Serving up a STORM
Emma Benson – aka Mrs B – is bringing her own brand of culinary magic to a new cafe in Newbury. We chatted to the caterer turned cafe entrepreneur to find out what’s in store…
Emma Benson knows how to deal with an emergency in the kitchen, from ovens breaking down at a wedding she was catering (sprinting to a nearby house to cook 100 beef fillets, with the bride none the wiser) to coping with more than one hollandaise sauce disaster. But it’s all in a day’s work for one of Berkshire’s busiest party caterers.
They are credentials that stand Benson’s latest venture in very good stead – the brand-new Mrs B’s Kitchen is about to open on Faraday Road in Newbury.
The latest jewel in Newbury’s dine-out scene is set in the heart of one of the town’s burgeoning business districts, on the former Crescent Signs site. The cafe, which will be open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon teas six days a week, has a wholesome and home-cooked feel as Benson proudly prepares all the locally sourced food on site.
In short, it is the fruition of a long-held dream for the 53-yearold mum of three. Benson says: “We’ve been established for 15 years now as a catering business, growing by recommendation and repeat customers, so I am very excited about opening this new café; it’s a milestone I’m proud of.”
The party pioneer says she began saving for her “warehouse project” five years ago, squirrelling away funds while she honed the business plan.
“I was always looking at other people’s cafes and imagining
Mrs B’s Kitchen there and how it would work,” she says. “I wanted to create an informal space where people can come and meet and enjoy good, simple food.”
When the spot came up last year, Benson jumped at it. She believes it’s the perfect space for a cafe, whilst allowing the booming catering side
– which counts celebrities and dignitaries amongst its customers – to flourish.
She says: “As business grew, our home had started to look like a catering storage unit with pots and pans everywhere!
“The garage was overflowing and our kitchen was full of fridges, which don’t look very nice! Being based at home was becoming more difficult. The cafe’s a big commitment and will be hard work, but it will be fun too.”
Brought up on a remote farm in “very rural” Somerset, Benson was living and working in London when the family decided a big life change was overdue.
Eschewing the demands of a nine-to-five existence, after years of working for a production company in London, in 2001 she relocated to Berkshire with her husband, Marcus, and children then aged five, four and one.
She explains: “I really wanted something I could do while being a mum at home. I was already a keen home cook, often making biscuits for friends, so I paid for a table at the school Christmas fair and it completely sold out.”
Next came the artisan fairs, selling through farm shops and events in Berkshire. Word spread and, before long, Benson was “overwhelmed” with orders.
“I realised that I was going to run myself into the ground making biscuits one by one. The volume was spiralling out of control,” she says. Spotting a gap