A man who’s living the dream
2008-07-31 15:23:08 -

In the latest instalment of Metro Éireann’s MEET THE BOSS, SANDY HAZEL speaks to Satish Desigar of Celtic Cuisine, providing desserts to Ireland’s restaurants.

Whose childhood dreams did not revolve around a career in a sweet factory – or better yet, designing fabulous cakes? Satish Desigar is one man who is living that dream, producing some of the most tempting confections you are likely to find on your dessert plate anywhere in Ireland.

A member of the Association Culinaire Française and the Academy of Culinary Arts, Desigar trained at the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition in Mumbai, India. In the first few years after getting his degree, Desigar literally went around the world. 

“I worked as chef and head chef in hotels in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Frankfurt, St Petersburg in Russia, France and the UK,” says Desigar who was born in India but is British. It was while living in the UK that he met his Irish wife, Kate. “We lived many years in the UK before moving to Canada,” he adds. 

Desigar’s wife worked in human resources at the Four Seasons hotel in Toronto. The exclusive chain was about to establish itself in Ireland and wanted some Irish staff to relocate for the opening, so the couple decided to make the move. It was tough at first, as Desigar could not find work when the couple returned at the beginning of 2000. “With all of my years of experience around the globe I could not get anything,” he says.

It was timing more than anything as “there wasn’t much happening at the level I was looking”, he explains. 

A friend and colleague working as a head chef at Jurys called on him as a consultant, but Desigar was looking for something different. He knew that in Ireland, many top hotels would not retain their own pastry chefs but were starting to look for higher quality desserts, the type that might be more labour-intensive and easier to produce offsite. 

“I knew that I could supply a five-star standard of desserts,” says Desigar, “and I created a niche to do this.” 

After locating and equipping a premises, Celtic Cuisine was up and running, starting to bring sweetness to the tables of millions of diners in Ireland. 

To get the business and contracts necessary, Desigar went to meet chefs at their hotels and discuss their menus. “These guys knew that I knew my stuff. We create desserts to exclusively suit their needs and they know that as a chef I will deliver the standard required.” 

Irish people love their chocolate, says Desigar. “Chocolate desserts are the most popular. We do dark chocolate truffles, white chocolate and raspberry, chocolate and chilli, pralines. But fruity desserts are also big – we do mango, coconut, passion fruits, strawberries, blackcurrants.” 

Celtic Cuisine, however, is only half of the business. Desigar and his wife have since expanded into Paddy Raj, an oriental catering company. Using family recipes, handmade curries, satays, spring rolls and Indian snacks “all properly made” are supplied to corporate clients and functions. 

And then there is their latest venture of Tarte Tatin delicatessens in Dun Laoghaire and Cabinteely, where customers can bring home fresh cakes, quiches, pies and tarts. The shops are proving popular, with rave reviews. But it’s not all sweetness and light. 

“I find that there is an immense amount of paperwork involved in running a business in Ireland,” says Desigar, who feels that there is very little encouragement if you are an entrepreneur here.

“The biggest backbone of the Irish economy is the small to medium-sized business,” he says, adding that there are too many regulations and heavy penalties for missing a form or being late with a VAT return by a day. 

“I want to expand this business, but as a small business there is a typical crunch time where cash flow can be an issue.” He cites the period of credit that he must extend to his buyers as a problem for all small to medium- sized businesses. “In Ireland this is a very long period and can be very hard on small businesses.”

Celtic Cuisine currently employs 10 people, but there is “little safety net for self- employed people. The Government benefits from people like us financially but gives very little support.” Desigar is looking to expand his staff and his customer base: “A business gets to a point where it needs to jump but that requires investment.” The real satisfaction, according to Desigar, comes from making things happen. “If I want to buy a piece of equipment or if I have an idea, then I can act immediately on that. Working for someone else would involve having meetings about it and then going from A to B to C before it could happen. I love doing what I do.”

Would you like to have your business profiled? E-mail news@metroeireann.com

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