Bondings: The Peat sisters in a world of gastronomics
They started off in design and finance, but sisters Laura and Joanne Peat now have five restaurants between them
Ask Laura Peat what drives her mad about her younger sister Joanne, and her answer is pretty definite. "Her hair," she sighs. "It's so thick and long, and it just grows overnight, whereas I have the thinnest, crappiest hair. Also her singing is really bad and she sneezes a lot - even her baby Eve came out sneezing."
"Laura is so blunt and honest, and she can't help it," says Joanne with a laugh. "When you know her and love her, you can embrace it, but there are times when I can take it personally."
Laura, 34, and Joanne, 31, grew up with their younger brother Will in Bayside in Dublin, and their parents are Billy and Colette Peat. Their great-grandfather William founded the famous electronics shop Peats World of Electronics in Parnell Street in 1934, and their grandfather Liam developed it with his siblings. Alas, it ran into trading difficulties and closed all branches last summer, and the sisters say they're very sad about that.
"The age gap between us was a lot when we were younger, and Laura was always so capable in athletics and school," says Joanne. "She was an annoying older sister, because she was such a tough act to follow. Growing up together was great though. We shared a room and it was so messy. Our parents went off somewhere when I was 13 and Laura was 17. We thought we heard a noise, and there were burglaries at that time in the area, so we went to our neighbour Frank and asked him to check the house for us. He went upstairs and freaked out, he thought our bedroom had been ransacked, but it hadn't - that's just how messy it was."
When Joanne was about 14, she cut her hair off and dyed what remained bright pink, and got her nose pierced. "She was so sure of her own style and personality, and she is still the same," says Laura. "Joanne is so unique but it really suits her. I would save up to go to restaurants, whereas she was saving up for vintage jewellery."
The artistic Joanne completed an interior design and architecture degree course in DIT. She started a design business after college, and her first project was a restaurant her parents had invested in, Eatery 120, in Ranelagh. (Laura later worked there.) The design was nominated for an award in London, and was up against Heathrow Terminal Two, which was huge recognition for two young Irish girls. Joanne went on to work on great projects with restaurants and hotels, including the Cliff House Hotel, under Douglas Wallace.
Laura did a BComm at UCD and then studied accountancy, after which she worked in private equity for a few years. "Jumping in at the deep end in a very high-level, male-dominated world of private equity is very daunting, but Laura wasn't intimidated at all," says a proud Joanne. "She's amazing, I couldn't do it".
The respective areas Joanne and Laura were working in were affected by the recession, so they decided to go into the food industry. While their businesses aren't directly related to their backgrounds, their parents loved taking them out for dinner and visiting vineyards as they were growing up, and the entire family really treasured the whole food and wine experience.
While Laura was working at Eatery 120 she discovered she really liked it, so she decided to open the popular fine-dining restaurant Mulberry Garden in Donnybrook three years ago. She recently opened Brookwood, a glorious steak, seafood and cocktails restaurant on Lower Baggot Street. She loves the leather and dark wood decor, and Joanne designed both of Laura's restaurants.
"I wouldn't even consider opening another restaurant unless Joanne was on board," says Laura, who explains that her restaurants are very different and represent two sides of her personality. "Working together on a project can be challenging at times, but we are family so we can be honest. We have become a lot better around that, and maybe that's an age thing."
"I would take things more personally," admits Joanne, "Your relationship can get blurred, so we have to do what's best for the restaurant. We are a very close family, and we spend a lot of time together."
Six months after Laura opened Mulberry Garden, Joanne opened The Bakehouse, and the bakery and eatery now has three branches - on Bachelors Walk, Camden Street and at the IFSC. They offer traditional Irish food, and make all the breads, cakes, sauces, pies and other foods themselves.
Laura says that Joanne has a very pragmatic attitude, and is a great person to tell her worries to, as she can break an issue down and talk her through it. The sisters are best friends, and feel that having a sibling in the same business is a great asset, especially as the economy is difficult at the moment, and Irish businesses in general are struggling.
In their personal lives, Laura was maid of honour when Joanne married accountant Chris Morrissey, whom she has been with since she was 17. They had their first baby, Eve, six weeks ago. "She is very good, but because she's the first baby in the family, everyone is obsessed with her," she says, smiling. "She will be spoilt rotten, and Laura is already enlisted as a babysitter."
"Joanne didn't stress throughout her pregnancy," says Laura. "We were at dinner for my brother's birthday, and Joanne dropped me home at midnight. I went to sleep, and when I woke up, I had a text on my phone with a picture of baby Eve. There was no fuss, or telling everyone that she had gone into labour."
Laura has been dating her boyfriend Richie for over a year now. He is six foot six, and works in computers, which comes in handy for any technical difficulties. Sunday dinner is sacred in the Peat family, as they all get together to catch up and enjoy good food and wine.
"Our parents love that we both have restaurants now," twinkles Joanne. "You will always find them in either mine or hers."