Trudie's Kitchen supplying Wexford homes with quality local produce
Since opening for business in 2000 Trudie's Kitchen has established itself as one of the region's leading caterers. Simon Bourke reports
Trudie Power likes to look after people, she likes to make sure they're alright.
In true Irish tradition, this means ensuring they're well-fed, they don't go home hungry, and there's always enough tea in the pot to sate any thirst.
And as the owner of Trudie's Kitchen, a catering service which makes its own salads, lunch pack's, rolls, sandwiches, wraps, meat and salmon platters, and all from the freshest, finest ingredients, she is uniquely placed to do this, her produce stocked in supermarkets across the South East and in demand from health conscious foodies throughout the county.
Yet, according to the woman herself, Trudie's Kitchen is, in one sense, not her kitchen at all. 'Trudie's Kitchen comes from my mother's kitchen,' she says. 'Mammy had a pot for making jam, boiling ham, casseroles and stews, all that.
'Everyone, all my friends, Jenny Murphy, Nicola Whitty, my friends in Rosbercon, always loved to come to my house for tea because mammy's pot was never empty, it was just one of those magic pots, if five more came in they were still fed, she was a great woman for stretching stuff.'
In tribute to her mother that pot takes pride of place among the many awards Trudie's Kitchen has won since it opened for business in September 2000. And there are a lot of awards, county, regional, national, all underlining not just the quality of the food emerging from this kitchen, but also the dedication to excellence, the maintaining of standards, the desire to ensure every single regulation is adhered to and the customer can purchase their egg mayonnaise, their potato salad, safe in the knowledge it has passed the most rigorous of tests.
'Our onus is on keeping our product as natural as possible, we buy fresh in every day and buy locally where possible,' Trudie says.
These are not empty words, the kind of vacuous corporate speak so beloved of some business owners.
Walk into Trudie's Kitchen and you will find it is exactly that: a kitchen. Yes, some of the containers are a little bigger, the utensils a little sharper, but to all intents and purposes this is a kitchen like yours or mine, albeit on a much larger scale.
With a team of 20, half of whom work in the kitchen, this is a well-oiled operation, which one involves every onion, every pepper, every head of lettuce being individually chopped by hand, and then crafted and created into a pasta pack, a sandwich, whatever your fancy, before being delivered to the client, whether that be a supermarket, a hotel, a party or one of the half-dozen or so elderly people who Trudie's son, Richard, delivers to personally.
Because despite the growth of the business, and the slew of awards, this is an enterprise with its feet firmly set in Wexford, the local community and the people within it.
Having previously stocked its product in Dublin and Cork, Trudie's Kitchen chose to recalibrate its focus, to come back to its roots. Now only available within a one-hour radius of the team's base in New Ross, this is food of the South East and, where possible, of the Model County.
'We get our meats from CJ O'Loughlin's, we use Irish Pride in Taghmon for our bread, Walsh's bakehouse for our blaas. Even our accountants are FDC in New Ross. Everything we can source locally is done so. I'm very big on that,' Trudie says.
Another thing Trudie is very big on is organisation, attention to detail.
Although she has done a few business-themed courses, she says she learned the majority of her trade at the 'college of life', coming up with her own systems and designs, methods of production, as the company grew: ' I love systems, and perfecting systems,' she announces, before showing me a room full of boxes containing files from years past and declaring, if needs be, a stock take could be done in a matter of minutes.
Amazingly, for someone so organised, Trudie's Kitchen almost happened by accident, its birth a case of necessity being the mother of invention.
'When I had children I did my own communions, christenings, buffets, and people who'd been at my mine asked me to do theirs. And then people I didn't know asked me to do theirs. And the business just mushroomed out of nowhere,' she says.
Initially ran out of the back of the family home, Trudie quickly realised this was one kitchen which needed a bigger premises. Shortly thereafter another realisation came to light, one which led to a valuable addition to the team.
'As the business grew there was no option but for my husband Michael to come on board,' she reveals of the man she married at the age of 21.
But does this member of staff, this man of the house, know who the boss is in the kitchen?
'Oh God yes. It's not Michael's name over the door,' Trudie laughs.
'But Michael is the kindest, most patient person you could come across, and how he sticks with me at times I don't know. The two of us work together at it now. We're thirty years married next summer, and we can still talk to one another.
'But we do talk a lot of business. So we have to say no more business talk, silence for ten minutes. You get so caught up when you're living together, working together.'
While Trudie remains the boss and Michael her loyal ally, a third member of the Power family is beginning to make his presence felt in his mother's kitchen. Richard is 25 and, in Trudie's words, the 'future of the company'.
'Richard is dedicated to customers and customer experience. He has six or seven little old ladies he delivers personally to. Whenever they need a tray of sandwiches for the month's mind or whatever he'll bring it.
'They send him thank you cards. What I have set up, what we continue to improve, will be succeeded by Richard and his vision,' Trudie says.
And as a 6 foot 5 fitness fanatic that vision is food for the body, providing customers with the kind of sustenance required to fuel an active lifestyle.
'We've been testing our protein-packed gym meals in local gyms. There's people out there that want to be able to afford the food that nourishes their body, it shouldn't be more expensive. We're also looking at more vegan and vegetarian products.
'People on the run want quality products that are going to sustain them through training, and we have a range of products that are being promoted with slimming world,' Trudie says.
Regardless of the future of the business and the many avenues it goes down, there are some things which will never change; Trudie's obsession with standards, and the pure joy she takes in knowing her food is being savoured in homes throughout the South East.
'Every bathroom, coffee shop I go into it, I'm looking at ways they can improve,' she says before recalling, with some distaste, a sub-standard delicatessen she encountered while on holidays in Bulgaria.
'But I love it. I love doing what I do. I'm allergic to the office. But downstairs in the kitchen I could go in at 6am and come out at 6pm and it'd feel like ten minutes. I love it, love being part of it. I love engaging with people, with the team, the suppliers.
'It's great doing your supermarket shop and seeing your product on the shelf. And when somebody else buys it it's just amazing like.'