Women Of The Irish Food Industry – Maeve O’Malley, Restaurant Owner
Who is Maeve O’Malley? She created Meltdown in Dublin and is the queen of melted cheese toasties.
Maeve O’Malley is originally from Galway but Dublin have adopted her as one of their own. Sure what else would we do with someone who gives the most beautiful sandwiches? If you need a bit of cheese pull envy I highly recommend following them on Instagram.
In these uncertain times, Maeve O’Malley’s willingness and ability to adapt will be a great asset to her budget. If you want to taste some of Dublin’s best sandwiches, you can do so now as Meltdown Leeson St is running a delivery/ collection service during the lockdown.
I’m also very excited to see the Meltdown Hot Stuff chili sauce hit the shops. It’s made with Irish apple juice, habaneros chilis and other natural Irish ingredients. I love a great hot sauce with my cheese melts and extra points if it’s Irish.
All in all, I suspect, Maeve O’Malley is a name you will hear a lot in the future. Watch this space!
How did your career path bring you here?
My father is a Fisherman and I am the second eldest in a family of 5 children, as a result, I have always cooked and had the most amazing ingredients to hand. I studied Biochemistry in college and straight after my final year exams, I got a business loan from the bank and headed off to Cleggan, where my Dad grew up, and I opened The Tiny Teapot, a small (tiny) cafe where I initially served coffee and cake. I then expanded the menu to evening meals where I would serve up to 22 people per night, I even got to feed Ann Robinson from the Weakest Link once. I did this for 3 summers and then decided to get a qualification as a chef so I could pursue a career in food. Working in someone else’s kitchen wasn’t for me and I found I kept getting put in the pastry section when I wanted to be on the pass. After two years trying to progress as a chef I decided to go back to being a waitress for a while and realign my path to getting my own food business. I felt like Dublin was the place to be as I had recently started seeing my now husband and he was working in Dublin. My friend and I tried to start a seaweed product food business in the Dublin Christmas market in 2014, after 3 days of no sales we quickly changed the stall to sell Chilli con Carne and Vegetarian Chilli Bowls which went down really well and we were able to pay back the money our friends lent us to try and start the business, but we finished up still in some debt and had to make payment agreements with the owner of the market for the outstanding rent. I then went to a recruitment agent in Dublin feeling like a complete failure who had nothing to offer any business. She recommended a job in Food Product Development (a thing I didn’t even know existed at the time) finally I felt I had found something I was good at. I managed to progress in this career and learn heaps about the food business and how it all works, it was also better paid than I would have been working as a chef or waitress so I was able to get good with the bank and then finally in 2018 I was able to secure a loan to pursue my own business and that’s when Meltdown was born.
Meltdown started as a Pop-up, as the original unit I had thought I was going to be in didn’t work out and I had to start somewhere. The Pop-up wasn’t exactly a financial success but it did get the name out there and meant I was able to secure the location in The Button Factory which continues to be a success. I have done Pop-ups in Eatyard and Avoca, then in December 2019, I opened the second location on Leeson Street Lower. Last year I launched Meltdown Hot Stuff, a product that uses the finest ingredients to make a delicious fruity and Spicy Sauce. It will be available nationwide in Aldi stores at the end of May.
How does your career fulfill you?
I love people and seeing what they can achieve, through Meltdown I am meeting so many ambitious people who are achieving small wins all the time. These small wins all add up and I love getting to see their journey as it folds out. I also feel fulfilled having creative control over my business, I have made mistakes but they are my mistakes to learn from and I am constantly learning new skills and creating new things.
What are your professional ambitions? What’s next for Maeve O’Malley?
My goals are always changing, and I sometimes look too far ahead, so that what I want feels unachievable. My recent tactic is to look at a company that is a few steps ahead of me and try to get to that point and then find another company until maybe eventually my larger goals will be realised. With Meltdown Hot Stuff I feel like I’ve succeeded in creating a beautiful product, my focus now is on making the production consistently perfect and then I need to figure out a way to get it in as many shops as possible so that everyone can taste it and it eventually becomes a part of their weekly shop.
With the Meltdown shops I want to continue to grow the menu and branch out into the catering side of the business. I would also like to be able to open a few outlets in different locations particularly where I’m from in Galway. The Coronavirus has made this growth stall for a bit but it’s okay I will just have to reset some of my aspirations and focus on keeping the business going as best I can.
In your opinion, what challenges do women face in the food industry?
I feel as women we are not expected to succeed at great things but instead to achieve enough! I at 32 have been told by numerous women not to wait too long to have children, I have also been asked ‘is it not enough’ and ‘take it easy on yourself’ many times when I am exhausted from trying to do something to grow the business, I wonder would a man in the same position not be patted on the back and encouraged?
Tell us of one woman in the food industry who consistently inspires you and why?
The Kemp sisters and the Gourmet Food Parlour founders… I had the pleasure of meeting Peaches Kemp at a networking event and I thought she was so down to earth and ordinary while also having achieved amazing things with her sister. I haven’t met the founders of The Gourmet Food Parlour, but I think it’s amazing how much they have grown their company and I think it’s really inspiring.
What do you think can be done to help raise the profile and visibility of women in the food industry?
I think we need to look to the women around us and encourage them to try and do their own thing and then support them when they do. I think we need to encourage women to want more and expect to get the better role and to not be afraid to ask why they didn’t get what they wanted as opposed to just accepting their fate. I think we need to see if there is anything we can do for the women around us to help them reach the next step whatever that might be.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Stop comparing yourself to other people, all career paths are different and if you work hard your wins will come… Don’t give up!
What are the top skills required to do your job and why?
People skills – I have to deal with staff, suppliers, customers and everyone else. Dealing with staff is difficult, I am lucky that I have spent so long working for other people that I can understand why someone comes to work and how to create a space where they are happy and do their work.
IT skills – There are things like accounting, marketing, etc that you simply won’t be able to pay for so you will have to figure out how to do them yourself.
Organisational Skills – You need to be able to set up systems that work when you are not there or else you will be working every day of your life.
What is a spice you think is underrated and how can it be used?
It’s not a spice but I think capers are underrated and can be added to anything they add a delicious pocket of flavour to any dish. I add them to roasts, stock pots, grills… They’re delicious!