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Cork Profile

Emma O’Shea Owner of Gingerbread House

Wednesday, 30th October, 2019 4:32pm

When you were small, what did you want to be as a grown-up?

I loved speech and drama when I was young and definitely at some point wanted to be a singer, anyone who’s heard me sing will understand why that never happened.


Tell us about your career progression to your role today:

Growing up I’d always been around the food industry, my mum worked at the Arbutus Lodge Hotel, I loved going to visit as I was always given chocolate buttons from the kitchen. My taste for good dark chocolate started very early. My first job was at Ryan’s Arbutus Bread stall at Midleton Farmers Market and I worked there for a few years both at the market and in the bakery. I liked baking and cooking; it was something that honestly I didn’t think too much about I decided early in sixth year I’d go to CIT to study culinary studies. That led me to working with Edmond McCarthy, who now has his own restaurant in Fermoy called Café Ed.

We worked together for several years and he really taught me a lot about the stuff you don’t really see when you’re in a restaurant, the things that it takes to run a restaurant or business smoothly. I worked in a number of different restaurants around Cork but wasn’t enjoying it so I decided to step out of the kitchen about three years ago, I worked for Arbutus Bread again, this time working at the office side of the bakery which I really enjoyed - all the time I kept making cakes mainly for friends and family. I knew I wanted to open my own place. One day I saw that the unit I’m currently in was empty I rang the estate agent and a week later I had a lease on the unit. I wasn’t fully sure what it would look but I love the balance I have been able to create with Gingerbread House – I have the retail shop where you can get everything you’d need to decorate a cake, I teach cake decorating classes and I still make cakes. Whether you want to decorate a cake/learn how to decorate a cake or just order a cake I’ve got all three bases covered.


What is the most enjoyable aspect of what you do?

Seeing the look of achievement on someone’s face when I’ve helped them decorate a cake be that in one of my classes or simply someone who’s come into the shop to pick up some bits to decorate a cake and I’ve given them some advice. I love when people send me pictures of cakes that we’ve talked about.


What motivates you?

My family, my dad retired three years ago and the man is busier now than ever before! He’s been wood turning for years but since he has retired, he has more time to give it. I was in West Cork last summer and came across a shop selling some of his stuff - it was definitely a proud daughter moment. It motivates me to know it’s never too late to start something and to never stop learning.


What advice would you give your 15 year old self?

Be you, don’t compare yourself to others, don’t try to please everyone because you’ll never keep everyone happy.


If you weren’t in the job you have, what would you be doing?

I could have seen myself becoming a home economics teacher.


What is your greatest life or career achievement to-date?

Opening my shop Gingerbread House this year.


Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life?

I don’t think anyone one person has influenced me rather I’ve taken influence from a number of people around me mainly my family especially since my niece was born I’ve seen how daily things that we do can have an impact on the people round you without you even realising.


What is the life dream now?

The business this year has really taken over but next year I’d like to take some time for me, my goddaughter Lydia has her sights set on us going on a trip to New York together next year.


How do you switch off?

Watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix.


What is your favourite Cork memory?

Switching on of the Christmas lights.


What is your favourite place in Cork?

Fota Wildlife Park.


Do you have a favourite quote or motto?

You’ll never regret being kind.


When are you at your happiest?

When I know dessert is on the way.


Any regrets?

I’ve learnt it’s better to not think about situations as regrets but as learning curves.


What is your hidden talent?

It’s so hidden that I’ve yet to find it.


What might we be surprised to know about you?

I’m a major sleepwalker.


Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Tell those that you love just how much you love them because one day you won’t be able to tell them anymore. I will be participating in the Cork Baking and Chocolate Weekend at the Cork International Hotel from 22-24 November. Visit

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