Helly's Kitchen - Taking over the world one marshmallow at a time
Helly Armstrong is taking over the world: one marshmallow at a time. Previous Pastry Chef at The Savoy Hotel in London, Helly wanted to start her own culinary adventure, and thus Helly’s Kitchen was born, creating some of London’s most delightful marshmallow treats.
A young-starter, Helly first learnt how to bake with her Mum at home, but perhaps owes her more creative baking style to the “Clever Cook” cookbook, which taught her how to bake a single cupcake over a lightbulb. (Don’t try this one at home kids). Having completed a French degree at Bristol University, Helly realised that a 9-5 office desk job was probably not for her, and so started to explore the world of the professional kitchen. Pastry became her passion (largely thanks to her very sweet tooth), and she continued to work hard, gaining experience in some of the most respected restaurants and hotels in London, including The Wolseley, L’Autre Pied, Flesh & Buns; and she was also ‘Head Crumpet Maker’ at Good and Proper Tea.
Training as a Pastry Chef requires a vast array of skills, which Helly gained during her time in professional kitchens, working in big teams and producing large quantities of patisserie products (including marshmallows, which she swore she would never make again). Although the most obvious route for a Pastry Chef with her skill-set and experience was to rise through the ranks in world-class restaurants and hotels, Helly wanted to take her own more modest and rustic route.
In exploring what avenue Helly’s Kitchen should follow, Helly began experimenting – supplying both sweet and savoury options to markets, cafés and cooking for private clientele. But as it was, marshmallows were what captivated her most. A versatile product, Helly’s Kitchen now focuses on marshmallows (straight-up), s’mores, macarons and tea cakes (a work in progress).
Her signature s’mores, she discovered in one of the restaurants she previously worked in – providing a challenge to (commonly perfectionist) pastry chefs because of the combination of biscuit and marshmallow, requiring attention to both flavor and texture. Her Lemon Meringue s’more is particularly inspired by her friend Terri from Fraise Sauvage and she seeks inspiration in many other walks of life, from things she eats through to cocktails and other top-class pastry chefs’ products.
For someone who has previously been surrounded by a team of chefs, exploring an individual endeavour like Helly’s Kitchen can be challenging and like every business, Helly’s had to adopt multiple positions on her own; from chef through to accountant and marketer in order to create a successful business. One god-send has been her use of co-working kitchen spare, which has been invaluable in providing inspiration (and saving her sanity!). That said, working as her own boss has also been one of the greatest rewards, as a result of starting Helly’s Kitchen.
Helly’s top three tips for other people wanting to start their own business?
- Get a business partner
- Get some money behind you
- Don't be afraid to make the leap
Starting your own business can be hard, but it also enabled Helly to have fun with her pastry knowledge, using her creative talent to create a unique product that her customers love.
Photography credits to Laina Pattni