Women Of The Irish Food Industry – Milie Mathew, Co-Owner Three Leaves
If Santosh Thomas is the creative force behind Three Leaves, Milie Mathew is the driving force behind Three Leaves, in Blackrock.
Today is a fitting day to write about Milie Mathew, as it is the Republic Day Of India where Milie comes from. She has been in Ireland for thirteen years now and she works as a cancer nurse and the co-owner of Three Leaves. To say she is a busy woman is an understatement.
When I started this weekly series, I wanted to highlight women in the Irish food industry as a way to help with the “If You Can’t See It, You Can’t Be It” campaign. Representation in the media is crucial for the next generation of women. Chatting with Milie was a reminder that although, there is sexism in Ireland and in the industry, we are still very priviledged women on the global scale of things. This doesn’t change the purpose of my series but it is a good thing to think about. Western women are lucky compared to others.
Anyway, back to Milie Mathew and her infectious laugh. She tells a great story and is full of sharp insights and her social commentary is fascinating. Do chat to her if you get the change.
As for me, I’ve made a new friend and we’re off to a zumba class next. Because why not!
I’m talking to women in the food industry, what brought you into this category and what do you do?
I am the co-owner of Three Leaves , which I own with my husband, Santosh Thomas. I came to the Irish food industry by supporting my husband’s dream. Thirteen years ago, he told me he wanted to open his own restaurant and I have been working with him to make it happen since then. My parents owned a restaurant back home in India and so I have a thorough training and I’m not a stranger to the industry. My day job is as a nurse, that’s my profession. In Three Leaves, I am Front Of House and General Manager.
How does your career fulfill you?
Yes, it absolutely does fulfill me. During the day, I work with cancer patients and at times I will absorb their emotions, this can be quite tough. So when, I work in the restaurant, I’m seeing people enjoying themselves, chatting and laughing and it helps balance my life out a bit. For this reason, I like working in both professions.
What are your ambitions for the next 2 years?
At the moment, we are renovating the restaurant and expanding the kitchen. We want to keep serving our existing customers and make it easier for new customers to access us. We want to keep getting better at what we do and also start working closer with Irish artisan food producers. We want to connect with them and highlight them on our menu. We have built the Three Leaves foundations and now we want to put bricks on top of them.
What do you think can be done to help raise the profile and visibility of women in the food industry in Ireland?
I think women in the Irish food industry have to step forward. They are always behind the curtains, helping everyone else, being strong and supportive but silent. I think this is why interviews like this one are so important. We have to come together be it through clubs or support groups. We need to connect with each other more and shine a light on each other’s work.
Tell us of one woman in the Irish food industry who consistently inspires you and why?
There are a few women. Roisin Gillen of Heron & Grey who is working with men but holding her own and achieving a lot. And Ami Madden, from Goat Ireland, because on the one hand she is raising a young family and on the other hand she is running a farm and a business and balancing it all.
Have you had any challenges in your career and how did you conquer them?
Santosh is the dreamer and quite the introvert, whereas I am the organiser and the communicator in our couple and our business. We’ve had a number of occasions where tradesmen come into the restaurant when we were opening it and during the renovations. They would naturally turn to Santosh for instructions, when in fact, I’m the one that will be giving them. Let’s just say that it happens but they soon learn.
Have you had any wow moments in your career?
Yes, I’ve had a few. The first one was our first review. We were so stressed out, couldn’t sleep. I drove to the local petrol station and read the review right there, even before I came home. We were so relieved and happy. That was the starting point for us believing in ourselves and the path we were on.
The second one was when Santosh won his Best Chef in Dublin award (Curry Awards). I was so very proud of him.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I am enough just the way I am. I don’t have to change for anyone else. I do quite a lot and I don’t have to change myself or try and be someone else.
In your opinion, what are the most underrated spices and herbs?
Ginger and green cardamom. They both go in my morning chai and that keeps me going for the day. They are delicious and remind me of home.
You’ve had the day from hell, what’s your go to food?
Porridge. A banana, almond butter and a bit of salt.