Meet The Producer
Norma Kelly, Director, Pastry Chef, Chocolatier
Can you give me a sentence that captures the essence of your brand?
Luxurious pastries and chocolates created from high quality ingredients without any fuss.
How did your career pathway bring you to this point in the business?
When I was in school, I worked in a local hotel and from the first night on I fell in love with the industry, although it was tough at times, I always loved the buzz of a busy kitchen. That led me to study Culinary Arts at Dublin Institute of Technology, Cathal Brugha St and having a mother and grandmother who are and were avid bakers, I naturally fell into the pastry section of every kitchen I worked in and although it might sound like a cliché, it was always my dream to own my own pastry shop.
After I graduated from college I soon found myself back in college teaching pastry part-time while working in restaurants in Dublin, some years later I secured a permanent position at DIT. Although I loved teaching pastry after 5 years of doing it full time and 14 years of living in Dublin I decided to pack up and follow my dream (and a wonderful man called Patrick, who is now my husband!) back home and open Praline.
Praline began 3 years ago as a Pastry shop and Café which seated in intimate 21 people at full capacity, business was tough at the start but we grew steadily and were really finding our feet when Covid-19 struck. Luckily I was quickly able to adjust my business model and diversify into handmade chocolates and online pastry and chocolate sales, as well as online markets like the NeighbourFood initiative.
Handmade chocolates was always something that I wanted to introduce into the Praline business model, having spent quite some time working on chocolate during my time teaching and also participating in the Cacao Barry UK and Irish World Chocolate Masters in 2015, winning Best Moulded Praline. Covid-19 therefore, led us to re-brand into Praline Pastry and Chocolate Shop.
When did you consider yourself a success?
I have never considered myself a success, I think the idea of success has a sense of finality about it. Praline is constantly a ‘work in progress’ because what works this week might not work next week so the business is always evolving.
What advice would you give a younger version of yourself?
Try not to dwell on the mistakes, they are the only way you will learn and like I said its constantly a ‘work in progress’!
What challenges does your industry face?
It goes without saying that Covid-19 and social distancing has thrown up a huge amount of new challenges for the catering industry. At the moment we have changed our business model to take away only and will continue like this for the next 12 months in order to be able to manage the restrictions in place to ensure the safety of our staff and customers, while still delivering the same quality in our products.
How do you push through your worst times?
Pushing through the hard times is something that I’ve learned to do over time. When I started Praline 3 years ago, I used to find it very overwhelming and worried a lot about things and I guess dwelt to much on the mistakes. Now I find the most effective way to deal with issues in Praline is to get out of the place for a day or two, some of the best ideas and solutions I’ve had have come to me while I’m away from the business, or while I’m away on a pastry or chocolate course abroad which I used to do a couple of times a year before lockdown.
It’s also very important to take time out for yourself and take your days off every week and spend time with loved ones, my 2 year old, Vivienne, is a great distraction. I’m very lucky to have amazing family and friends always on hand to help out and provide support when the going gets tough.
Have you recently developed any new innovative products?
It’s difficult to say if something is innovative as there are so many pastry and chocolate businesses all over the country offering so many different products, but on a local level we introduced our afternoon tea box for take away and it has proven very popular, we have also added a picnic box and a BBQ dessert assortment box to the list.
Where are your products stocked?
Currently our products are available to buy in our pastry and chocolate shop at the Tesco Centre in Mitchelstown, as well as on our website www.praline.ie for ‘click and collect’ or delivery depending on the product. We are planning on stocking some of our handmade chocolate bars and other products in some small local retailers as soon as production gets bigger.