Paul—Quiet and Dependable

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Take one look at Paul O'Keeffe, who works in our Midleton café, and you can tell he is an active man. He runs, swims and walks. He's no stranger to the gym, either. All that in addition to the many hours on his feet serving customers. A Fitbit would struggle to keep up. How does he do it? Well, part of the story is that he loves his job, the people especially.

"It's a great place to be. The regular customers and a great team," he says. There is a sparkle in his eyes that tells you he is truly at home in the café.

His active lifestyle doesn't mean he can't be tempted by a good slice of cake. His favourite in the café display is the chocolate tart. He has one word for it. "Tasty."  A single word, but combine it with the huge smile on his face when he says it and you know all you need to know. We don't make anything better in his opinion. Add an extra-shot latte and you have one very happy man.

If you want to make him unhappy, however, all you need to do is show him a dirty table. To hear him talk about seeing a customer sit down at a table when it isn't immaculate is to hear a man who takes huge pride in his work. In a café as busy as ours, it is almost inevitable that it will happen now and then that a table hasn't been cleared yet when someone sits down at it. For Paul, each instance, however rare, seems to hurt him personally. "That annoys me," he says, almost angry at the thought alone.

Perhaps it's his background in the aviation sector in ground operations and flight dispatch at Cork airport. There is zero room for messy work in aviation. He carries the mantra with him in his work today. We're privileged that he does.

Louise—Baker and Roller Derby Enthusiast

Here are words you won't hear often. Asked what her favourite thing about working with BiteSize is, baker Louise Crowley answers immediately, "The early start."

Asked whether we heard right, she confirms her preference for 5AM starts with a smile. "It means I finish early," she says, "which means I get to spend a lot of time with my little daughter."

It's not long before you realise her daughter is the focal point of Louise's life. Not even her love of baking can come close.

And that's saying something. Louise has been with us for two years and is one of those people who lives to bake. She learned from her grandmothers and mother, and carried her interest into her professional life. When you speak with her, she brims with enthusiasm about dough and cake mixtures.

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The best thing we bake at BiteSize? Louise doesn't have to look far. In front of her are a dozen or so chocolate fudge cakes she is making. "It's very hard not to like chocolate cake," she says. She adds that it's her favourite thing to eat and her favourite thing to make. The perfect relationship.

In her spare time, Louise is a fan of roller derby. "It's great fun. You get all of your aggression out of your system and get fit," she explains. She has less time for it since her daughter was born. That suits us. We don't want her to get injured. In fact, if we could, we'd swaddle her in bubble wrap at the end of her shift. It's important to look after your people. Especially when they are as good as Louise.

Cristina—Your Happiness Is Her Priority

Cristina—Your Happiness Is Her Priority

Cristina Rosa, who is part of the team in the Midleton café, has been working in cafés since she was 14 or 15 years old. For many years, she did so in her native Lisbon. The last couple, she’s been with us, having moved to Ireland 17 years ago. You could almost say, cafés are her calling.

“I like making people happy and seeing them happy with what they get in the café,” she says.

Customer happiness isn’t left to chance. Cristina is in as early as possible to make sure everything is just right before the café opens. “I have to have everything organised and tidy, otherwise I get cross,” she says. Arriving early is second nature to her. In Lisbon, the cafés open early, usually at 7am.

Cristina

One of our most popular treats are our pasteis de natas, custard tarts that are a specialty in Portugal. What does Cristina think of them? “I think they are very good. They taste different from the ones at home, but they are very good,” she answers. Although, given a choice between ours and her own, she doesn’t miss a beat and replies immediately, “Mine.”

She’s equally honest when it comes to things she doesn’t like doing at BiteSize. It’s something of an inside joke at BiteSize that Cristina hates email. She’ll make you an amazing coffee (with her signature flower foam art) with love and care. Just don’t ask her to deal with an email with a cake order. Fortunately, others can take care of that, leaving Cristina to do what she does best: making sure you have a great visit to the café.

Jess—The Friendly Face of Our Saturday Stand

 Jess, who makes everyone welcome at our stand at Midleton Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings

Jess, who makes everyone welcome at our stand at Midleton Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings

If you've been to our stand at Midleton Farmers' Market, chances are you've met Jess Cull. We honestly don't know which is more popular: our treats or Jess. If we didn't have lemon tarts on the stand one Saturday, people might get upset. If Jess weren't there, they might riot.

"It's just great fun," she says. "People come along and tell me stories and ask about me and how I am. I feel like I've made a lot of friends, because they're interested in my life and I'm interested in theirs."
 

She loves talking about the food on the stand and recommending things to people. She's got to the point where she knows the preferences of the regulars who pop by the stand. "People don't even have to ask," she jokes, "I just say, 'I have it ready here for you now' and give it to them."

Thing is, while Jess likes cakes, her real passion is cheese. So much so, she goes by the name Jess.Loves.Cheese on Instagram. "I used to eat cheese when I was young, with my granddad. Cheddar. I loved it. And then I found out there were so many others. Camembert, Brie... so many," she says.

Cheese is one of her comfort foods. That and chocolate, which she says is an unbeatable combination. Therapeutic, almost. "Cheese and chocolate is my routine when I get home from work, especially after a very busy day," she says.

When she's not on the stand at Midleton Farmers' Market or working in the café, Jess is studying for her Master's degree in museum studies at UCC. "I have an interest in history and learning. And it's a way into a profession where I'd constantly be learning," she says.

Her ideal museum? You guessed it. A chocolate museum or a cheese museum, both of which exist.

Cinzia—Head Barista

  Cinzia makes sure our coffee is the best it can be

Cinzia makes sure our coffee is the best it can be

Our head barista was raised on coffee. Having grown up in Milan, Cinzia was introduced to coffee at a young age. "Even as a child, we were allowed to have coffee," she says. It's as much a part of daily life as tea is for us.

Nevertheless, the explosion of ways in which people take their coffee is something that surprises even an Italian.

"In Italy, we traditionally drink espresso, macchiato and cappuccino. That's pretty much it. Now, there are so many different ways of drinking coffee," says Cinzia, who has just completed an intensive specialist barista training course. There isn't any type of coffee she can't make now.

And she takes huge pride in it being done the right way: "Making a good coffee takes thought and precision," she says.

Even though she has lived in Ireland for several years now, one thing still seems peculiar to her. In Italy, cappuccino is only drunk in the morning. Never later in the day. "In Italy, they'd think you were crazy if you had it after 12 o'clock," she says.

Don't worry, though. She'll still make you one with a smile. She loves Ireland and the Irish, so she can forgive the occasional transgression. "Ireland is home," she says. "I've always felt welcome, from the day I arrived here."

All we can say is that we're glad she did leave Milan and ended up in our café.

Andrea—The Rock behind the Scenes

  Andrea is our back-office dynamo

Andrea is our back-office dynamo

No business lasts very long without a strong administrative backbone. Ours is called Andrea. She’s brilliant. We’d be as floppy as a failed soufflé without her.

Andrea runs our corporate nerve centre above our bakery kitchen. You might be surprised to learn that she doesn’t think this is a very good working environment.

“There’s too much temptation,” she says. “When I come in in the mornings, the smell from the fresh baking is incredible. I try to keep away as much as I can.”

Of course, she’s only human, so she does cave in eventually. Our jam and madeira cheesecakes are her Achilles' Heel. “I love them when they are just out of the oven, even before the icing goes on,” she says.

The variety of the work at BiteSize is one of the things she enjoys most. It’s hectic, there is the occasional brush with celebrity (Enda Kenny and Roy Keane are two of the names she knows who have eaten our treats) and there is always something that needs her guiding hand.

In spite of all the bustle, the office is something of a sanctuary at the moment. She has just come back from maternity leave, so home is a busy place as well. “My real work starts when I go home,” she smiles.

Based on our experience, home must be an exceptionally well run place.

Creating Chocolate Cakes

Creating Chocolate Cakes

We put a lot of love into our baking, and we're not afraid to show it.

Here's a glimpse of how we prepare our layered chocolate cakes.

Introducing Kasia Zietak, Midleton Café Manager

Kasia is very clear about what makes her job wonderful. "The team," she says. "They really understand what the café is all about. They want to look after you. They make time for you. They want your coffee to be right."For Kasia cafés are about community. It's one of the things that makes managing one so appealing to her. "It's a place where you meet lots of people and make friends," she says.

Coffee-wise, Kasia likes strong coffee. She loves Morning Growler from Cork Coffee Roasters. Style-wise, she's a latte person.

If you ask her for a recommendation about the treats you can buy to go with your coffee, you'll end up with a lemon tart. "It's not too sharp and not too sweet," she explains. "Just right."

And "just right" sums up how she wants you to experience your visit to the café.

Waste Not Want Not

Did you know coffee grounds are great for shrubs and compost?

Did you know you can pick up free bags at the café in Midleton? It's the only thing you can just put in your bag and walk off with without Cinzia chasing you down the street with a bread knife.

If you're a keen gardener, please help yourself next time you stop by.

Canapés Make Way for Café Bakery

Sometimes, you have to make a change, even though doing so isn’t easy.

We love making canapés. It’s what built our business and our reputation. But we’ve grown to love baking and our café even more. And sometimes you have to make choices.

So we’ve stopped offering savoury canapés. We’re dedicating ourselves to baking delicious sweet treats and offering them at our café in Midleton and our stalls at the Mahon Point and Midleton farmers’ markets.

Thank you to all our customers. Your support has got us to where we are today. We’re so grateful. And we hope you’ll keep coming back to us for heavenly baked treats for many years to come.

Raw Milk Available in the Café

Raw Milk Available in the Café

Have you ever tried organic raw milk in your coffee? That's milk straight out of a cow, the way nature intended it. It's creamier than what you're used to and bursting with nutrition. It makes coffee sing.

You can ask for it in your coffee from now on in our café. You can even buy a bottle of it to take home.

The organic raw milk we sell comes from the Jersey cows on Ahern's Organic Farm. The farm is just outside Midleton and run by Ann and Dan—two of the loveliest people you could ever hope to meet.

Next time you're in the café, why not give it a go?

Mince Pies in 15 Seconds

Mince Pies in 15 Seconds

With Christmas round the corner, we've been up to our necks in mince pies.

Our approach to them is a little different. We close off our pies with frangipane, which gives them a slightly different kick. A different take on a seasonal staple.

't Is the Season

't Is the Season

One of our favourite times of the year. We hope it is for you too.

Our preparations started a while ago. The ingredients for our mince pies, for instance, need to be mixed and rest for a while before we can use them.

And we don't hold back: