Posted: Wed 18th May 2022
Dominique Woolf first spoke to Enterprise Nation in December 2020, not long after starting her Thai-inspired sauce brand The Woolf's Kitchen.
We catch up with Dominique as she prepares to launch her very first recipe book, following a successful appearance on The Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver, which aired on Channel 4 earlier this year.
So much has happened since you last spoke to Enterprise Nation. How have you managed to continue growing your business during the pandemic?
“Well, I got on an incubator scheme with the Co-op. They're very nurturing and supportive of the business and they're not putting pressure on any sort of deadlines.
“They’re providing us with access to information that we would not get otherwise, so it's a brilliant scheme – providing all the data, that sort of stuff.
“I’m also in the process of upscaling and moving manufacturer, and I'm hoping to launch later on this year with them, so that’s been a great development.
“Being a solopreneur in the age of COVID is channelling – doing everything really small and bootstrapped and knowing what to do next.
“I’ve been putting off upscaling for quite a while now. I have a small manufacturer, we’ve been together for a couple of years and it’s easy, but in order to grow I have to move to one with the right accreditation and one that can help me develop, I suppose.
“Now, it’s the right time to make those steps.”
You took part in Jamie Oliver’s Great Cookbook Challenge! How did that come about, and how did it feel to win?
“Well, I heard about it on Instagram, good old Instagram!
“I applied for it, sent in a video audition as you're meant to for a couple of minutes, and several more interviews later I got on the show which was in itself unbelievable.
“The prize of the show was an actual cookbook deal with Penguin Michael Joseph - one of the biggest publishers in the UK and a mass food publisher, and I somehow miraculously won it!
“There’s only one of me, so for the last few months my focus has been on writing the book- we had a pretty sharp deadline. The show finished in November, and I finished the book by the end of January.
“It's been an amazing, amazing process and actually a hardcopy arrived at Penguin offices this morning so I should be getting one later.”
What do you think they saw in you and your business to deem you the winner?
“I think it was the accessibility, to be honest. I’m a home cook - it's all easy, everyday, Asian-inspired food that everyone can make.
“It also offers a solution: you like Asian food but you don’t have the time and you don’t know where to get started, well it’s not as tricky as it sounds. Here are some recipes to get you going.
“So that’s been an amazing process. I think that’s what they recognised, something that people want.”
Do you have plans to write more books in the future?
"Yes, I definitely would love to do book number two, I'm already thinking of recipes for that.
"I thought about doing the recipe book anyway, as it really fits in with my ethos: a lot of food and flavour, but I don’t have time to cook.
"So, you can use one of my sauces or pastes, or my chilli oils to add instant flavour, or you can cook a recipe from my book.
“So, essentially I’m offering people a solution.”
Do you have a certain product or recipe that you feel people must know about?
“My Chilli Crunch oil is my flagship product and it’s amazing! Lovely, crunchy texture, full of umami and crispy, spicy goodness. So that's wonderful.
“There’s another interesting one, the first recipe from the book, which is out on 9 June. It’s a Thai green curry chicken tray bake, so all the ingredients of a Thai curry but it’s baked at the same time, and that’s had more likes than any other post I’ve done.
"Somehow, that has absolutely resonated with people, they love a tray bake and the simplicity and the little twist on it.”
You’ve spoken at Enterprise Nation events in the past. How rewarding is it to pass on your knowledge to fellow entrepreneurs?
“Entrepreneurship is something I'm really passionate about. I've been going to Enterprise Nation events for a few years anyway, and I run a networking group myself locally, with over 600 women on the Facebook group.
“It's based in North London, and it’s all about connecting entrepreneurial women, proving them with a space and sharing knowledge. People often ask me for advice and even if I don't have the answers, I can give them pointers on what they need to do.
“So for me, Enterprise Nation fits really well with my ethos of encouraging that entrepreneurial spirit in people.”
How has Emma Jones’ influence rubbed off on you over the years?
“Oh, she's an absolute inspiration! I remember seeing the Food Exchange about three years ago, and I didn’t realise she ran Enterprise Nation, I just thought ‘who is this charismatic, confident person who's owning the room?’
"If I could channel anyone when doing public speaking it would be Emma Jones. She's brilliant.
“When I went to Female Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, a year-and-a-half ago, she was there – so positive and encouraging.
“So many opportunities have come my way thanks to Emma - championing me, championing others, which has made a big difference, and those little opportunities that I've had as a result have all added up to and helped me get to where I am."
Dominique’s Kitchen: Winner of Channel 4's The Great Cookbook Challenge is out on 9 June. Pre-order today.