While fans of Jamie Oliver will be familiar with his catchphrase ‘wazzy wazzy woo woo’, in the past year says Mary O’Brien, it has crossed the Irish Sea and become more recognisable in West Cork for the decadent sweet offerings served up by local business ‘Wazzy Woo’, who has revolutionised the world of desserts on our doorstep with its healthy but delicious 100 per cent plant-based baked goods sweetened using non-refined sugar and made without gluten.
The Scottish native turned West Cork man behind this sweet success story is Liam O’Leary. Currently churning out over 700 peanut oaties every week at his kitchen just outside Clonakilty, from an assortment that includes 16 products, ranging from on-the-healthier side, peanut butter cups, nut and date bars and energy balls, to a selection of mouthwatering treats such as fudgy raspberry brownies and hazelnut brookies, Wazzy Woo has become a firm favourite in satisfying West Cork’s sweet tooth – without the usual guilt that’s served up with dessert!
With the business thriving since its beginnings just under two years ago, Liam now has eyes on a bigger slice of the cake in the creation of a Wazzy Woo shop and cafe in Clonakilty. Opening at the beginning of December in a shared space on Asna Square with current residents Crudge’s Barbershop, Wazzy Woo will bring a whole new non-refined sugar buzz to the centre of town. Aside from the usual moreish baked goods and nutritious nibbles, there will be cold pressed juices, kefir and other functional drinks plus some healthy breakfast pots. Once the weather warms up Liam will be adding refreshing acai bowls to the menu but, with the cold snap ahead, from now until spring there will be hot chocolates and lots of other luscious winter drinks. This offering of course includes coffee, with neighbouring friends Stone Valley roasting a full-bodied Brazilian bean for Clonakilty’s newest cafe which, as well as catering for grab-and-go patrons will also have comfortable seating available for up to 16 people.
Liam was first introduced to the world of hospitality as a young teenager; he started his culinary career pot washing at the age of 13 at Ballylickey Manor House. Proving his mettle to the French cooks brought rewards for the aspiring young chef and after three summers under their instruction – “they were scary as hell” he laughs – he knew he was destined to follow a path in food and hospitality.
Since then he has never strayed – “except for a year working in accounts administration in New Zealand, which my accountant will find funny I’m sure!” he shares – and when his food journey brought him to Stone Valley Roasters in Clonakilty in March last year, it was purely by chance that it proved the impetus for the Wazzy Woo story, which grew very quickly.
“I was working with the lads at Stone Valley and they were looking for someone to supply power balls and a few other bits, so I gave it a lash! I slapped a name on the business, and here we are!” shrugs Liam.
Success of course is no accident and behind the scenes, Liam, with the help of employees Daniel and Nora, is working hard to meet increasing orders in his production kitchen, sometimes putting in what can be long and lonely 16-hour days.
When he does get out for quick coffee catch-ups or pints with friends, he says he gets a kick out of people shouting ‘Wazzy Woo’ at him. “It’s immensely satisfying,” he laughs. “I don’t have time to do the deliveries myself anymore, but there is the odd Friday that I can spare a few hours to get out with a few boxes, I really love those days, catching up with my customers and having the craic!”
He credits his friend Grainne Darmody of ‘Pink Moon’ fame in Cork City as being his biggest inspiration in the creation of Wazzy Woo. “I must admit that I was sceptical when she told me her entire offering of cakes and treats would be completely vegan and made without gluten,” shares Liam “but she blew me away! I learnt so much from her, most of all the fact that the demand for these products is high, and growing stronger all the time.”
He also gives a special mention to his fiancee Kane, who helps out with the business, running errands and doing photography, graphic design, maintenance and deliveries when required.
While there is lots more in the pipeline for Wazzy Woo, Liam is playing his cards very close to his chest when it comes to his future vision for growing the brand. He will however reveal that once the shop is up and running, a larger production unit will follow.
There’s that and of course the Wazzy Woo decadent take on a mince pie to look forward to! Expect a shortbread base with a layer of dark and fruity mincemeat, topped with a punchy cinnamon crumble…dusted, of course, with lots and lots of icing sugar. Christmas on a plate – Wazzy Woo style!