – cooking and teaching into a career.
- Do your kids influence your food and/or recipes?
They used to when I learned all the tricks in the trade to get veg into them – but less and less today as their palates mature I can be more adventurous.
- What is your go-to family meal?
Probably spaghetti carbonara – an all-time favourite in the Fulvio household
- What is the best advice you would give someone who is thinking of writing/publishing a book?
Know your topic and research even better to make correct and interesting content. And if it is a cookbook make sure your food photography can stand up to the recipes.
- If there was anyone that you would like to do a collaboration with, who would it be?
I think Jamie Oliver is a total inspiration. I love his passion for ingredients and his energy with people.
- How do you balance family and work life?
Like most working mothers the truth is it’s a struggle but the secret is being highly organised, prioritising, setting goals and making lists that you can tick off as you go – that’s the fun part.
- Do you have a business mentor?
I have done some mentoring with Failte Ireland and others and I am always open to learning which I think is really important, but my first and lifelong mentor is my Dad – he taught me my work ethic and is my trusted advisor.
- What's next for you?
I make my debut on BBC One with a new Christmas food series alongside Paul Ainsworth and guests when we bring you “The Best Christmas Food Ever”. It starts on Monday 3rd December at 3.45pm and runs to the 18th December. Check it out here…
When: Thursday, December 6
Breakfast treats from 7.30am
Where: The Marker Hotel
*Including luxury gift bag
Click HERE for tickets
Alternatively, email [email protected] Or phone (01) 271 9615