Q and A with Axel Katalan: Founder of JULIENNE BRUNO

by Jan 6, 2023

What do you love most about the brand you’ve created?

It’s allowing JULIENNE BRUNO chefs to create as freely as they used to with dairy products. It’s giving back that sense of anything is possible in the kitchen and expecting more from plant-based ingredients.

Have you always wanted to work in this industry?

Ever since I can remember, as a toddler I used to come back home at the age of 7 and the idea of “fun” for me was to learn how to make pizza from scratch, or how to perfectly cook a beetroot. I then grew up watching the hospitality industry with fervent romanticism, the service culture, the creative gastronomy and of course the timeless brands created along the way.

What are you most proud of?

Just a few days ago, we had our annual festive team dinner, and it made me think back to the early days of when we started. As we sat there with 20 smiling souls at the table, cracking jokes and celebrating a good end to the year, I felt a great sense of belonging and team spirit.

What advice would you give to someone keen to start a business but unsure where to begin?

I like to approach any new thing by breaking it down to digestible and actionable parts. E.g. have an idea? First write it down in a succinct way, then create a simple few slides explaining the why behind it and the opportunity.

Following that, start presenting it to a few people to get feedback and help. From there try to find the simplest form in which you could test the idea. E.g. Do you want to start a bakery? Then start baking back home, package the goods, and hand deliver around London.

Build a community around what you do. Learn, get momentum, get comfortable with your products and look to improve them each day.. And so on. Basically, every long journey starts with figuring out what your next immediate step is, whilst having the wider dream as an anchor of direction.

Who is one of your biggest inspirations – either professionally or personally?

Our board advisor, mentor and long time friend Alan Yau – who was the founder of restaurants such as Wagamama, Hakkasan, Park Chinois, Princi, Busaba and many more. During the time I worked with him, I got a peak into a world of mindful detail craftsmanship that really opened my eyes as to how to create something with substance behind it.

If you could attribute your success to anyone who gave you your big break?

Family is always first because without their support none of this would be possible. Professionally, the first big break came from when I became the Head of Community at a FinTech accelerator called Level39 in London/UK. It was headed up by Eric Vanderkleij, a successful entrepreneur who was tasked with making London the next silicon valley of our generation. I approached him whilst I was still studying and he took me under his wing and threw me straight into the melting pot that is venture capital, startups, founders, accelerator programmes, networking and everything in between.

In the time I worked within his team, I learnt more than 4 years at a university, also made connections that to this date I am in touch with and have helped me progress in the world of venture building.

What’s the hardest thing about your job?

Both hardest and yet most rewarding is finding the right talent to bring into the team. When you really care about what you are building, the inspiration is to find people that can add to that dream with the level of passion that is meaningful. So we do spend quite a bit of time connecting with prospective candidates to bring into the journey with us.

Which part of your job do you most enjoy?

The creative and brand building side. As you build from an empty page, everything needs a first thought of “ok, so how do we do this?”. That part is incredibly exciting, because you can get to really make an impact on how things develop from there onwards.

Do you find it easy to balance work and play?

At the moment I’d say I am at 90% work which I am well aware is not the healthiest, but at the same time I go to sleep and wake up dreaming about the JULIENNE BRUNO universe we are building with some amazing people. Naturally some days are hard and some days are great. But it’s the journey that I most enjoy.

About Emily Eaves

Co Founder and Editor at To Work or Play, Emily has been Freelance Copywriting for over 10 years. She is passionate about food, drink, travel, design and finding ways to keep her two children out of trouble.

With a background in Luxury Restaurant and Hotel PR, Emily moved from London to Dorset in 2019. She now spends weekends at the beach and daydreams about her vegetable garden.