byMolly Leeds: MasterChef star on what it's like to be a private chef and cook for the city's stars

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An award-winning private chef in Leeds has revealed what it’s like to cook for some of the most notable people in the city.

MasterChef: The Professionals star Molly Payne is the founder of fine-dining private chef service byMölly, which she runs with her partner Charlotte Drew. 

The company was formed during the pandemic, when the couple found themselves with “no other options” as all restaurants were forced to closed. 

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Five years on, the business is booming and the growing list of customers features some of the most high-profile people in Leeds - including Leeds United players

Molly told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “As bad as a time it was for everybody, the pandemic was a big blessing for me and Charlotte because it gave us no other option but to find stuff to do through lockdown. 

“It started on the third day of lockdown, foraging wild garlic butter, and five years on, I like to think we are a successful private chef company.”

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Molly Payne, 27, is an award-winning private chef in Leeds. Photo: National WorldMolly Payne, 27, is an award-winning private chef in Leeds. Photo: National World
Molly Payne, 27, is an award-winning private chef in Leeds. Photo: National World | National World

The 27-year-old, who began her career working at French restaurant Kendall’s Bistro, said becoming a private chef has helped her become a better cook as she designs unique tasting menus that are catered for each client. 

“And no booking is ever the same,” Molly said. Whether it’s a corporate event, a fine dining dinner party or a tasting menu, Molly finds herself on her toes at all times.

But the moment that really caught her by surprise was when she had been booked to design and serve a menu for a Leeds United Player. She recalled: “It was a few years ago. We didn't know it was a Leeds United player until we arrived. So we created everything as normal, the menus had his favourite dishes and his partners’, and then when we got to the address, it was quite surreal because I am a big Leeds United fan. 

“We both love football and to turn up at a Leeds United player’s home and cook for them, chat with them, give an insight into our story and tell them about our journey, it was amazing.

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“It was nothing that we could have ever expected but it's happened a few times now - football managers and very successful businessmen and businesswomen, and they love byMolly.

“That's part of the experience - to be able to tell them about our story. That’s very important to us. Rather than just cooking for them, we like to give an exclusive experience and it's nice to be able to tell people of that stature our story.” 

Winning big at the Oliver Awards 2024, in the Best Speciality category, is another milestone and memory the chef said she will remember forever. 

Molly said: “That was quite a huge one for us. The YEP has been with us since the beginning, before MasterChef, before we were even a private chef company, back when we were making little packets of soup to get recognised. 

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“And to kind of get that nod from such prestigious awards, it's definitely something that we hold very close to our heart and we count ourselves really lucky to be able to say that we won this year. It’s definitely one of our proudest achievements within byMolly, certainly.”

Her tasting menus feature the best locally-sourced produce, but after a long day of cooking for others, Molly is happy to dine on simpler meals, whether it be a lasagna, chicken dippers and chips or a McDonald’s takeaway. 

She jokingly added: “The pleasure is serving people food but I definitely do not eat the way our customers do.” 

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