Meet the award-winning east Leeds chef who delivers Sunday roasts, bespoke meals and desserts across the city
East Leeds chef Molly Payne knows how to put on a spread.
Born into a large Irish family in Halton, she spent her Sundays glued to her aunt's kitchen making Yorkshire puddings.
Now an accomplished chef delivering restaurant-quality meals to people's homes, Molly's culinary journey began at French restaurant Kendell's Bistro.
Molly's mum penned a heartfelt letter to the restaurant's manager when she was 12, asking if she could come in for work experience.
The team were moved by her ambition and invited her into the kitchen, where she stayed for just under 10 years.
Molly, 24, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I didn’t want to be in school, I wanted to be in the kitchen. You couldn’t get me out of there.
“My nanny would pick me from school at 3pm, I’d get changed and work at Kendell's from 4pm on Monday to Friday, then all day on Saturday.
“I loved the practical side of things and you can’t get any more practical than cooking in a kitchen.”
Molly worked her way up to head chef and was the first woman to win Chef of the Year at the Oliver Awards in 2017.
After a stint working at a triple AA Rosette restaurant in Liverpool, she returned home in November 2019 where she worked for an agency and was posted to Leeds Playhouse.
Molly appeared on a TV pilot with Gordon Ramsey, where she won the competition for young chefs, but then the pandemic hit - the show was pulled and she lost her job.
“When I’m in a kitchen I feel safe," Molly said.
"I’d gone from doing so many hours, with people around me and relying on me, to not working. It was a massive shock to the system, my mental health hit rock bottom."
The idea for ByMolly, the high-end delivery business that Molly runs with her partner Charlotte, was sparked on a bike ride in Roundhay during the first lockdown.
Molly spotted wild garlic and turned it into pesto for her family and friends. The pesto quickly turned into sauces and butters and then full meals, until Molly's family were overloaded with treats.
“My mum told me to stop sending her food because she couldn’t close her fridge," Molly added.
"We started to make food to donate to people during the first lockdown and then Charlotte encouraged me to start selling my food.”
ByMolly was an instant hit. The couple now personally deliver Sunday Roasts, signature dishes, ready made meals and desserts across Leeds, with former bartender Charlotte serving up cocktails.
As lockdown restrictions ease, Molly and Charlotte will offer private chef experiences, catering for fine dining dinner parties, family barbeques and more.
Molly said: "So many people have had such catastrophic news, so we were able to give people something they couldn’t have through lockdown.
“People wanted to be able to get dressed up and have a special meal in their home.
"Food makes people happy. The signature menu is really high-end, restaurant-quality, locally sourced food and it exceeded everyone’s expectations.
"We always check in with our customers, whether they order a stick of garlic butter or a signature menu. They love that we go that extra mile and they always come back."
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