Declan O’Donoghue, Managing Director, Erne Larder Preserves
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
I’m a professional chef for over 17 years, founder and managing director of Erne Larder, my preserve company in Enniskillen. I hand-make each and every single batch of our jams, chutneys and sauces. We create the only bacon jam made in Northern Ireland and the only bacon ketchup made in Ireland. My busy day-to-day routine takes up most of my time, but I love everything martial arts especially mixed martial arts.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY INVOLVE?
About 16 hours of non-stop work, production, distribution and admin, phone calls and emails, I also try to make as much free time as I can to spend with my wife and two young kids. It’s a lot to juggle, believe me.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE?
Without a doubt getting shortlisted for this year’s Lidl Ireland Kickstart programme. For a small company like mine, it was an amazing achievement to have our product on the shelf of every Lidl store in Ireland.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
There’s a lot of things I enjoy about it, from creating our hand-made preserves, to delivering them to our retail shops and building relationships with store owners/managers and staff. I especially enjoy attending markets and food festivals, speaking to the public and seeing them enjoying our produce and, of course, then getting the sale, that’s what it all leads to in the end.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST DIFFICULT TASK?
Hand making everything in small batches. We are growing at a fast rate and it’s quite difficult to keep on top of it all, then package it and deliver to shops and attend our weekly festivals, then being a good husband and father – it’s like being Clark Kent and Superman at the same time.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
Hard work pays off. I was taught to work hard, being a chef from the age of 16, in a gruelling industry, working very long and unsociable hours, sacrificing time away from my family, friends and then girlfriend, now wife. I’ve learned the value of hard work.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST GRIPE?
I don’t really have a lot, but my biggest gripe is people who think it’s all about them. Thankfully there aren’t a lot around but they’re pretty easy to spot. It’s nice to be important but more important to be nice.
WHAT TALENT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE?
I’d love to be able to jive properly, you know the kind you see your mum and dad doing on holiday or at weddings. I know my good wife would love that for sure.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS/AMBITIONS?
I have everything I could ask for personally; an amazing wife who I’ve been with for over 16 years, two beautiful healthy kids and a great family.
For my business. I want to continue to grow it through the whole of Ireland, which we have kind of achieved through the Lidl Kickstart. I have a distributor in England ready to take our products. Long term, I’d love to see our Irish Bacon Jam in the US, Australia, Europe and even on major airlines in miniature jars.
WHOM DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?
My parents instilled that work ethic in me from a very young age, whether they know it or not. I watched them both work two to three jobs so my brother, sister and I could have what we needed. My dad was a fire fighter for over 25 years; the sacrifice he gave to his job was something I admired and something I can relate to as a chef. It was difficult to watch them both work so hard but now, as an adult, I understand why.
WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE?
On the sofa with my wife with a cup of tea on a Sunday night after a busy week. I love the north coast, and we spent a lot of time in the Coleraine/Portstewart area when my wife was at university. It’s such a beautiful part of the country. Also, I think we are blessed and sometimes take for granted how beautiful Fermanagh actually is. Home sweet home.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD PRODUCT?
I have to say I’m a sucker for cheese, good old stinky cheese too, with some crackers, grapes and bacon jam, nothing else is better.
HOW DO YOU RELAX?
What’s that? Occasionally, we might get to a spa day for a massage and a bit of relaxation. Yes, even macho and stubborn chefs enjoy a spa day!