The Gourmet Pantry, a takeaway deli, opened its doors on Carrigaline Main Street this Summer following a very successful kitchen in Riverstick and flagship store in Kinsale. From cakes to ready made meals to artisan produce to catering to rolls and salads, The Gourmet Pantry caters for all. Tara Maher chats to Sabrina Levis, the Carrigaline woman who runs the show.
During her teenage years, Sabrina worked in various factory kitchens in Ringaskiddy and it's here where she first got a taste for the hospitality and catering industry. Following second level education she studied Culinary Arts Professional Cookery. While in college, she worked in many local restaurants including The Overdraft in Minane and remembers the opening of the bistro in Carrigaline Court Hotel, before she eventually set off to Australia in 2004.
Down under, she worked for a Greek occasion company and helped them set up a cafe in Darling Harbour, Sydney when she was only 21. Her hard work and determination didn’t go unnoticed and she was soon sponsored, extending her visa. During the week she worked in the cafe and on weekends, she worked in the Hilton doing catering in functions.
In 2007, she decided to come home to Cork, and since returning home, the dream for Sabrina has always been to open up a gourmet deli in Carrigaline. “I wanted to open up a deli inspired by what I learned while travelling. There was such an emphasis on healthy eating and on salads, that wasn’t as popular in Ireland” she explained.
Sabrina went into business with Maria Burke from Claypot, and in 2008 they opened up their first gourmet store together. They opened in Turners Cross, selling ready meals , salads, catering and cakes. “We were ahead of our time,” Sabrina recalls. The food was adventurous and the hype around the exotic flat white hadn’t quite reached Cork yet. Looking back, perhaps they were located in the wrong area but survived on their booming catering business. Using Evergreen Road as a base, they opened up in the Airport Business Park, St. John's College and Atkins Garden World and continue to supply private corporate catering.
Struggling to create a work-life balance, Sabrina joined the Quay Co-Op in 2012 as a Food Production Manager.
After three years in the Quay Co-Op,an opportunity presented itself to open a gourmet store in Kinsale. Sabrina became a minority shareholder in ‘The Gourmet Pantry’. After six months, she and Padraig O’Sullivan became business partners in early 2017. “It grew massively from there” Sabrina said.
They opened a production kitchen in Riverstick to facilitate ready made meals and catering. The Gourmet Pantry sells all locally produced fresh products in store. As a takeaway deli, they remained open during the Covid lockdown. “We were crazy busy,” Sabrina remembers. With a range of nutritious ready made meals available, many consumers were able to pick them up in store or online and drop them to the homes of parents and elderly neighbours. “Sometimes people have the misconception that we just sell cakes and pastries, but we are a lot more than that and I think people realised that during Covid”. It was then, Gourmet Pantry became an integral part of the Kinsale community.
With her dream of opening a shop at home in Carrigaline always in the back of her mind, a premise became available on Carrigaline’s Main Street earlier this year. Sabrina began talks with Micheal Hassett of Hassett's Bakery to take over their lease. With the help and support of her husband Paul Morley, who is now a director of The Gourmet Pantry, and her parents, her dream finally became a reality. “I told myself, I am going to do this, and I am going to do it on my own,” she said. Sabrina bought out Padraig and took over Hassetts lease. “Padraig was always a great help and I learned so much from him” Sabrina said but was looking forward to the challenge of running her own shop in her hometown.
In July, The Gourmet Pantry officially opened their doors in Carrigaline selling salads, wraps, ready meals, cakes, hot pots and local artisan produce from Skelligs Chocolate to Ummera Smokehouse and catering. Everything is made in house in Carrigaline or at the kitchen in Riverstick.
Since opening in Carrigaline, the team at The Gourmet Pantry have been kept busy and are always happy to see new faces pop in and try their produce. “There's an idea that we’re a sit down cafe but we're not. We are a takeaway deli. Our business model is we prepare, we display, we sell” Sabrina explained, “we’re for people on the go, but we also have the option to sit down outside if you’d like”.
The Gourmet Pantry is open seven days a week. “Our day is divided in two” Sabrina said. The morning starts at 8:30am and runs until around 11:30am, and from 11:30am on its lunchtime. The Gourmet Pantry offers an array of homemade salads and gourmet meals that change daily.
Supporting the local community is a fundamental value of The Gourmet Pantry brand. Sabrina sources her produce as local as possible, and is always looking to stock great local produce. “I’m always on the lookout for local producers that we can stock. It’s very difficult to get into supermarkets, we want to be a hub of just everyone supporting each other” she explained.
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