Chef Saima Khan had watched bookings for her high-end event and party catering business The Hampstead Kitchen dry up to “zero” when the pandemic started to take hold in March.
The 48-year-old former Wall Street analyst, who has prepared meals for the Clintons, the Obamas, Bill and Melinda Gates, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, knew that while she could sit out the lockdown and live off her savings, that was not an option for her 25 staff, many of whom are former refugees.
So she decided to launch an “at home” banquet service, which she has called Social Bubbling, to fill the void left by the shutdown of fine dining restaurants — and get her business up and running again.
Ms Khan and her team prepare the meal and bring it to the client’s house on silver mezze platters.
They then lay a table in the garden or driveway with crockery, cutlery, candles and linen napkins and tablecloths.
Dishes include pan-roasted sea bass with a pine nut, cherry tomato and sumac dressing, saffron chicken marinated with za’atar, and roasted aubergine with saffron and lemon yogurt.
After the meal she clears the table and collects the dishes so there is no washing up.
“All you have to do is dress up and choose your bottle of wine,” she said.
The service starts from £350 for a date night for two, up to £1,500 for the biggest booking so far, an extended family feast for a household of 20.
Ten per cent of each fee goes to a local food bank.
Under current government rules, diners are limited to people living under the same roof, but in the coming weeks it is hoped guidance will be relaxed to allow two households to meet.
Ms Khan said she had been inundated with inquiries since the launch, on May 21.
She is already full for next month and is taking orders for July, August and beyond.
She said: “I had no income stream from the beginning of March to the first booking on the day we launched.
"At that stage we didn’t do smaller dinner parties because people tended to go out but now people are really missing that.
“I realised that this is going to be part of daily life for a long time, so we had to develop a new product.
"I applaud restaurants for doing delivery and takeaway services, but we wanted to stay true to our core brand values which is about creating an experience.
"It has been quite challenging at times. But it’s about responsibility. When this is all over you want to be able to look back and say ‘what did I do to make things better?’”