Kayla’s Kitchen is cooking up a storm after winning LEO award

By Aimee Walsh

A LOCAL healthy food business is going from strength to strength after winning the Food and Drink Award in the South Dublin Local Enterprise Awards 2021.

Kayla’s Kitchen was set up in 2019 by Paula Hughes and Emmett Harten after their 13-year-old girl Kayla was diagnosed with a rare neurodevelopmental disorder called Rett Syndrome, which limits her ability to absorb nutrients as well as digestive and bowel issues.

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Kayla’s Kitchen was the recipient of the LEO South Dublin Food and Drink Award. Pictured are Emmett Harten with Paula Hughes and their daughters Kayla and Jamie

The South Dublin based business delivers tasty and nutritious frozen meals using fresh locally sourced ingredients, all made on site at a mushroom farm in Oldcourt, Ballycullen.

Kayla’s dad Emmett spoke to The Echo about the company’s success so far.

“I got into batch cooking and part of the ethos of Kayla’s kitchen comes from what I realised when I started cooking the food - that is to give Kayla the best possible outcome, she needed the best possible nutrition.

“Also, she had very few ways to stimulate her, she couldn’t play, use her hands or speak so we found visual stimuli such as music and food she loved, so I made sure every dinner was an experience and it was different from the last. I make the food good enough for Kayla, therefore it is good enough for everybody else.”

Emmett said during the pandemic, the business has had an ‘eight-fold’ increase and now employs four full-time staff and three part-time staff.

“For people, they want to show they are caring for people at a distance, and we are the people they turn to because they trust the quality of our food to show how much they care for their loved ones.”

Kayla’s Kitchen was the recipient of the LEO South Dublin Food and Drink Award, an award Emmett said was “a happy surprise”.

“They contacted us to let us know we would be in the running, and it was a bit of a surprise, we didn’t really expect to be considered, we didn’t think we were prize-winners but now we are.”

As well as winning the LEO South Dublin award last month, Kayla’s Kitchen has been able to avail of supports available to help grow and expand their business.

“We have been availing of two primary streams of support. The first we were able to avail of was a business expansion grant, which allowed us to hire some full-time staff and to invest in some equipment to scale up production to meet the demand that we have experienced during the lockdown. The other stream is the mentorship programme, which we have been availing of almost constantly for the past two years,” Emmett told The Echo.

Responding to the demand for the healthy and quick meals, Emmett said the business has exciting plans in the near future to deliver the meals to more people.

“We are about to start exporting, we have a deal and we will be starting our first shipments to France to a distributer in the next month.

“From there, we see ourselves expanding and becoming the leading frozen prepared meal brand in this country and we would like to set our sights further afield after that. We would like to be employing ten people by this time next year.

“The other development is that in the next month or two we expect to be making our food available in some selected high quality independent grocer stores in North Leinster,” concluded Emmet.

To order from Kayla’s Kitchen you can go to  Kaylas Kitchen

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