Interview: Rory Kelleher, Ol’ Red Beard’s chilli jerky…and more.

Rory Kelleher has already gained a reputation for producing some of the best chilli jerky available anywhere in the UK but did you know he also produces delicious spicy corn nuts and pork scratching’s? He visited me this week to deliver stock of his products and I had a chance to find out a little more about this up and coming rock star of the chilli world … and his beard.

Tell me a little about yourself?

I’ve always loved cooking, I am well known amongst my mates for my BBQ skills, both on Jasmine my trusty Webber and my smoker -Misty. I’m an engineer by trade, so I love to tinker and create things of my own. I’ve always mixed my own rubs and marinades, let’s put it this way – we eat well at our house! I have two young children, a girl who’s 5 and a boy who’s 2, who keep me on my toes. Summer is hands down my favourite season and spending time around the grill with the people I love is my happy place. Good food, good booze, good company – can’t go wrong!

I moved to St Neots 4 years ago from East London and found Edible Ornamentals through my other passion, chillies. They have supplied me with some amazing plants and helped to put the fire into some of my most tasty flavour combos.

How did you get started making jerky?

I received a dehydrator one year as a gift for Christmas, fully intending to make some fruit snacks for my two young children. I got to looking at Youtube for the best how-to videos, and down the rabbit hole I found some videos of people making beef jerky at home. Once I found them, it got me to reminiscing about my epic journey across the USA, driving down the west and east coasts, being passed by huge rigs, through the California Redwood Forests, across the Nevada Dessert and airboating through the everglades with my best mate, young and free. Most days were spent a little hungover and fuelling our hours of drive time were the staples: A&W root beer, cream soda and beef jerky. I knew I had to try making some myself. To this day, I haven’t made any dehydrated fruit snacks – sorry kids.

Rory (on the right) and me here at the Chilli Ranch this week.

It really was a small dehydrator, it only had 5 shelves if I remember, one of which was glued back together at one corner as my missus dropped it when drying it up one day. So after a bit of trial and error, I finally produced some beef jerky and it was every bit as amazing as I remembered. I began experimenting with different cuts of beef from my local butchers, Gilberts and various different flavours. I became known as ‘the jerky man’ after they asked me one day what I was doing with all this beef… Which leads me on to, how I met Lee at Badgers and started a collaboration with him.

I think it’s great the way you have collaborated with Lee at Badgers Artisan Foods, fusing his spices and your jerky into some beautiful products. What’s next for Ol’ Red Beard’s?

I actually found out about Lee of Badgers, through the guys at Gilberts, who told me about a local guy who produced some awesome chilli sauces that they happened to stock. I was intrigued and got in touch with him that way, which lead to chatting about my beef jerky making exploits. I started to play about with using some of his sauces and rubs to flavour my jerky and once I was happy with it I let him try some. He tried it, loved it and from that the Ol’ Red Beard’s, Badgers collaboration was born.

Lee has actually become a good friend and has very much helped to get me to where I am today. He really encouraged and guided me in setting up Ol’ Red Beard’s and I owe him a lot.

We started selling the jerky at the local farmers market on Saturday mornings from his stall. Our many chats led to dreams and aspirations about how else we could bring these amazing flavours to life, which really gave birth to the range of corn and pork scratchings included in the Ol’ Red Beard and Badgers range.

As for what’s next – I am expanding my range with some original Ol’ Red Beard’s flavours, (which I’m currently perfecting) across the full Jerky and snacks range, along with rubs and seasonings, later this year.

I’m really chuffed to be gracing the shelves at edible ornamentals and watch this space for an Ol’ Red Beard’s, Edible Ornamentals collaboration perhaps?

And what about the Beard?

The beard really came from trying to cover up my freakishly baby face and once I got growing, I didn’t want to stop! There was a slight setback using the wrong clipper guard during a trim up, but I love it and its here to stay. It’s my face on the products after all, and what a glorious beardy face it is.

What is your favourite chilli variety and why?

This is a really tough question! I’m an all-round chilli lover, be it dried, smoked, fresh, candied, it doesn’t matter. I love the flavours, I love the different intensities of heat. I’m equally at home putting slices of candied jalapeños in a burger, or chopping up a fresh reaper pod to add some serious heat to a homemade curry – my missus doesn’t always agree and despite my years of conditioning, she still has a cooling yogurt dip on stand-by.

You can connect directly with Ol’ Red Beard via his Facebook page here: You can find Ol’ Red Beard’s delicious chilli jerky, spicy corn nuts, and seasoned pork scratchings right here on our website or you can get them at the chilli shop here at the ranch or from Lee at Badger’s Artisan Foods at St Neots Farmers Market.

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