When Irene Fuertes and Matt Collier decided they would have a go at making churros commercially, they borrowed most of the equipment and invested around $50 of their own money.
That was October 2012. Fast forward to June 2014 and business is so good they are planning to expand the number of outlets and franchise the concept. Not bad for an idea that started out as a cooking competition between friends.
To the uninitiated, a churro is a Spanish donut — deep-fried dough — traditionally served for breakfast and dipped in hot chocolate or milky coffee. Spanish-born Irene had not previously made them when the couple won the friendly cook off with their version.
Matt and Irene met while working on a cruise ship in Antarctica. Matt was chef and Irene (whose profession is marine biologist) was working as the ship's purser. Welsh-born Matt had been living for several years previous to the cruise in New Zealand and, having convinced Irene that Dunedin was a warm place, the couple returned here via a stint in Australia.
The idea to make churros commercially began when Matt became frustrated with the long hours and lack of interaction with customers while working in the catering business.
They set up for the first time with their borrowed equipment at Dunedin's Stadium Sunday market and sold out. So popular were the Spanish treats, people were prepared to queue for up to 40 minutes. Though thrilled their punt had paid off, hand piping the dough had been so hard on Irene she struggled to open her hands the following day.
They decided to invest in a churros-making machine. Their $50 investment had suddenly risen to $3000. They were in deep, but certain their investment would pay off.
In addition to the traditional churros and hot chocolate on offer, they've created a cheese and bacon dipping sauce to cater for New Zealand tastes. So popular is their product, the couple quickly began to consider creating a better workplace. At first they considered retrofitting an old caravan, but soon their enquiries led them to the door of Dunedin Motorhomes.
Regular readers will remember Dunedin Motorhomes' owner Bryan Rusbatch is the designer of the Unique Caravan and Trailer Light Tester we featured in issue 114, and he created a mobile food 'van for the new franchise Chicken Box (also in that issue).
"After talking with Bryan, we knew immediately he was the person we wanted to work with," says Matt. "They did 3D designs at the concept stage so we could see what the finished 'van would look like."
Irene says Bryan offered a great deal of advice. "He added innovations we simply would not have thought of. The process has been amazing. Even if we were to move away we would still continue to work with Bryan and his team."
Says Matt, "We cannot say enough about how much we have valued working with them."
With plans to build a national franchise, the couple will now have an ongoing relationship with Bryan's team. And while sales in their mobile food kitchen continue to be brisk, the couple has added yet another string to their bow. Their popular Dulce de Leche (Latin American caramel sauce) and Spanish drinking chocolate will be available through supermarkets next year.
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