The Fig Tree Thomas Clarke

The Fig Tree Restaurant was established on the 15th of September 2011, at 20 High Street Kilkenny, www.thefigtreerestaurant.ie by myself and my wife Helen, when the economy was on its knees, it was very important to us to buy and support local where ever possible to put money and jobs back into the local economy which remains our ethos to this day. I had been a Chef for 30 years at this stage. I trained in Rockwell Catering College 1981 to 1983, I also spent two years at Westminster College London completing the 706/3 in Professional Kitchen Management between 1985 to 1987. I spent 7 years in London working in the West End in five-star hotels.

My restaurant opens from 9am to 5pm seven days a week, this is where I created and developed my dressing. The reason for developing it was down to the fact that we served a salad garnish with all our dished and when I put a traditional vinaigrette on the salad it ran into the other items on the plate making things like sandwiches and wraps soggy, so I developed the dressing to be more emulsified and creamy in consistency and it gently coats the salad leaves and does not run into the other ingredients on the plate.

When our customers started asking if they could buy it I decided to bottle and sell it in house,  we then started to sell a lot of gluten free dishes and this led me to look at the ingredients in the dressing and I changed the mustard I was using to a gluten free brand making the dressing Gluten Free which has been tested and certified, as we get a fair share of vegetarians and vegans the dressing works well as a replacement for the mayonnaise based condiments.

Having got encouragement from my wife and sons I decided to go further and take it to the next level and get it on the shelves of Super Value. I contacted St. Angela’s Food Technology Center and they helped me develop the recipe further and get it shelf life tested. At this point I approached L.E.O. and having worked with a mentor I was enrolled on the School Of Food this was an amazing journey and a fantastic and enjoyable learning experience, Super Value opened their doors to myself and other food entrepreneurs like me and provided us with all the information we needed on how to get our products from concept to on their shelves and everything that happens in between.

The workshops and expert tutors from the industry provided by Super Value pushed us to think about marketing and labeling that would ensure best possible chance of selling our product against the big brands and costings that would be sustainable going forward as we scale up. One of the many objectives of Super Value is to ensure that small local producers can grow at their own rate with no pressure and as you grow you are learning and gaining more confidence in yourself and your product. The restaurant employs 12 people and I am now looking at taking on extra staff to help me grow the business further. We believe in giving back and supporting local charities especially the homeless.

“There, for the grace of God go I.”

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