Mandira’s Kitchen is an award winning producer of authentic Indian food, Based out of a 400 year old cowshed in the beautiful Surrey Hills, this all woman business create authentic homestyle freezer meals using family recipes, no preservatives and lots of love. These meals are stocked in numerous farm shops but can be ordered online and are shipped to any UK address . MK also provide catering for large and small events, run hands on cookery lessons and run a little Indian street food cafe next to their retail shop. We caught up with the team recently to discover more about this award winning brand and its success.
Who are the founders and what is their background?
Mandira moved to the UK 23 years ago not knowing how to cook – she missed the cook back in India more that she missed her parents! Over the next 17 years she did learn to cook – mainly from family recipes but worked as a Management Consultant and constantly complaining about the lack of proper Indian food. In 2016, she left her full time job after a friend told her to “put her money where is” and ran two supper clubs in her living room and the rest is history.
Can you tell us why was it created? What is its mission?
Mandira’s Kitchen aims to create homestyle Indian food – not the kind that is available in an ” Indian restaurant ” or a takeaway but the kind you would eat if you went into an Indian home. The food that Mandira grew up eating – the kind of food an aunt or a grandaunt cooks for you – using fresh seasonal ingredients – family favorites and regional dishes! At MK, they do not believe in churning out a curry because it sounds Indian but create proper family style meals to enjoy together with no fuss and no stress.
What are its USPs?
Each dish comes with a story of the colors and smells of India. The recipes have been passed down the generations and include meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan dishes. Most of the dishes are gluten free and contain all fresh ingredients from within a 50 mile radius of Silent Pool where possible. There are certainly no unpronounceable bits as the food is all flash frozen to preserve flavour and can be kept in a freezer for up to 6 months.
Across the entire range you can take a journey right across India, sampling typical cuisine from all the different areas.
Banquets are especially curated to provide celebration meals which whisk you away to the dusty Indian continent. The range also includes cookery lessons, spice tours and catering for special events.
Can you share the story of the brand’s journey – from concept to where it is now?
In 2016, after two successful and impromptu supper clubs in her front room, Mandira was inundated by catering requests and nine months later, she created her range of of home style freezer meals which were stocked initially in 6 local farm shops. She took over what was to be her husband’s man cave in the garden turning it into a professional kitchen and started operations.In 2019, the business moved to its current location – a 400 year old converted cowshed in the Surrey Hills – overlooking the beautiful Silent Pool. Mandira’s Kitchen is mainly women staffed ( bar one very brave man!) – who orignally came for a little job in a shop. Most of the women are on a second career and the company is now a multi award winning artisan business producing authentic, preservative and gluten free freezer meals that are supplied to many farm shops and across the UK to many households that include celebrities like Nigella Lawson and Royalty. Mandira’s Kitchen also provide catering for large and small events run cookery lessons and spice tours. As of this year, MK have also added a an authentic street food area called Chai on the Patio for visitors to stop by and enjoy some proper Indian street food and freshly made chai and samosas. A company that way started less than five years ago with an initial investment of £750 has now recently turned over over half a million pounds.
Who are the key personnel, and can you tell us a little about their contribution to the brand?
Mandira’s Kitchen is run pretty much like an old Matriarchal Household. There is laughter, camaderie and being a start up – everyone pitches in where needed. That being said, the cooking is done mainly by Mandira herself and Sabina ( who originally came to work in Mandira’s house as a cleaning lady!). There is a “Kitchen Devil” team who assist Sabina and Mandira with the day to day ordering, prepping and packing. All other aspects of the business – be it shop, café, catering, website, are jointly handled by a small core team of woman who are are assisted by a junior team ( students) under Mandira’s eagle eye and own brand of humor. There is a larger “markets” team who are responsible for running various stands at Farmers’ Markets and external events. The company prides itself in the fact that no matter who you speak to – be it Becky or Soozie, Cora or Sarah, Clare or Pippa – you will be greeting with smiles, great conversation and the MK special touch.
Can you tell us about any eco/sustainability initiatives the brand has?
Mandira’s Kitchen is a no single use plastic site. From the freezer meals packaging in cardboard to non laminated sleeves that can be fully recyled, to natural palm leaf plates and stainless steel thalis in the cafe, the company believes the earth is not for us to inherit but to leave in a better place for our children.
All produce is bought within a 50 km radius as far as possible, delivery of meals are made in fully recyclable cardboard containers using eco carry partners, and every effort is made to reuse, reduce and recycle.
In addition some other initiatives worth highlighting are the MK Orange and Gin Chutney and the Kingfisher Watercress Dal. The Orange and Gin Chutney is made using the oranges that are left over from the neighboring Silent Pool once they use the peel in their gin. These then come down to MK and are turned into their 2 Great Taste Winning Chutney with a little bit of the gin added to it. Similarly the Watercress dal is made with the “ugly” bunches of watercress from the neighboring Kingfisher Farm who have been growing Watercress for over a hundred years.
Can you tell us about any key charity/philanthropic initiatives/efforts the brand has?
In 2021, Mandira’s Kitchen won the Mayor’s Award for Community Service and also the Lord Lieutenant’s Award for Service. Throughout the Pandemic, Mandira’s Kitchen cooked and delivered over 5000 meals through its Holiday Hunger Project to families suffering from food poverty. It also provided meals to frontline NHS staff .
What are the brand’s biggest successes?
Since its creation, Mandira’s Kitchen has been steadily been winning hearts and tastebuds. It has experienced a 1800% growth in the past two years, received numerous awards including 16 Great Taste Award Stars, Best Local Startup, Winner of the Great British Entrepreneur Award South East, Small Business 100 ( top 100 small businesses in the UK ) as well feeding and hosting numerous celebrities such as HRH Prince Edward, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson to name but a few. It has been featured in the Telegraph, Guardian , Good Housekeeping as well a host of other publications. However that aside, Mandira believes her biggest success comes from the fact how here little business has now been taken into the hearts and dining rooms of her customers who take it upon themselves to be the biggest advocates of the food of her home and childhood.
5-10 key pieces of advice for success?
1 . Start small but plan big – you cannot travel at 1000 miles per hour if you build a 20 mph car .
2. Surround yourself with people you trust – skills can be taught but trust needs to be there from day one.
3. Operate with generosity – no business can operate without good karma and here at MK we believe you need the blessings and goodwill of others.
4. Find your niche and then be the best version of that as you can.
5. Listen to others but go with what you believe.
Favourite inspirational/motivational/leadership type quotes?
” People will forget what you said, people will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou. So be the reason for somone’s smile today.
What are the brand’s website and social handles?
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