DESIGN STORY: Alan Cahoon, Owner of Curated Kitchen

Each year at Belfast Design Week, we try and run events throughout a range of venues across Belfast. We have collaborated and run events in spaces including Strand Cinema, Kaffe O, Ulster Museum and The Black Box to name but a few!

This year, the Design Skills UX workshop with Fathom will be kindly hosted by Curated Kitchen. We caught up with owner Alan Cahoon to find out more about Curated Kitchen’s built heritage as well as the service design and concept behind running the business.

Here’s our interview:

Please introduce yourself

I'm Alan Cahoon, owner of Curated Kitchen, a cafe and speciality coffee shop located in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter across from the front steps of St Anne's Cathedral. We serve breakfast, brunch, lunch and coffee for the social & curious with a weekly menu curated from cookbooks you will love.

What is the concept of Curated Kitchen and how did you come up with it?

There are two concepts behind Curated Kitchen:

The first is that there is so much good happening in the world of cookbooks that we can 'curate' a menu from them, changing it every week so that there is always something new to taste.

The second concept is that the kitchen is the heart of the home, a place where stories are told over good food that is made with love. Put the two concepts together and you get Curated Kitchen.

 Curated Kitchen’s selection of recipe books to make from and to borrow!

Curated Kitchen’s selection of recipe books to make from and to borrow!


How did you come up with the concept?

Iteration. The original idea wasn't called Curated Kitchen and looked nothing like today's concept but through testing, iteration and a lot of coffee I was able to identify the go-to-market concept.

Tell us a bit about the building Curated Kitchen is located in and its heritage. How have you worked with some of the original features?

The home of Curated Kitchen is Cathedral Buildings, a listed building built in 1901/02 by Belfast's original tea merchant, Lepper and Company, as their headquarters. Over the next one hundred years a lot of the heritage was hidden behind plasterboard walls and suspended ceilings. When I signed the lease I knocked a couple of holes in the plasterboard to find out what was behind and discovered the original red brick walls and period ceiling. From this point forward my vision was to give the unit a 'make under' to showcase the heritage for our guests. A huge thanks must go to the team at Paperjam Design for their idea to copy one of the ceiling patterns onto our compostable takeaway cups so that this heritage can be taken 'to go!’ (You can view the full branding by Paperjam Design here)

 Hidden built heritage - the ceiling behind the plasterboard in Curated Kitchen

Hidden built heritage - the ceiling behind the plasterboard in Curated Kitchen


What do you think the future holds for customer experience in coffee shops?

My belief is that customer experience is key regardless of the industry or sector. For coffee shops specifically I think the challenge is going to be finding the right balance of human and technological input.

Is design important to you and if so, why?

Absolutely, design is very important to me. Good design lowers barriers to discovery, exploration and engagement which can then build into a relationship between a person and an experience, a place or a brand.

Share a recipe for entrepreneurs and designers on the go to try and make!

How about this? Come into Curated Kitchen, get a coffee and browse our library for a cookbook that catches your attention. Flick through it to find a dish that you like the look of and that's the one that's right for you to try (and you're welcome to borrow the book)!


Design Skills: UX with Fathom is nearly booked up, so grab your ticket quick here !

Find out more about Curated Kitchen