Ready-made meals do­ing a brisk trade

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

YOUNG professionals and busy par­ents may be starved for time but thanks to Jess Daniell they cer­tainly aren’t go­ing hun­gry.

Ms Daniell is the brains be­hind Jess’ Un­der­ground Kitchen, which has been pro­vid­ing Auck­lan­ders with home-cooked take­away meals since Fe­bru­ary. Thanks to so­cial me­dia and a dash of in­ge­nu­ity busi­ness is boom­ing.

The 28-year-old cooks healthy but hearty dishes from a com­mer­cial kitchen three nights a week.

Cus­tomers place or­ders through her Face­book page and their din­ner is ready for them to col­lect from Ms Daniell’s Free­mans Bay villa on their way home.

She can make any­where from 60 to 100 or­ders a night.

Each week brings new cus­tomers en­tirely through word of mouth.

The com­pany has been mar­keted purely through Face­book since it be­gan and Ms Daniell hasn’t felt the need to use a web­site yet.

It was a friend’s ap­petite for her cook­ing that in­spired the foodie to put her mar­ket­ing and food writ­ing skills to work in the kitchen.

‘‘My friend said she knew so many peo­ple who would pay to eat my meals ev­ery night of the week and I thought maybe I could just try it and if it cov­ers our food bill that’s great. ‘‘It’s just grown from there.’’ Ms Daniell has no pro­fes­sional train­ing in the kitchen but says that’s what sets her apart in such a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket.

‘‘I think that comes out in my meals.

‘‘When peo­ple pick up my meals it feels like I’m a friend cook­ing for them even if I don’t know them.

‘‘It’s not fancy restau­rant food – it’s just good qual­ity, home-cooked food.’’

The menu is in­flu­enced by Ms Daniell’s trav­els and in­cludes ev­ery­thing from Thai curry to Mex­i­can bur­ri­tos.

But it is her beef and moz­zarella lasagne that is most pop­u­lar among hun­gry cus­tomers.

Cus­tomer de­mand has prompted her to in­tro­duce soups, frozen meals and dishes pre­pared for those who fol­low pa­leo and veg­e­tar­ian di­ets.

The next step is to work out how to reach the fam­i­lies and work­ers who can’t make it to Free­mans Bay to pick up their meals dur­ing rush-hour traf­fic.

A de­liv­ery ser­vice may be in the pipe­line.

Ms Daniell says she is con­sid­er­ing the op­tions of grow­ing the busi­ness to in­clude fran­chises in New Zealand or even in Aus­tralia in the fu­ture.

‘‘I think there could re­ally be a mar­ket for it.’’

But she says it is im­por­tant not to lose the kitchen’s un­der­ground feel.

‘‘I re­ally don’t want to com­mer­cialise. I’m quite aware of that and I think as long as I keep it small enough and don’t go down that route I can keep it per­son­able.’’

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Din­ner’s ready: Jess Daniell’s Un­der­ground Kitchen is pro­vid­ing busy Auck­lan­ders with more than stan­dard take­away fare for din­ner.

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