Mandira moved to the UK in 1998 from her home in Delhi and was welcomed with a cold and wet October day. Having been the dutiful wife, she followed her husband, Samin to the UK as he was due to start his MBA at Warwick University. She didn’t know how to cook and she says she missed her cook from home more than her parents. Any sort of restaurant was out of the question and she found her way into Management Consultancy, where she remained for over 17 years. She was constantly frustrated with not being able to find any ‘proper’ Indian food in the area and this made her pine for her homemade food back in India.
Whilst regaling a friend with this frustration, the exasperated friend told her to ’put her money where her mouth is’, and if she could not find the authentic food she craved, stop moaning about it and do something. This was her lightbulb moment.
So in 2016 Mandira decided to follow her heart, and her stomach, and do something her parents would be absolutely appalled by. After all, who gives up a high profile, well-paid job to be a cook in their 40s? Mandira’s Kitchen was born.
Initially, the idea was to offer supper clubs and catering from her home kitchen but as with all great ideas, she was soon swamped with interest and, in 2019, she moved into beautiful new commercial premises overlooking Silent Pool in Albury near Guildford. There is now a roaring trade in offering award-winning food, culinary experiences such as cookery lessons, spice tours and supper clubs. Their shop also boasts the finest Malabar coffee, freshly brewed Chai and the crispiest samosas in town. As many agree, Mandira’s Kitchen make the finest Indian cuisine many have ever tasted.
Proof of this comes in the form of countless awards, such as the Small Business 100 and the Great Entrepreneur Award, resulting in the sale of more meals in one day last April than in the previous nine months combined.
Mandira employs a highly loyal work-force, made up almost exclusively of local women who too like Mandira have no background in food and have embarked on a second career.
The pandemic was seen as an opp-ortunity to give back to the community that has been so supportive of the business. During the first lockdown, the company supplied over 500 free meals to front-line workers at the Royal Surrey Hospital and over the past two months, they have supplied over 1,000 meals to children suffering from holiday hunger and food poverty.
Mandira realised the potential of her market in the early days – this market has grown by 8.4% in 2020 and is estimated to be valued at £4.3 billion, with vegan, gluten-free and Indian food taking a major chunk of these sales. This growth has now been further accelerated with COVID-19 where more and more people are unable to eat out and are craving healthy, artisan products to enjoy at home.
The commercial potential of their products is apparent as this year they have had one of the busiest ever. With the introduction of further lines including a range of larder goods, chutneys and pickles, a selection of artisan ice creams and gifts, all of which are now available for delivery to any UK address as well as through their every increasing network of farm shop stockists.
The future is looking bright for this lady who arrived in the UK with zero ability to cook but who is now one of the leading lights in the cuisine scene in Surrey.
• Surrey Chamber People’s Choice Award 2020
• Great British Entrepreneur 2020 South East Food and Drink Winner
• Guildford Innovation in Business Winner 2019 and 2020
• Small Business 100 2020
Silent Pool, Shere Road, Albury GU5 9BW