A real passion for food and leading a healthy life bears fruit
An ex-factory worker and two old friends are following their hearts to success, writes Lucinda O'Sullivan
'My mother is a chef, which is how I learned to cook, I got my passion for food from her," explained Jarek Baryga of Jarek's Kitchen.
Certainly, his food was disappearing very rapidly from his chirpy red and yellow Tapas stall at Dun Laoghaire Market on the Sunday of my visit. I had just driven up from Cork so was ready and able for something tasty and delicious.
"Can I have a look in the pot?" asked one man, as Jarek more than willingly scooped up a big ladle of chorizo and chickpea stew, which was every bit as good as it looked, rich, chunky and tomatoey with a good hit of paprika. You could have this in a medium or large size at €4.50 or €5.50. It was late afternoon and hot favourites, prawns with chilli and garlic, were already sold out as were the beef and chorizo meatballs.
"We have squid," Jarek said, as he chopped up delicious strips of the fresh cephalopod, and dropped it in the deep fryer and dished it up in a couple of minutes with piping hot patatas bravas and aioli. The squid was divine; light, tender and crispy. Dishes cost from €4 to €4.50 and you could add a fried egg to the patatas for €1. However, this was but a taste of what Jarek can do with food.
Jarek Baryga came to Ireland in 2004 and has worked in the hospitality industry since then.
"I came to Ireland when I was 27 because I wanted to change my life. I am from west Poland and I was bored of life in a big factory and life in a small town. I started out here as kitchen porter but worked my way up. I attended Dublin Cookery School to gain more experience and took part in Masterchef in 2011 which pointed me in the right direction and gave me confidence to cook professionally, which is how Jarek's Kitchen began," Jarek explained.
He is concentrating now on catering for private parties, birthdays, communions, dinner parties and so on, and has an extensive menu of dishes from which to choose. Think maybe of kicking off with pan-fried scallops with cauliflower puree and date dressing, or shallot tarte tatin with mixed salad, and following up with spiced duck breast with butternut squash gremolata, new potatoes and fig sauce, or maybe roast monkfish Bourguignon with mash and braised leeks – just four of many on Jarek's list.
What a lovely way to entertain. You choose the dishes, he will buy all the ingredients, come to your house, "cook all the canapes, starters and main courses, and do all the washing up while you sip wine and enjoy a delicious dessert".
As well as doing private catering, Jarek does Cherrywood Market on Wednesday at lunchtime, Marlay Park on Saturday and the People's Park in Dun Laoghaire on Sundays.
Apart from changing his career by coming to Ireland, Jarek is now married to Dun Laoghaire woman Sarah, and they have two beautiful daughters, five-year-old Emily and Olivia, nine months.
The Punnet is an excellent fruit and vegetable shop on the main street in Glasthule, Co Dublin, which has had a loyal following over the years. The original owners retired recently after 35 years, and the Punnet and its neighbouring butcher's shop, which was similarly vacated after the same period in residence, were taken over by two young men, James Norton and Darragh Buckley, who have an eye for healthy living, business, and the benefits of a fruitarian diet. The Punnet still stands as a fruit and vegetable shop, much to the relief of all of its customers, whilst the butcher's shop has become the Punnet Health & Beauty Store – Home to Healthy Living.
James, 32, and Darragh, 34, from Goatstown, have been friends for a long time.
"We met in a smoothie bar in Gran Canaria," explained Darragh. "I did my Leaving Cert in 1998 and James was going into fifth year. Twenty-seven students went from Blackrock College, where I was, and from St Mary's, where James was a student. We all got a good deal for the Canaries and James jumped on board at the last minute. I had never met him before and I realised the first day 'this guy is serious craic'. After school I worked in sales and marketing for a good few years, and was also in Australia for three years working in recruitment. I met a lovely Irish girl over there, Dee Dunne, who persuaded me to come home, I am delighted I listened to her for once, and we are now engaged. When I came home I went back into recruitment for two years and then James sat me down in January with a proposition."
Indeed, James Norton knows all about the 'fruit and veg' business, which his family has been in since 1944 in Meath Street. James has been in the business for 10 years but was also a professional rugby player for the Leinster team.
"When I left school I went to play rugby with Leinster. I moved to Connacht in 2001 for a year, and then I came back and played for Leinster again for four more seasons, retiring in 2006. I now coach St Mary's Senior Team. I also took a commerce degree and went on to take a diploma in physical fitness and conditioning. I live this lifestyle and was always into healthy eating. I took over the Punnet last December and then teamed up with Darragh in January. There are a lot of people who are living this lifestyle now, who realise the benefits of healthy eating," said James.
"We sat down in January," added Darragh, "and started brainstorming. James said there was an opportunity a couple of doors up from him and we went and looked at the space, and looked at health food stores in the area. We looked at the possibilities and James's brothers, who are involved in that business, kitted out the place for us – we also got Neville Knott, the interior designer, involved. He was really good and picked the colour scheme for us."
They do fantastic juices from 'Sandycove Sunrise' to 'Green Glasthule' to Darragh's Detox King which includes beetroot, orange, carrot and ginger and is delicious. "I am big into juices," said James, "I really believe in them, and the beauty of these products is that they sell themselves. A number of our customers are vegans, and there are a lot of people with allergies – wheat, coeliac and so on. It's not a very difficult business, it sells itself. A number of people who have gone abroad have seen this lifestyle and they have realised the benefits of it."
The Punnet has a huge range of health foods including Linwood's products, Pukka, Paddy O's Granola, ROS Nutrition, Vita Coco, Delphi low fat houmous, lemon and coriander houmous and carrot houmous dip with olive oil. Here you will also find Delamere goats butter, Taifun smoked tofu with almonds and sesame seeds, or indeed oregano tofu fillets.
They also have beauty products including Rockstar Tan, and laundry and cleaning products.
Small businesses are the heart and soul, not only of our communities, but also of our economy and it is great to see people taking the plunge with confidence and determination. Support your local shops.
www.facebook.com/The PunnetHealthStore Tel: (087) 972-9270