A Winner's Interview with Dapur Mariae
Small Producer Award Winner 2020,
Cooking Sauces Winner 2020,
Cooking Sauces Winner 2018, Dips Winner 2018

Mariae Hackett, founder of Dapur Mariae, tells QFA why she started her business, what inspired her to enter the QFA, and how her business has changed since winning.

Can you tell us more about Dapur Mariae? What is your main source of inspiration?
My husband Gerard is a trained chef, and his mother was an excellent cook, and I come from a culture where food plays a pivotal role. My own family hailed a generation of great cooks, particularly my mother who introduced me to the kitchen at a very young age. Together it was a perfect union where food, fun, and laughter around the dining table with family and friends was and still is a regular feature. Hence Dapur Mariae was born after we were prompted by everyone who fell in love with our food to share our passion beyond our humble kitchen. They believed it would be a resounding success especially as Malaysian cuisine was still relatively unknown 5 years ago and desperately needed to make its mark amidst a sea of other all too familiar South Asian flavours. Our main source of inspiration undoubtedly would be our families who have encouraged and supported us from the start, and through all the highs and lows.

Why did you decide to enter the Quality Food Awards?
I stumbled on the QFA one day via social media and debated on whether we should enter. My initial hesitance stemmed from the daunting prospect of being judged alongside major supermarkets and players within the industry. However, my worry was replaced with the possibility of winning and being validated and recognised by expert judges. The accolade of having a sticker on our products was too hard to resist and so we bit the bullet in the end!

What is your favourite thing that has happened since winning the Awards?
Hands down the favourite thing has to be winning Small Producer Award in 2020 along with the amazing opportunity of listing our products in 150 Coop stores. Along with the listing in Co-op, we were also selected to be one of the 9 small businesses to be part of their Incubator Scheme. The scheme offers mentorship and support from the start till the products go onto the shelves.

"The main effect of winning for our business is that it instilled confidence in our customers that our products were tasty and high quality! Without a doubt it has assisted greatly in increasing sales and gaining a wider audience who are both eager and curious."

What is your advice for anyone looking to enter the Quality Food Awards?
I would advice anyone who is reticent about entering to just take the plunge and go for it. Even if you don’t win, there is the opportunity to network and more importantly, receive valuable feedback from the judges. As a start-up or even if you’re an established business, there is always room to learn and gaining perspective from others helps with future growth.

What are your plans for the future? Where do you want to be in three years?
Our plan is to continue with our mission of spreading the joys of Malaysian cuisine borne from a rich culture and heritage to everyone. We want it to be a product that is a staple in food cupboards all over UK. In 3 years, we intend to have an extended range and be readily available in other supermarkets, independent retailers, and truly be entrenched as a household name.

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