The Local Denmark: Meet the expat spicing up Danes' dinner tables

Melanie Haynes 9 September 2016
11:21 CEST+02:00

Spice Mamma founder Terri Galappathie. Photo: Submitted

In the latest instalment of My Danish Career, The Local spoke with Terri Galappathie about turning her passion for traditional food into a growing business.

Like many expat women, Terri Galappathie left a career behind to move from the UK to Copenhagen with her husband and children. She grew up in Wakefield in the north of England but was living in London when she and her Swedish husband decided to move to the Danish capital. They wanted their children to have a similar childhood to her husband's but decided to move somewhere that was new to both of them.

When Galappathie was at home with her then six-month-old twins, her mind turned to what to do once the younger two joined her daughter in daycare.

“I knew I wanted to do something new and the opportunities for inexpensive, excellent daycare in Denmark meant that I was able to be a working mum much more easily,” she said. 

While her twins were still babies, Galappathie was struck with a business idea. Very early in her new life in Copenhagen she noticed how hard it was to make the curries she loved to prepare for her family, which now includes a fourth child. 

Having grown up eating traditional Sri Lankan food, she wanted to make kits that would allow for easy preparation of delicious curries at home. The idea of Spice Mamma was born, although not without some concerns from her Swedish in-laws. 

“Traditionally Scandinavians think of curry as something served with meatballs and not very spicy. When I told my father-in-law about my idea to produce and sell a variety of curry kits, that's when I first encountered something of a cultural barrier when he asked if there was more than one kind of curry!”

Although Denmark doesn't have strong culture of eating traditional curries the one thing that made Galappathie think her idea would work was how Danes have a culture of cooking at home rather than regularly eating takeaways. 

“I noticed how Danish people love to have their friends and family to their homes to enjoy hygge and a big part of that was the preparation and consumption of home-cooked foods. People value the time they share eating and enjoying food. They also care about where the food comes from,” she said.

Spice Mamma opened in 2015 with a website selling a selection of curry packs that allow customers to simply their meat or vegetables and a few fresh ingredients, follow the simple instructions to then enjoy an authentic curry experience. They are the curries Galappathie enjoys eating herself and her mum helped her to ensure the spice mixes were as good as they could be. But the product was just one part of the journey.

“I don't speak Danish fluently so the paperwork to start a business, especially a food-based one, was time consuming. But I found everyone I had to deal with incredibly helpful,” she said. “If they couldn't speak to me in English they found someone who could. I found the whole system very supportive and there were no barriers in starting my business.” 

Living in city much smaller than London helped Galappathie take her business one step further this year. 

“I was in [department store chain] Magasin and I thought how great it would be if they stocked the Spice Mamma range. I asked a staff member for the name of the right person to approach and simply called him. We had a positive meeting and he took some of the packs home to try. Shortly after he came back to me and agreed to stock the whole range in the store. I can't imagine how long a similar process would have taken the UK.”

Spice Mamma packs are now available in Magasin and on the launch day at the end of August, Galappathie was there handing out samples of korma curry for people to try. 

“I cooked and gave out taster samples of chicken korma.  The reception was very good. People seemed to like the taste and the concept. I was surprised again how little exposure and knowledge Danes have of Indian food, a lot of people had never even heard of korma curry. But the packs completely sold out that day, so I guess that was a good sign for the future of Spice Mamma.”  

Galappathie's twins showing support for their (spice) mamma's business. Photo: Submitted

http://www.thelocal.dk/20160909/meet-the-uk-expat-spicing-up-danes-dinner-tables