Let's Eat

From mini MasterChef to baking businessman

Matty Caplin had a sweet lockdown, building his baking business


At peak lockdown, Matty Caplin was getting through 100kg of chocolate every fortnight. The 22-year-old Bushey Heath-based baker doesn’t suffer from serious cocoa cravings, but uses the confection to create a range of delicious cakes and bakes under his Matty’s Kitchen brand. “We were using near enough 10kg a day on our busiest periods!”

Unlike many of his colleagues in the hospitality industry, Caplin’s business blossomed during the pandemic — from a standing start to almost round the clock baking. “I was working from 4am until 11pm, seven days a week in peak lockdown. It’s been a crazy year — but it’s all good.”

He’d been furloughed from the job he loved soon after lockdown, when Tami Isaacs, the owner of Hampstead bakery and café, Karma Bread Bakery, was forced to close her business’s doors overnight.

Caplin had been there for five years and it was where he had learnt his craft. But his passion for food goes back much further. At nine he was cooking on prime time television — as a competitor on BBC Two’s Junior MasterChef. “There were 10,000 applicants and only 32 of us got on to the show. We had to get through multiple stages to get there” he says proudly.

“Food has always been a massive part of my life — I’ve been cooking and baking since I would reach the kitchen worktop.”

Caplin’s culinary love stems from his family. He says his mother, Helen Caplin, is a great cook and he would help her in the kitchen. “I got a lot of my passion from her and from my auntie, Sally Burdett, who has a catering company. I grew up helping her too. She is professionally trained and has worked at big restaurants and in professional kitchens.”

At JFS, he studied for a GCSE in food tech then a BTEC in catering and hospitality. Then he saw a call out by Isaacs at Karma Bread Bakery, a few months after they had opened, looking for someone to help out with peeling apples before Rosh Hashanah. “That was me!” he says. He started working for Isaacs at 16 — “the second I was old enough” — at first at weekends and school holidays.

He says Isaacs was very flexible, allowing him to blend his recipes with hers and even on that first New Year, he quickly moved from apples to honey cake baking. After a couple of years he went full-time, moved from the kitchen to the front of the shop and his role grew. “I was ordering from suppliers, helping hire and train staff. really enjoyed communicating with customers and making sure the food was coming in and going out correctly. I still helped in the kitchen when staff were off and carried on making things like Chanukah doughnuts as well as soups, salads and sandwiches.”

It was a great base for what was to come next: “I learned how to run a business from my time there and how to deal with customers”.

Five years on when the pandemic struck, baking and food was the obvious choice to keep him going financially. He started over Pesach: “Every year I’d been making my grandma’s and my own recipes for almond macaroons, cinnamon balls and matzah brittle so I did the same.”

Initially the business grew via word of mouth: “Everyone knew I loved baking and cooking and they wanted to order. I couldn’t keep up with the demand — people adored my matzah brittle!”

Post-Passover he needed a product range so he created his signature bake — a chocolate tea cake — almost by chance. The tea cake (which sounds like the stuff of a Great British Bake Off technical challenge) has a biscuit base topped with a dome of fluffy meringue all coated in a thin layer of shiny chocolate.

“I’d never made one before, but I had some egg whites over from my macaroon baking, and wondered what I could do with it. I hit upon the idea of the chocolate tea cakes, baked a batch — which came out almost perfect! That first picture of them is still one of my most popular pictures on Instagram.”

He says that social media was also crucial to the rapid growth of the business. “I advertised on my Facebook and Instagram that I was selling Pesach items and that collection was contactless. I was super careful as I was petrified of coronavirus.”

He has since developed a variety of flavours for his teacakes and now has more than 15 on his menu, including traditional vanilla; cookies and cream; raspberry ripple; mint chocolate and Jaffa orange. They are vegetarian, made without gelatine.

He has also managed to take cookies to new heights of indulgence. Not only are there more simple flavours like oat and raisin and (a mouth-watering) flourless double chocolate version, but also variations topped with confections including Maltesers; Lotus biscuit and white chocolate and Kinder Bueno; He also has a range of cookies stuffed with brownies.

The range on his website also offers fudgy brownies; fruit crumbles which change seasonally, and pots of cookie dough which the customer can bake at home for individual gooey, chocolatey pots or one giant sharing version for a group to fight over.

The hardest part, he says, has been keeping up with demand. “I’ve been through such stressful times this year, keeping up with the baking and dealing with orders via messages. I didn’t even have time to set up a website until last month. That launched on May 11 and will make the ordering process so much simpler.”

Business is now at a level that allows him to employ two assistants — one who helps wash up, packs and delivers and a second baker, who helps him with the brownies and tea cakes — and he has set up Matty’s Kitchen as a limited company.

His parents — in whose home he’s been living and baking all this time — allowed him to pretty well take over the house and have been hugely supportive. “I’ve taken over our family home with four fridges, a freezer and lots of storage shelves. My parents have converted a room to be used as my storage and they cannot use their own kitchen until after 6pm.”

However, he’s also now looking to find premises for the next stage of his burgeoning business. Somewhere with enough room to store all that chocolate.


Instagram:  / Website:  mattyskitchen


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