Rachel Flynn’s first food business, Bia Beatha, was a pop up supper club that shone a spotlight on the rich culture and mythology surrounding Irish cuisine. Her second, Salt & Stove, is a Dublin 8 based deli with an emphasis on the work of Irish artisan producers. We talked to Rachel about her new venture and plans for the further development of a café and a range of dips later this year.
Rachel, you opened the doors of your new deli venture just before Christmas. Tell us how Salt and Stove came into being.
I’ve always been really interested in food, but only got into working in it properly when I moved home from London four years ago. There weren’t that many opportunities for me here in the industry that I’d previously been working in, so I had to kind of carve out my own thing. I started the Bia Beatha supper clubs which were basically a celebration of culture and cuisine, telling the story of Ireland through our food history.
I then went on to participate in the Bord Bia Food Academy with a view to starting my own range of dips and that’s where Salt and Stove was born. While doing the course I realized that I was more interested in having a deli than being somebody who supplied shops or big supermarket chains. My partner and myself bought a house in Dublin 8 a few years ago and we thought that the area was lacking an artisan or gourmet food shop, so we decided that we’d try and fill that gap.
Clanbrassil Street has been described as “the cooler, more stretched out food cousin of Camden Street”. What’s your take on how the area is developing?
I think it’s one of those neighbourhoods that’s really set up to be a village, but it had been a bit of a thoroughfare for a long time. Then over the last few years Bastible opened, followed by Gaillot and Grey, Little Bird and Bibi’s. Now it’s becoming a little bit of a foodie hub which makes sense because I guess the area is attractive to a lot of people, including a lot of creative people who often end up starting their own small independent businesses and helping create a community. There’s a new park on Cork Street and a nice community atmosphere, which you can really feel down around the co-op and the Green Door Market.
What inspired the name “Salt and Stove”?
I knew that I wanted a certain style of name and I was working with an agency in Cork to come up with branding for the dips. Then one evening just as I was falling asleep “Salt and Stove” popped into my head. I thought that it was really well suited, and by the time that the dips morphed into a deli I was already very attached to the name. I particularly like the way the words sound together but also that it’s evocative of cooking in the kitchen and the really rudimentary things that you need to make good food.
You’re a strong advocate of the work of Ireland’s artisan producers. What kinds of produce can we expect to see at Salt and Stove?
We’ve just so many brilliant independent food producers in Ireland and it’s so great to see, because historically we thought that to be cosmopolitan we had to be eating food from the continent. That’s completely changed now and at our cheese counter it’s the Irish cheeses that people want. They’re far outselling the better-known French cheeses so it’s really brilliant to see that shift in Irish culture.
At the moment we’ve got lots of products that people might recognize, like Cashel Blue Cheese and Butler’s organic eggs, Green Beards’ juices and bread from Tartine’s organic bakery, while Sheridans are supplying us with our charcuterie and cheese. While we’re working with some well-known brands, we’re also working with smaller local producers to try and give them a chance. It’s not as easy as with the big distributors so if people are trying to launch a new food product we’d really encourage them to get in touch with us so we can get their products onto our shelves.
Have you plans to keep the Bia Beatha supper clubs going, or to incorporate elements of it into your new venture?
We rebranded Bia Beatha to A Taste of History because, even though we loved the name, it was causing a little bit of confusion among tourists. We paused it because it was proving too difficult to make it sustainable when we didn’t have our own premises. Now we’re actually planning a café premises for later this year, so once we have that in place we plan to re-launch it as a weekly supper club in Dublin 8.
What has the reaction been like so far to the opening of Salt & Stove?
Since we’ve opened people have been really positive and encouraging. They’re delighted to see something like this opening in the area, so we’ve had a really nice welcome. We’re locals and a big part of it for us is that we’re adding something to the community. We hope that it’s a place where people feel like they can come in and if we don’t have what they want they can talk to us about it. We’re learning and we’re growing and we hope that people will give us input to help us make it the kind of shop they want in the area.
Words: Martina Murray
Photo: Killian Broderick