I have pretty much done everything in the hospitality industry. I’ve been a sandwich hand; a line cook and worked in front of house. The journey [led me to have] the confidence in myself to put out something I made and is reflective of who I am.

I’m Italian, so chilli oils are very much an Italian flavour for me, even though I’m using Mexican chillis. I get the chillis from Mexico City Foods, which is a family-run business that imports the chillis from Mexico. The oil is a New South Wales-grown and pressed canola oil; It’s the cleanest canola oil I’ve ever tasted. It’s called Azure canola oil and I get it from Two Providores in Marrickville.

A lot of people are like “Oh, you don’t use olive oil?” Somehow, canola oil is seen as cheaper or less quality, but it’s not true; there is an oil for every purpose. I’ve tried using olive oil, but it is too bitter for this. It’s so strong you lose the flavour of the chillis. It is also less versatile because you can’t really use it for high heat. If you have a clean oil, it’s a vehicle for flavour.

I started out doing different pop-ups at breweries under the name Lulu’s and I had a short stint at Midnight Special in Newtown, Sydney. I had been making the basic version of the chilli oil at one of my Lulu’s Goes Italian pop-ups and people really liked it.

When lockdown first hit, Sample Coffee had to adapt and became a grocery store, so I asked them, “Would it be cool if I put something on your shelf?” and they said yes. A friend of mine who liked to draw made a label for me.

Chili oil is pretty much all I’m doing. I have three different types now: original, anchovy chilli and ‘nduja chilli. I am a one-woman company and I can really only keep up with that right now. I want to keep it that way because I don’t see a reason to rush things when you want to make sure everything you put out is a reflection of you. I don’t want to put products out just to put them out.

I’ve connected with other chefs who have started condiment or other smallgoods businesses during lockdown. It’s been these amazing relationships with people who have their own journeys and opened up their own little shops, but [I’ve also connected with] quite a few chefs. Claire from Bloodwood in Newtown used the oil on her menu when it first came out. Andrea Sonnante from Sagra, Alex Wong from Lana and Hai Le are doing a project called Mannaggia a Trois and are using my ‘nduja oil.

One of my favourite people in the condiment biz, Gaspar Tse, has a business called Hotluck Snack Club. He was a chef at 10 William Street and he’s currently doing a pop-up at the Wildflower brewery. We connected last year and we made a product together which was called Maaate sauce, it was kind of like a BBQ dipping sauce. It’s been wonderful because not only did we produce something together, but we’ve really supported each other with the ups and downs of learning a new kind of business.

For Christmas, I’m doing a hamper with Gaspar, Zaal from Magic Mouth Jerky and Eun Hee An, a Korean chef who makes all sorts of amazing Korean products for her brand Moon Mart. We’re doing this together because we’ve connected through this community and are giving each other support. It’s really fostering the spirit of collaboration instead of competing with each other.

Image Credit: James Wallis and Lorraine Elliot