Irish Women In Business: Jessica Murphy, Kai Café And Restaurant 7 years ago

Irish Women In Business: Jessica Murphy, Kai Café And Restaurant

Jessica and David Murphy are the owners of Kai Café and Restaurant.

Head chef Jessica’s philosophy at Kai is to focus on sourcing fresh, organic produce from local suppliers to create daily menus bursting with flavour, texture and colour. If you’re lucky, you might even get an edible flower on your plate. All menus change on a daily basis, dependent on what is fresh and in stock from local suppliers.

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We caught up with Jess for a chat about her home of New Zealand, encouraging other women in the food industry and the importance of blinding optimism.


How did you originally get into the restaurant business?

I always knew that I would have my own restaurant but I suppose this desire really became a reality for me after I had done 15 years working as a chef. Growing up in New Zealand, I always loved food and being around it and experimenting with different flavours, dishes, meats… just always thinking about what I could do with a simple piece of meat to make it even better.

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I left the land of the long white cloud when I was in my late teens and began my career as a chef. The last 15 years have all been about food, my passion. Eventually I knew I would have my own restaurant and it was a long amazing creative road but finally I got to Galway.

Why did you decide to set up your own company?

I and my husband David had always longed to work together as a team. David was engineering for years and I was busy being a chef. So now it was 2011 and we had nothing and everything to lose. The restaurant had been on the back burner until a chance meeting with like minded folk that created Kai today.

What were your goals when you set up your business?

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Our goal was to create a small space for everyone to enjoy the quirky whilst also enjoying the creative style of cooking that I've always wanted to do and share with people. Kai has allowed me to do this and for that I will always be grateful. A huge credit and thank you must go to Stephen Walton, who made our vision possible.

kai (8 of 19)

What sets your company apart from its competitors?

The west! We are located on Sea Road in Galway and anyone who knows the west (which is how this area of Galway City is known to locals) just knows that there is a very special energy and atmosphere to the place. Kai’s atmosphere reflects Sea Road and the west community but also our locals, farmers, cheese makers and artists in the west are all carried through in every element in Kai.

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What are the biggest challenges that you have faced?

Ahhhhhh definitely working as a husband and wife team is a challenge! Then, of course, there is the working challenges like planning for a vegan wedding to the more simple things like pickles exploding upstairs!

What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?

It has to be the fact that we have employed 22 fantastic staff members past and present. They are Kai family and along with what we produce there, the Kai team is what makes it all work.

Do you think that women face additional challenges in business or has this ever been an issue for you?

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Being a woman/chef in this business isn't easy but being a woman in business is always going to challenging. I've had very strong female mentors along the way and as my grandmother always thought me, there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Kai Cafe Restaurant photo Julia Dunin Galway (37)

What is your favourite/least favourite part of your job?

It has to be not being able to get back to New Zealand as often as I would want to. Galway is a long way away and at times, that is very hard

What do you hope to achieve with your career in the future?

There is a long list here but these are definitely at the top I would love to do a Kai cook book, open another restaurant, make some cheese, carry on my dream of charcuterie, and train more female chefs to take on head roles in my kitchens.

What piece of advice would you give to someone hoping to follow in a similar career path?

Be a complete blinding optimist, never listen to negative people, believe in yourself and keep on going…it gets easier, trust me!

For all things Kai, see www.kaicaferestaurant.com or follow Kai on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.