The proof of true love is in the pud­ding

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BONDINGS -

Catriona and Brian Fla­herty run an award-win­ning dessert com­pany — a late ca­reer change for both, writes An­drea Smith

WE have a the­olo­gian work­ing in our kitchen,” Brian Fla­herty an­nounces proudly, re­fer­ring to his wife of 41 years, Catriona. And, in­deed, Catriona (64) is some dy­namo of en­ergy, as apart from found­ing and run­ning the dessert pro­duc­tion com­pany, What’s for Pud­ding, in 2013, and rais­ing four chil­dren, she went to Maynooth Univer­sity as a ma­ture stu­dent in her 40s to pur­sue a de­gree in maths and the­ol­ogy, and re­ceived a de­gree. She fol­lowed this up with a mas­ter’s de­gree in the­ol­ogy.

Her in­tel­li­gence was one of the things that first at­tracted Brian to Catriona when they were 20-year-old stu­dents in 1973. She was do­ing a de­gree in med­i­cal lab­o­ra­tory sci­ence at DIT on Kevin Street, and he was do­ing vet­eri­nary sci­ence at UCD, where her sis­ter Maire was also study­ing. They were part of a group of stu­dent friends who hung out, and the first time the Galway man and Dublin girl met was while they were carol singing for char­ity in Dunnes Stores in Cor­nelscourt. “Catriona was friendly, good fun and in­tel­li­gent and she looked well and had a great smile,” says Brian. “She had a good sense of hu­mour, which stood to her as time went on.”

Catriona jokes that she needed it, putting up with him, as Brian has a dry wit and a rather mis­chievous man­ner, and he’s great fun. Catriona re­mem­bers him hav­ing a beard and a big mop of dark curly hair when they first met. He had a mo­tor­bike and they went on hol­i­days on it. They started dat­ing al­most a year af­ter they met, and did their fi­nal ex­ams a mere week be­fore they got mar­ried in 1976. Af­ter stints in other coun­ties for Brian’s job, they set­tled in Kilmes­san, Meath, and had four chil­dren, who are now adults. Aine is mar­ried to Colm and is mum to their three grand­chil­dren, Clodagh (7), Eoin (5) and Sad­hbh (3). Rory is mar­ried to Anna and is a sur­veyor who works part-time in the busi­ness and con­trib­utes greatly to it. Cathal is in Aus­tralia with his girl­friend Gemma, and Cor­mac is in Eng­land. They’re a very close bunch and have great fun when they all get to­gether.

Catriona did some farm­ing when the chil­dren were small, and loved work­ing with ewes and lambs. It was a huge change for her, be­ing a city girl, but Brian was ex­pe­ri­enced as he had grown up on a farm him­self in Mill­town, Galway, where he was the el­dest of Kath­leen, now 94, and the late Michael’s four chil­dren. He worked as a vet for many years and then joined the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture un­til he re­tired.

The idea for the desserts busi­ness came about be­cause Catriona grew up in a house in Ranelagh where there was al­ways ‘some­thing nice’ for vis­i­tors and friends who called. Her big ques­tion on ar­riv­ing home from school ev­ery day was al­ways, “What’s for pud­ding?” She came sec­ond of the late Molly and Ed­die O’dea’s six chil­dren, and in the years be­fore her mum died, Catriona used to stay with her a cou­ple of nights per week. While there, she would al­ways look in lo­cal shops for some­thing nice for dessert, or pud­ding, as her mum called it, as she was from Belfast.

In­spired by this, she de­cided to try start­ing a dessert busi­ness her­self in 2013, and availed of a Leader start-up grant from Meath County Coun­cil. Nat­u­rally she named the com­pany, “What’s for Pud­ding,” and be­gan mak­ing desserts in a shared kitchen and sup­ply­ing them lo­cally. Sheri­dan’s Cheese­mon­gers were a great help in bring­ing the fledg­ling brand around the coun­try via their fairs, and two of the prod­ucts won Blas awards (The Ir­ish Food Awards) in 2014. Even though she knew her prod­ucts were good and high-qual­ity, Catriona was as­tounded to get a call from Dunnes Stores, who were in­ter­ested in adding the prod­ucts to their Sim­ply Bet­ter range.

Hav­ing de­cided to go for it, Catriona and Brian worked closely with the team at Dunnes Stores, whom they say have been amaz­ingly sup­port­ive and help­ful. The cou­ple opened their own kitchen on their premises in Meath to fill the or­ders. Brian, who has a mas­ter’s in food sci­ence, has now joined the busi­ness full-time and Catriona says his in­put is in­valu­able. They have been sup­ply­ing three Sim­ply Bet­ter desserts over the past two years, and there was great ex­cite­ment last year when the Sim­ply Bet­ter Ir­ish Hand­made All But­ter Sticky Tof­fee Pud­ding won the The Great Taste Golden Fork award in Lon­don for the best food or drink prod­uct in Ire­land. The other two Sim­ply Bet­ter desserts are cho­co­late and lemon curd desserts, and they also pro­duce three desserts un­der their own brand, What’s for Pud­ding, and these are rich cho­co­late, sticky tof­fee and gin­ger and Seville orange.

While they are de­lighted at how the busi­ness is go­ing, Catriona and Brian say that their own re­la­tion­ship is cop­ing well with the added di­men­sion of start­ing a new busi­ness in their 60s. Out­side of work, they en­joy time with the grand­chil­dren, go­ing for walks to­gether and read­ing, and say they gen­uinely en­joy each other’s com­pany even though they have very dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties and ways of op­er­at­ing. “Brian is very prag­matic, prac­ti­cal and kind and he’s tough when he has to be,” says Catriona. “What drives him mad is that I lose my glasses all the time, and for me, it’s that when he wants some­thing, he’ll ask the same ques­tion 20 times un­til he gets the an­swer he wants. We have a very equal and fair re­la­tion­ship and we’re well able for each other. Sure, you’d have to be!”

‘Brian is prag­matic, prac­ti­cal and kind — but he’s tough when he has to be...’


Brian and Catriona Fla­herty run What’s For Pud­ding. Photo: Steve Humphreys

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