by Khalilah Ramdene
What does it take to grow a successful food business? Ask Gastronomy alum Irene Costello, and she’ll tell you it requires dedication to an idea and not being afraid to ask for help.
Costello is one half of Effie’s Homemade, a successful packaged food company that has garnered a list of impressive accolades over the past year, including a gold sofiTM Award in the cookie category, and the title of Best Sweets in Massachusetts from Cooking Light. Recently, Costello and Effie’s co-founder Joan MacIsaac, a fellow graduate of Boston University’s Culinary Certificate program, were featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, in an article that profiled seven female food entrepreneurs. The growing list of accomplishments is evidence of the company’s steady success and a sign of good things to come.
Costello made the switch from a career in finance to food and has never looked back. She credits the BU Gastronomy program with allowing her to earn her degree in the evening at her own pace, as well as offering her the opportunity to learn professional kitchen skills without enrolling in a four-year program. Her favorite class in the program? Food History, a course that parallels the nostalgia associated with Effie’s Homemade. Their first product, an oatcake that’s both a cookie and cracker, was inspired by a fourth-generation recipe from MacIsaac’s grandmother, who made the oatcake for her family on special occasions. Costello is also a contributing writer for Edible Boston, where she often adds a historical bent to her writing, pulling from the knowledge she gained while at BU.
Up next for Effie’s Homemade is a line of savory crackers inspired by the flavors of the Mediterranean. And Costello’s got a word of advice for Gastronomy students with dreams of owning their own food company: “You now have access to the network. It opens doors that you come from the program. If you want to take a product to the market and you’ve never done it before, it’s huge learning curve. Find someone who’s done it and ask for help.”