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Muddy Meets: Kate Atlee, Sabzi

Owner of Muddy-Award winning deli and Masterchef quarterfinalist, Kate Atlee talks to Muddy Cornwall about running a female led hospitality business and her favourite Cornish beaches.

International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women as well as being a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. Here at Muddy Cornwall we are marking the day once again with an interview series of inspiring women across the Duchy.

Tell me a bit about your background and what you do – and how you came to do this?

I am a chef and business owner; Sabzi is based in the centre of Truro and specialises in providing Cornwall with the flavours of the Middle East while remaining seasonal, sustainable and focussed on showcasing the best of Cornwall’s wonderful produce. 

Has your day to day working life changed at all during the pandemic and if so, do you think it has highlighted any need for change? 

The pandemic forced me to be adaptable and reactive; I’d only just launched my business, (after being freelance for a number of years) when the pandemic hit, and while it has been an unbelievably challenging time, Sabzi’s primarily takeaway model has allowed me focus on building the reputation of the business through the lockdowns as I was able to keep trading in spite of the shutdown of hospitality. 

Have you encountered any examples of bias in your working life? 

Truthfully, as a woman in hospitality, and particularly as a chef, I have definitely experienced gender bias; often casually, but if I had to add up the number of men who have seen how busy Sabzi is and asked in a surprised tone if the business belongs to me, it would be a very long list. 

What are you/your team doing to call out gender bias, discrimination or stereotyping?

I own my business and lead my team that happens to be entirely female, and we challenge the hospitality industry norms by running a busy, professional, open kitchen and thriving food business without men. It’s a powerful image and as a mixed race woman in Cornwall (Kate’s father is Iranian, her mother, British), it can be difficult; I’m proud to be doing what I’m doing. 

What’s the general vibe among women in business / business owners in Cornwall?

I have a number of good friends in the industry and share wonderfully supportive relationships with them; I think Covid has challenged networks across all sectors so I hang on tight to those who I’ve been able to stay in touch with through this difficult period. 

What’s your favourite Cornish beach / view? 

Carne, which is just round the corner from Porthcurnick (above) on The Roseland. The shallow shore is perfect for my children and it’s really sheltered, not to mention beautiful.

What do you do in Cornwall to make the most of living here? 

Walking our English pointer on the beach; it’s pretty hard to beat Cornwall on a sunny day.

Favourite cafe/ restaurant / shop / business that isn’t yours!  

The Star and Garter in Falmouth; love everything about it, and if you haven’t tried their Sunday roast, just do it!

Photo credit for Kate’s portrait image is (c) Sean Gee

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