Women Of The Irish Food Industry – Vanessa Murphy & Anna Cadrera, Las Tapas De Lola
I remember when Las Tapas De Lola first opened. I was still working on the Adelaide Road. I had gone to shop in the Evergreen across the road with my friend Viv, and here was Anna, handing out gorgeous little morsels in the street.
Although this was my first encounter with Las Tapas De Lola, it was far far from my last one. I’ve never told Vanessa or Anna how much the restaurant meant to me. Their white chorizo dish saw me through a tough break up and friends moving away. The deep friend aubergine with honey dish at Las Tapas De Lola should be a nationwide institution. It’s the only thing that would quench my tears, that time I was going through redundancy and didn’t know what the future held.
When you walk in to Las Tapas De Lola, you get a hug and two kisses on the cheek and it’s like stepping off a flight to Spain. Anna and Vanessa have hospitality down to a fine art and this was obvious from day one. There is a great sense of fun to the place and truly, an evening there is a party. The staff turn over has always been low and you get the sense that they are a team. Vanessa and Anna have the natural warmth you will find with people like Talha Pasha and Shane Molony from Riba in Stillorgan.
One moment that stands out for me was Cancer Day a couple of years ago. Vanessa was in remission from the breast cancer she had gone through the previous year and to help the cancer society, they had decided that all tips from that day would be matched by Las Tapas De Lolas. I was having dinner there that night with a friend and I remember people just dropping in to leave tips without eating. That’s the kind of community they have built around them.
Finally, I owe a great personal debt to Las Tapas De Lolas. I used to eat to be a relatively non adventurous eater. I would always eat in French restaurants and cook French food. But the food in there were so wonderfully exotic to my palate I always came home and tried to recreate them. This in turn encouraged me to try more meat cuts and different vegetables and methods of cooking. I am quite sure that without Las Tapas De Lolas there would be no Properfood. I am so proud that they are my 300th post.
I’m talking to women the Irish food industry. How did your career path bring you here?
Vanessa: By enjoying food and wine too much over the years! Some people may spend any free money they have on shoes; bags and clothes, I spent every last penny on travel, eating and wine!
My background is marketing and business development, but when I met Anna, I met my food & wine soul mate!.
Anna: It all started many moons ago when I worked in my aunt’s bar as a kid. I got a taste for it then and loved it.
I moved to Ireland 18 years ago and fell in love with Dublin. One of my first jobs on arrival was with Bewleys where I made some great life-time friends.Then I worked with the Clarion Group in Food & Beverage, which led to me meeting Vanessa on a hotel project we worked on together. Then the rest is Lola history!
I’m also obsessed with food as you can see by my love handles!
How does your career fulfill you?
Vanessa: Seeing customers leave happy, but more importantly seeing them return happy, with friends and family.
Anna: I love sharing my love of our food with my friends in Dublin. But I also love when our customers come to Lola and we share travel and restaurant tips for trips to Spain. We love to research and share our new finds with our friends and family.
What are your professional ambitions? What’s next for Las Tapas De Lola?
Vanessa: We’d love to find a little sister for Lola, but the property market is tough these days in Dublin. We’ll keep trying though!
Anna: We’re always on the look out for new ideas from Spain. I love to research new and exciting products and dishes, but most importantly experiences too. We’ve so many ideas that we’d love to do, we’ll just keep on trying to find the right place to share them with our customers!
In your opinions, what challenges women face in the food industry in Ireland?
Vanessa: We’re overworked and undersexed!?!
On a more serious note, the hospitality industry, by its nature, is an unsociable industry for friends and family. Very sociable within, but it is hard to maintain the life work balance outside of it. The hours are long and usually at kilter with your friends and family.
That’s the toughest challenge.
Anna: Ask any woman in the industry and their answer will be work-life balance.
Tell us of one woman in the Irish food industry who consistently inspire you and why?
Vanessa: It would have to be Carol Walsh from The Chameleon. We’ve been best friends for years, but she’s been my mentor since day one – both in the business and through my breast cancer journey as she had been through hers previously. Nothing stops Carol, her positivity is infectious and she’s always inspired me to never give up!
Anna: Aside from Vanessa? Not one in particular, but all the women who strive to make a living in this industry.
What do you think can be done to help raise the profile and visibility of women in the food industry in Ireland?
Vanessa: I think with the power of social media, women have and are taking their place in the food industry in Ireland. It’s easier to create and have a voice today than in the past.
There are so many inspiring women in the Irish food industry whether in the fields growing our amazing produce; or producing amazing cheese. To our kitchens, front of house, in the office, in the media or writing books – we’re everywhere!!
My parents empowered me from day one as a girl then as a woman. We just need to empower the generation coming up behind us.
What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
Vanessa: I’m never comfortable with the word “proud”. But my most moving moment was when a friend in hospital asked us to send in her favourite tapas as she couldn’t make it back to Lola. That will always remain my most memorable moment.
Anna: Opening Las Tapas De Lola. It was a dream come true for me as I so wanted to share all my favourite dishes from home with my friends and family in Dublin, so it was the perfect match!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Vanessa: Keep going, never give up (and listen to your father when he says study accountancy).
Anna: Delegate, be persistent, keep up the fight and be patient.
What are the top skills required to do your job and why?
Vanessa: Keep smiling and have fun!
Anna: Love, patience, passion and humility.
What can we learn from Spanish cooking?
Vanessa: There’s no one way to do something. Be open to the new, but keep true to tradition!
Anna: Cooking is a family and friends affair. It’s a way of life. The Mediterranean diet works! My 92 year old grandmother and her 95 year old sister are testament to it! Eat healthy, eat Mediterranean and enjoy your glass of Cava each day!