WHEN Blennerville plasterer Tony O'Shea found himself unemployed following the collapse of the construction industry, never in his wildest dreams did he predict that, just three years on, he would be overseeing a thriving new business - that came about completely by chance!
Frustrated when a chopping board fell apart in the dishwasher, Tony, who is a keen cook, decided to make a board that could live up to his more demanding standards - and the rigours of the dishwasher.
He invested €100 in quality oak from a Dublin supplier to make proper chopping boards and instantly the dad of two realised the opportunity in the marketplace that lay waiting to be tapped.
Tony explained that having become extremely annoyed at how difficult it was to source a quality chopping board, he realised that other house owners and lovers of cooking would be happy to pay for a board that was the right quality and delivered at the right price.
"The suppliers in Dublin were very reluctant to give me €100 worth of timber because they usually only supply to high end furniture makers, but once they saw the finished product there were blown away and I've been buying quality Irish oak from them since then," Tony explained.
"The woods are over 200 years old and all products are handcrafted in my workshop at the back of the house."
Once Tony was convinced that his quest for the ideal chopping board could in fact lead to a genuine business opportunity, he set about finding a name for his business. His final decision - Ambrí Boards - came about in a rather unusual way, however.
"I had a name picked and was happy with it, until an old man I know told me that it needed to be something personal. I sat out the back for hours trying to think of something, until eventually I came up with the idea of combining my twin girls' names - Amber and Bríd - and that's where Ambrí came from. It just seems so natural now"
In just four short months, Tony has sold over 350 Ambrí Boards with a number of local five star hotels as well as the renowned Four Season's Hotel in Dublin among his customers. He has also received rave reviews from a number of high profile chefs and food writers, including Diane Henry of the Sunday Telegraph and Anne Kennedy of greatfood.ie.
"To think that my products are at the Four Seasons in Dublin, or that renowned hotels from across the country are ringing me ordering thousands of euro worth of boards is just amazing. It has absolutely snowballed and I always joke that it would never have happened if that board hadn't broken in the dishwasher that day," said Tony who added: "The local people have been absolutely brilliant and I appreciate their support so much."
Tony has also teamed up with celebrity chef Mark Doe of Just Cooking Cookery School, who officially launched the company at his Firies school on Tuesday night. He too is a huge fan, and uses Tony's boards at his school.
"They are so versatile and allow me to present my food in a truly unique way," Mark said. "The fact that every board has a history to it makes each board a real talking point on our courses."
While much of Tony's customers are hotels and restaurants owners, he stresses that there is plenty on offer for private customers too. The collection features 12 unique varieties of chopping and serving boards called after Kerry landmarks. In addition to the chopping boards, the product range also includes, cheese plateaus, place mats, coasters; iPad stands, iPod stands, wine holders, pizza ring boards, bread boards, multi food presentation boards and kitchen chalk boards. The collection is available at Utensils in Tralee and online at www.ambrichoppingboards.com