Spicing up each other's way of life
Arun and Olive Kapil met at Ballymaloe and now run an award-winning food business based in Cork
Olive Kapil says her husband Arun brings a 'touch of madness' to their 14-year relationship, but she wouldn't have it any other way. She's the calming foil to his wildly enthusiastic effervescence, and the contrast between them is marked. Luckily, it's a match made in Heaven. "We really adore each other," she says.
Mind you, when they first got together back in 2004, Olive wasn't quite sure about the Anglo-Indian ball of energy, who had left the high-octane music industry behind in London to do Darina Allen's three-month course at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork. She was falling for him but regularly got cold feet, fearing that he would get bored with the slower pace of life and go back to London. "I got chucked about once every three weeks," Arun laughs.
At the time, Olive was working as reservations manager at Ballymaloe House, and the first time they saw each other was when the cookery school students went there for dinner. He flirted with her that night, and they frequently bumped into each other around the place after that. Something Olive said made an impression on Arun, as did her piercing blue eyes. "She said, 'Arun, you need simplicity in your life'," he recalls. "I was taken by her because I wasn't used to someone being real with me. Back in London, girls would be nice to you because they were hoping you'd get them a record deal."
Arun (49) and his two brothers grew up in Scunthorpe, and recently lost both of their very loving parents. Their dad, Gyan, was a doctor who passed away in 2016. Their mum Pam was from Leeds and she died in 2017. "They were so in love that they couldn't bear to be apart," says Arun.
After boarding school, he went to London and worked in Ronnie Wood and Robert Earl's Cajun-Creole restaurant, 51-51, and then got involved in the music industry. He worked with acts like The Sugababes and All Saints, and became involved in the acid rave music scene and ran his own record label. He was working 24/7, and at 29, he left it behind because he was burnt out from it all and felt that he needed to give his head a break from all the chaos.
He had grown up baking with his mum and cooking with spices with his dad, so he decided to go to Ballymaloe in 2004, much to the bemusement of his friends and family. They were even more surprised when he fell in love with Ireland - and of course with Olive O'Connell-Motherway from a farm in Garryvoe - and decided to stay on in Cork permanently.
Arun worked in the kitchen of Ballymaloe House for two years, and he and Olive were married in 2007. They had a register office wedding and a Hindu blessing three days later, on 7/7/2007, an auspicious date in Hindu terms. Naturally, the celebrations took place at Ballymaloe House, attended by both families. Olive (42) is the youngest of John and Rosemund's four daughters, and she took a summer job at Ballymaloe House after she left school, and ended up staying on there.
"I fell in love with Olive because of her beautiful, uncomplicated way of looking at life," says Arun. "When I was in London, there was so much noise going on and everyone was using the energy I had to dial into. Olive saw the real things in life that I wasn't seeing then, like the importance of families and taking time to meet up with other people."
Now living in Shanagarry, Arun and Olive have enjoyed a very happy marriage. While they had hoped to have a family together, unfortunately it didn't happen for them, but they have come to terms with it. "That was a challenge," Arun admits, "but I think we're both pragmatic about it. We have a lovely niece and two nephews and that's brilliant."
One highlight for them was launching the business in 2007, which is called Green Saffron. It really started off prior to that when Arun asked his cousin in India to send him over spices as he missed them when cooking. He began making different blends of spices from family recipes, and selling them at Mahon Point Farmers' Market. His flatmate Pip was selling home-made jam and they called themselves Sugar and Spice. Arun's cheeky "Del Boy" charm attracted the customers, and word started to spread. Soon independent retailers came knocking on the door and Green Saffon was born.
The company now produces award-winning spice blends, sauces and chutneys from spices sourced by family members in Moradabad, India. Two investors came on board and the products are now sold in France and The Netherlands as well as all over Ireland. Arun won't stop until he has a global brand and is constantly travelling. "He has an amazing work ethic," says Olive.
The Midleton company's mantra is 'fast, fresh and healthy' and everything's certified halal, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly. In addition, Arun started developing recipes and doing TV and event work, and he published a cookbook called Fresh Spice. There are 10 other employees apart from Arun and Olive - her role is focused on customer relations - and the company is flourishing.
Aside from work, Arun likes to go swimming and Olive loves walking and gardening. When it comes to cooking at home, they've learned it's best not to share the kitchen. "Olive has her little quirks, and being particular is one of them," Arun laughs. "Everything is in its place so we absolutely can't cook together."
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