Serv­ing up a STORM

Berkshire Life - - Spa Review - WORDS: So­phie Tweedale

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

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