Cooking up a Storm with Molly Nathan
By Freya Gascoigne
In these unprecedented times, we’ve come to appreciate life’s little pleasures more than ever. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Molly Nathan, a recent Philosophy and Politics graduate the University of Leeds, has started her own business, delivering these little pleasures to people’s doorsteps all over London. Her food subscription business The Social Distancing Kitchen has been up and running since the end of March and has been a roaring success. The Social Distancing Kitchen provides gorgeous, homecooked meals delivered to your door. They operate via a subscription service or one-off deliveries, so whether you want the week off cooking or just the night, they have you covered. Their treat boxes of sweet and savoury grazing platters have also been a massive hit. What is even sweeter? 15% of the proceeds go directly to Women’s Aid.
The Social Distancing Kitchen also makes regular deliveries of free soup to the elderly and vulnerable in the local area, making this a business with a social conscience. At just 22 years-old, Molly has flourished in setting up a small but fast-evolving business under difficult circumstances. I had the pleasure of asking her all about it. Introducing Molly Nathan…
What inspired you to start cooking for others?
I was meant to be travelling around South America for three months, and then plans changed due to the current situation. At first I was thinking I could use my time to deliver free soup, and I sat with the thought for a few days. Being in the kitchen, at home in Wandsworth, with my mum all the time – a chef – we realised we could start something quite special. We wanted to offer families a break from cooking if they’re already trying to juggle working from home and home-schooling. I love volunteering, and wanted to use this business as a way of communicating with the wider society. I was also inspired by scrolling through Instagram and seeing amazing platters but for extortionate prices. I felt I could do it even better but at a more affordable price!
What challenges have you faced in starting a new business?
I think a big challenge was adjusting to the process. After graduating last year, I had only worked in 9 to 5 kind of jobs. Although I’ve cared about them, I’ve never had to take them home with me. Usually at work when you have a bad day, you can go home and forget about it. With this, I go to work at 6am and finish my day at 10pm – it’s been tough trying to separate my work and finding time to relax! It’s also been a challenge to evolve a new business within my family home, as we’ve turned the kitchen into our production line. But everyday gets easier in terms of the organisational structures. I’ve started hiring people to do deliveries. This was scary to start with because I’m handing over my creations that I feel protective over. But as the business has grown, delegating has been key to staying sane!
What have you enjoyed most?
It has been amazing to see people’s reactions to the food and products, particularly through Instagram. People from all over the country and even around the world message me to enquire about it, which has been really exciting. Two weeks in, I was approached by the PLOD Foundation. They are an amazing charity that provides funding and raises awareness for homelessness, refugees, and child bereavement. They are helping to house the homeless in the Putney Hotel during the pandemic and asked if I could provide free soup every Sunday for this initiative. I was nervous at first about taking on another responsibility, but we did it and it’s been great. I go every Sunday evening to help serve and this interaction has been refreshing and eye-opening. Seeing the positive impact of the work we’re doing up front has been amazing.
What has it taught you about yourself? or Lessons learnt?
It’s actually taught me that I’m quite impatient. Once I have an idea, I get so excited I just want to put it out straight away! When we first started I didn’t put a delivery limit on my orders, so people were ordering from anywhere. I did a three hour round trip for one of my first deliveries! It’s also taught me resilience, and the belief in putting my mind to things and actually achieving them. Before, I never really thought I was entrepreneurial at all. It’s nice to know that I can actually do things I didn’t think I would be capable of. Receiving such a positive reaction from people inspires me to keep trying to be even better. It’s also taught me to be constructively critical while I work. If I haven’t done something right, I just have to figure out why it didn’t go well, and then push past it and do something different.
Does The Social Distancing Kitchen have a future beyond COVID-19?
I’m starting a law conversion in September, which I’m funding with the profits I’ve made so far. But in the short term, we think it would be great to do bundles for socially distanced picnics. For example, with two savoury boxes we’ll offer a free bottle of rosé to keep up the incentive to buy. However much restrictions may be eased, restaurants might not be the same. But people still want that shared dining experience! Our boxes can be enjoyed at home, or you can take them to the park or on a walk, so I think that’s the plan for the months going forward. We’re taking each step as it comes, but no plans to slow down just yet.
What’s your favourite dish?
I love our savoury boxes. I have to credit my mum for the culinary genius, she is the mastermind behind how everything tastes. I do love the sweets as well, like our millionaire shortbread box. We advise people to eat within 6 hours of delivery so everything is super fresh and packed with flavour. We feel our products are quite unique: the bacon dust millionaire shortbread is groundbreaking! Because it’s a small operation everything we make is filled with love.
10% off discount code for Darling Readers: DARLING10 – purchases can be made via the website and the Instagram page.