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Owner of The Good Neighbour refill store Jess Dollinger on her life in food

Owner of The Good Neighbour refill store Jess Dollinger on her life in food


by Sarah Gill
09th Jul 2024

Here, we catch up with Jess Dollinger to chat about everything from her earliest memories of food to her favourite flavours and culinary inspirations.

Jess Dollinger, owner of The Good Neighbour, is on a mission to offer local, organic, affordable, and package-free products.

The Good Neighbour, originally located in Dundrum, has relocated to 39/40 Castlewood Avenue in Rathmines. The shop offers over 700 bulk and package-free products, including grains, pasta, spices, nuts, coffee, and peanut butter. Bring your own container and buy exactly the amount you need, from a tablespoon of curry powder to 1kg of rice, saving money, and reducing plastic and food waste.

Here, Jess shares her life in food…

Jess Dollinger The Good Neighbour

What are your earliest memories of food?

Growing up in Montreal, in the summer everyone was a member of the local community pool. I will always remember the family BBQs we used to have at the pool on Friday nights. Loads of picnic tables pushed together, all the families sitting around and enjoying burgers and hot dogs, it was such a special time.

How would you describe your relationship with food?

Fun and nurturing; I love to make and eat food that makes me feel good, and I have so much fun learning new skills and recipes.

What was the first meal you learned to cook?

This isn’t a meal, but the first thing I made by myself was a batch of cookies. I loved baking when I was young, and spent many afternoons baking chocolate chip cookies with friends.

How did food become a part of your career?

I wanted to help people live more sustainably, and since food is such an important part of my life, it felt right to focus on that aspect of sustainable living.

As someone who loves to cook, I was always so conscious of the ridiculous amount of plastic on food in supermarkets. Even though I wanted to produce less waste, I felt helpless as there were no alternatives. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to open The Good Neighbour and to help people to live more sustainably every day.

Often, people assume that living and eating sustainably will be restrictive and boring, but we are out to prove them wrong. You can become a more conscious consumer and still get to enjoy delicious food.

What’s your go-to breakfast?

Avocado toast with peanut rayu from White Mausu, and pickled onions from Lolo’s Pickles.

If you’re impressing friends and family at a dinner party, what are you serving up?

I love to make a chana dahl with homemade naan. Filling and satisfying, and something everyone will love.

Who is your culinary inspiration?

Right now, I love Calum Harris – he is a really fun vegan chef and influencer, and his recipes and videos are unique and exciting. I love trying out all of his creations.

What would your last meal on earth be?

Cauliflower wings with a sweet and sour sauce.

Jess Dollinger The Good Neighbour

What’s your go-to comfort food?

Anything with rice noodles. I love to make a cold pad thai, loaded with veggies and tofu, and drenched in sauce. Nothing better than slurping up noodles.

What’s the go-to quick meal you cook when you’re tired and hungry?

Black bean quesadillas. My favourite recipe takes 20 minutes to throw together and hits the spot when you’re craving a takeaway.

What is one food or flavour you cannot stand?

Cloves. Anything with even a *hint* of cloves and I can’t eat it.

Hangover cure?

Curry chips.

Sweet or savoury?

Savoury.

Fine dining or pub grub?

Pub grub. A good curry from a pub (or even just a plate of chips with vinegar) always hits the spot.

Favourite restaurant in Ireland?

Masa, in Dublin. Their cauliflower tacos and jalapeno margaritas are just the perfect combo.

Best coffee in Ireland?

CloudPicker coffee from my local coffee shop, Parklife, in Crumlin.

Go-to beverage accompaniment?

Anything salty. Put a packet of salt and vinegar crisps near me and they’ll be gone very quickly (especially when there’s a margarita or two involved).

What are your thoughts on the Irish foodie scene?

It’s exciting, innovative, and always evolving. I moved to Ireland in 2013, and it’s come along so much since then. I love how there is such a growing focus on seasonal produce, as it always keeps things interesting.

What’s your favourite thing about cooking?

I love the process of it, I find it meditative. I enjoy every part of it, even the cleanup afterwards.

What does food — sitting down to a meal with friends, mindfully preparing a meal, nourishment, etc — mean to you?

I think it’s one of the most meaningful and important things in life. Sitting around a table and sharing food with the people you love – I don’t think there’s anything better than that.

Food for thought — Is there room for improvement within the Irish food/restaurant/hospitality scene?

As a vegan, I’d love to see more vegan options. There’s only so much falafel and veggie burgers a person can eat. However, the plant-based options here have improved so much in recent years, so I know they’re just going to keep getting better.

Jess Dollinger The Good Neighbour

Chef’s kiss — Tell us about one standout foodie experience you’ve had recently.

I was in London recently and went to Tofu Vegan, a plant-based Chinese restaurant. They’ve got a sizzling tofu dish that I will be thinking about until the next time I get back there.

Compliments to the chef — Now’s your chance to sing the praises of a talented chef, beloved restaurant or particularly talented foodie family member.

The team at Glas, in Dublin, are creating such beautiful, innovative, and seasonal food. It’s the perfect spot to celebrate a special occasion as the staff work so hard to ensure you have an exceptional time. The food impresses every time, as do their cocktails.

Secret ingredient — What, in your estimation, makes the perfect dining experience?

A few good cocktails, fun music, and a great group around the table.

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