Alumni Stories: Emma Ryan

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Alumni Stories: Emma Ryan

Book An Evening at Leiths: Flavours of Goa with Emma Ryan here.

Leiths Diploma alumna Emma Ryan is the founder of Yesterday’s Curry, a multi-faceted spicy company inspired by the flavours of Goa, India. Emma, who is half Goan, also teaches Goan cookery and writes about it on her Substack newsletter. We caught up with Emma to hear about all her latest projects with the brand.

Can you tell us how Yesterday's Curry came about?

Yesterday’s Curry came into existence during the lockdown, which I’m sure is the same for many new food businesses! The name comes from the konkani phrase “Kalchi Kodi” which literally translates to Yesterday’s Curry and refers to the Goan fish curry sauce which is even more delicious when heated up the next morning and eaten for breakfast with bread.

In 2020 after graduating from Leiths I was deciding what I wanted to do next and knew I wanted to set up some kind of business and also explore more of the cuisine of my Goan heritage. I began recreating classic Goan curries at home, but wanted to make them slightly easier and quicker, using dry spice blends rather than fresh coconut-based curry pastes which were always a pain to wash up! I created 3 spice blends for my own use; a classic Goan curry blend ideal for a fish curry, a Xacuti blend which consists of 15 spices to make a decadent chicken curry and a fiery red blend to make a classic Goan Vindalho, or vindaloo as it is more commonly known. I decided to give it a go and start selling them just in time for Christmas 2021, and everything else has stemmed from there.

You have been very busy at Yesterday's Curry. What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working on a few different avenues of the business. For about 6 months the business was focused solely on spice blends and selling direct to consumers from my website. The spice blends are still a huge part of the business and right now I am working on designing new packaging and transitioning from circular to tall square metal tins which are easier to use. I am also working on some ready to eat products and am developing an aubergine pickle which I will add to my product line in time for Christmas gifting. As well as this however, I want Yesterday’s Curry to be more of a brand focused on Goan cuisine as a whole and not just a range of products. Last year I began to run my own Goan cookery classes from Mission Kitchen in Nine Elms and have taught an Introduction to Goan Cookery for both corporates and schools. The next iteration of this will be my own Goan cookery class at Leiths this Autumn. I am also planning some private dining menus so that I can take Goan cooking into people’s homes and introduce this underrepresented cuisine to more people.

You undertook a research trip to Goa recently. How was it and how do you see it feeding into your writing and cooking?

I did indeed! My research trip to Goa was absolutely amazing and so much more than I expected it to be. I am already planning to go again next year but hopefully for a longer period of time. I discovered so many new things about Goan cuisine by trying food from local cooks, experts in different sub-categories of Goan cuisine and by signing up for lots of foodie events. I also met so many members of my family who I had only ever chatted to via WhatsApp. My trip is going to feed into my writing and cooking in a big way. Last year I was signed up to a literary agency and my agent and I will be working on a proposal for a Goan cookbook this year. I will also be sharing everything about my trip on my Substack which has been a great way for me to connect directly with the Goan community. All the new things I learned on my trip will feed into my writing as well as my products and any upcoming Goan private dining I do.

Mallika Basu has been your mentor. Can you tell us more about the mentorship and what you've learned from the experience?

Yes, Mallika has been a fantastic mentor! One of the great perks of being a member of Mission Kitchen (where I make my spice blends) is that the team organises a 6-month mentorship to help you with areas of your business. As a founder of a spice business herself, and a hugely successful food writer from an Indian background, Mallika was paired with me. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better - she gave me extremely useful advice on personal branding, promoting a niche cuisine, how to juggle a business with multiple outputs and use of various social media platforms. Running a business in which you are doing many different things under one umbrella can be daunting but Mallika helped me to see it as a strength and to really harness Goan cuisine as my unique selling point. I was very lucky to have her as a sounding board.

How has your Leiths training helped along the way?

I wouldn’t be doing any of this if I had not trained at Leiths, and doing the diploma was one of the best decisions I ever made. The training on the diploma allowed me to become a confident chef and to know that I had developed the building blocks of cookery to then take this into my own venture. I had thought about setting up a food business a few times in the past, but with the Leiths diploma under my belt, everything just felt much more possible. I am also very thankful that we were made to do the end of year portfolio, as this is what led me to start exploring Goan cuisine in more depth and which was the starting point of what is now Yesterday’s Curry and hopefully a cookbook.

Author: Hilary Armstrong

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