Bacon jam: meet the makers of this cult burger relish

James Brundle (left) and stepbrother Chris O’Connor from Eat 17
James Brundle (left) and stepbrother Chris O’Connor from Eat 17 Credit: Alex Catt

When Chris O’Connor spotted a 'For Sale’ announcement in his local paper 10 years ago, a food venture was his very first idea.

The property was a run-down cornershop in Walthamstow village, north-east London, close to where he lived. 'It had been a Londis shop in the 1970s,’ he explains, 'and hadn’t seen a lick of paint in 40 years.’ 

O’Connor bought the shop with his stepbrother, James Brundle, and the two packed in their marketing jobs to open as Eat 17 (inspired by their postcode). 'I had worked part-time as a chef during university and in hotel kitchens during summer holidays, and always wanted to do something with food,’ O’Connor says.

They filled the shelves with organic meat from the butcher round the corner, veg from local markets and organic farms in Essex, and mushrooms 'from a guy who forages on the outskirts of Epping Forest’. The sausage rolls that O’Connor whipped up, on a whim, at the back of the shop were eagerly received by their new customers. 

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It wasn’t long before the pair had bought the restaurant next door. 'Finally we had our own kitchen  to make stuff for the shop and restaurant,’ says O’Connor, who was joined in the business by his wife, Siobhan, and brother, Dan. 

The 'stuff’ O’Connor tinkered with in the kitchen quickly became Eat 17’s calling card. 'Burgers have always been our menu’s bestsellers,’ he explains, 'and I started to serve them with homemade onion marmalade and crispy bacon. One day I thought, hey, why don’t we just mix them together – it’ll save space at least!’

Credit: Alex Catt

Within a month his 'bacon jam’, a salty-sweet relish made with smoked British rashers, had been jarred up for the shop – where it promptly sold out. 'One of our loyal customers, a designer, fell in love with it and created the label.  It snowballed from there.’ 

Snippets in the local press led to a slot on The Jonathan Ross Show and Tesco buyers on the phone. Eat 17 Bacon Jam is now made in Wales, but O’Connor has since developed chorizo ('some people say it’s even better than the original’), straight onion, and chilli versions, in updated packaging (the work of another local customer).

The hugely popular range of Eat 17 ‘jam’ relishes Credit: Alex Catt

The team now runs two restaurants and shops in London, and Bacon Jam stars in everything from cheese and chorizo croquettes to mini sliders with taleggio and pickles.

'I want to get my chorizo, bacon and blue-cheese dip on the shelves by the summer,’ says O’Connor.

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