Yellow Door is a family run business which began as a restaurant and has grown to incorporate an artisan bakery, three delis and an outside catering division.
Chef Simon Dougan, from KIllylea in County Armagh, runs the Portadown deli and I asked him what makes the Yellow Door’s award winning food special.
What does your role at Yellow Door involve?
Yellow Door is a family run business, so I am involved as a chef and in the management and accountancy side of things. Originally we started out as a restaurant in Gilford, County Down back in 1992 and the deli business grew from there.
I had been working in London and came home for a holiday, and my friend Roisin was opening a new restaurant at the time and asked me to be head chef. The front door of the restaurant was painted yellow and we were struggling to come up with a name, so that is where Yellow Door came from.
When the restaurant opened there was a real market for the simple, proper food we were serving. Everything was homemade and people wanted to buy products from the restaurant like our quiches, hams and salads, so I decided to go out on my own and open a deli.
Roisin sold me half of the business, I became a partner and opened the Yellow Door deli in Portadown. Everything else has evolved from that.
Describe Yellow Door’s food style?
Our food ethos is simple, we never settle for second best and if I am not happy with the quality of bought products – I make it myself. That is why we make our own breads, pastries, bacon, chutney and ice cream to name a few.
I have a great team working with me who are all very passionate about food and we encourage them to be creative. You might not get it right first time but that’s all part of the learning process.
Yellow Door has a limited menu that changes daily depending on the ingredients that are in season, for example in April fresh mackerel was widely available, and we simply fried it up with some fennel and the customers loved it.
How long have you worked in the food industry?
I started out working in hotels in Ireland and when I was 18 moved to London. I actually failed part of my level two catering qualification, but I always maintain passion and an interest in wanting to be a chef is more important than anything else because passion cannot be taught.
What has been your career highlight so far?
Staying solvent as a business. When the recession hit we lost a lot of big customers and had to change our menu and products to suit the market place.
In the food industry being inventive gets you through tough times. Creating high quality products has always been our main focus and we didn’t want to compromise on that, but needed to make what we offered more affordable. An example of this was using different cuts of meats like beef brisket to create new products.
What inspired you to work in the food industry?
I have five sisters and four brothers and am the oldest in the family. Both of my parents worked when I was younger so it was my responsibility to make the tea when I came home from school and my love of cooking grew from that.
My grandmother was also a great baker and made lovely wheaten bread, this helped develop my own interest in baking.
What is your favourite meal?
I like pretty much everything, well except for bananas, but the simplicity of a proper free range chicken, cooked on the bone is hard to beat.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
Food is a lifestyle choice as much as a job and I live and breathe it. I do enjoy clay pigeon shooting and hunting in the winter time for pheasants and then cooking the meat at home. I think we should be eating more game.
I love catering for events and weddings as this is an outlet for me to really express my creative side.
Have you a top cookery tip you would like to share?
One thing I hate to see is people pressing down on a burger or piece of steak while it is cooking on the pan.
This dries out the meat and it doesn’t cook any faster, so my tip would be don’t press meat down on the pan and just let it cook naturally.
To find out more about the products and services Yellow Door offers, visit http://yellowdoordeli.co.uk/