Having worked in the hospitality industry for nearly 12 years, Esther Lewis has always loved creative, healthy and interesting food. She began to create recipes to feed people the best products she could when she stopped work to stay home with her young children.
“I discovered delicious almond butter made in made in my little food processor, fermented vegetables and relishes while generally flexing my creative muscle in my home kitchen,” Lewis said. From here she continued this journey through to the commercial production of her delicious pickles and krauts – starting at Milk Crate, making interesting condiments such as Turmeric Almond Butter for its famous vegan sandwiches and introduced her Beetroot Pickle to the menu.
Before starting her family, Lewis was working for Peoples Coffee at its flagship city café on Garrett Street. When the café began searching for more exciting additions to the menu, the owners came to check out her condiment collection. “It was a great opportunity to fine-tune some recipes I already had for sandwiches and different things and apply it to their toast menu. I could create a food and flavour workflow specifically with busy baristas in mind. My food is designed to be spread or dolloped together, with a sprinkle of garnish.”
The Esther’s product range differs from café to café depending on the season, and she always ensures the products are easy to use in their dishes. “There’s nothing too complex for the people preparing it because I understand busy cafes. It’s about putting as much flavour in those recipes as possible and creating a really good food experience.”
In business for 18 months now, based in Wellington Lewis manages her business by herself, investing in the help of some casual part-timers when needed. “At the moment I do menu design for the Peoples Coffee cafes. We have a wonderful seasonal toast at the moment: Beetroot pickled egg, pickled beetroot pinto beans, turmeric almond butter and fennel onion turmeric pickle. It’s the most beautiful piece of toast you ever saw- and it tastes just as good.”
Lewis describes her kitchen as a place for exploration and innovation in pursuit of colourful and delicious products that enhance peoples’ well-being. “Live sauerkrauts bubble away, golden toasted nuts turn into luxurious butters and seasonal produce is made into jams, jellies, pickles and relishes. Beans of all kinds are spun into vegan fudge and nutritious sweet treats.”
Fair-trade and organic ingredients are examples of some of the trending ingredients Lewis has been incorporating into her products. She especially enjoys working with organic coconut. “The way it lightly toasts into a golden crisp that I can grind into beautiful nut butter never gets old.”
A small business, with an incredibly small team, Esther’s stands out in her line of business but often finds it a challenge to compete with large producers who make condiments for the masses without the use of organic ingredients. Offering a range of unique products from a small business, Lewis is focusing on providing a point of difference and letting the quality of her creations attract her client base. “At Esther’s, we create handmade condiments from quality ingredients with new and interesting recipes. I create products that work together in a dish and present a work-flow for busy staff to serve really good food, quickly.”
Lewis receives a lot of positive feedback on her products, especially from friends whose children love her Turmeric Almond Butter and Cinnamon Almond Butter. “To know my good food is nurturing the young people in my community is the absolute best feeling in the world.”
Esther’s currently supplies to Peoples Coffee Constable Street and Luke Lane, Milk Crate and Juice on the Loose. Lewis also has hopes to open an Esther’s café in the future, with a full offering of good, organic food and great coffee for all to enjoy.