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Pesto Princess - From opera singer to pesto extraordinaire

“Pesto Princess puts people and planet before profit. No questions asked,” says founder Kathleen Quillinan. “This North Star informs everything we do, every decision taken, every plan hatched. We operate in integrity. We harness creativity. We exercise compassion and tolerance. In short, we’re human and we do what humans do best: we care.”

This human touch is an integral component of the business perhaps in part because of the personal place from which it begins: Kathleen wanted to be a professional opera singer and to earn a little extra cash to fund her studies, she began exploring her other passion – food. Soon she was selling baked and bottled goods at a local market, and quickly found that it was her pesto that had people coming back.

“Honestly, it was an accident. I didn’t mean to start a business,” says Kathleen. “But at a certain chaotic point of trying to pursue a career in music while also running a foodie side hustle, I had to ask myself what was actually working in my life. Was it music? Or was it food? Food won.”

They’re now a team of nearly 70 men and women, some of whom have worked at the Pesto Princess Palace since it all began in 1998. Kathleen remainis still involved in all things creative and is supported by Lesley Grimbeek, her CEO and a team of royal experts working in sales, new product development, marketing, production, finance and logistics. They pride themselves on running a workplace where talent is spotted and nurtured, and exceptional performance is noticed and rewarded.

Their much-loved Basil Pesto is where it all began, so it continues to hold a special place in their hearts, but their range has expanded to include pesto variations, relishes, spice pastes, and soups, many of which are vegan.

They still make everything by hand, 22 years on. “Did you know that we separate the basil leaves from the stalks by hand, since the creamiest pesto is made using the leaves only?” asks Kathleen. “Between you and me, that’s a mission.” They also peel all their own garlic. Even though they’re producing pesto on a grand scale, they believe firmly that the old-fashioned way is best, so they’ve avoided automation and continue to keep their batches small for quality control and consistent flavour. “Although we have a fully accredited facility with excellent food safety standards, we still make pesto and our other products with as much attention to detail as you would in your home or professional kitchen,” says Kathleen. And why not? After all, a home kitchen’s where it all began.