Student Story: Meet Mandy Mazliah

Mandy Mazliah's blog, Sneaky Veg, began over a decade ago to address picky eating. Transitioning from marketing to a fulfilling career in food, she now works part-time as a cookery coordinator for a sustainable food charity. A recent participant of Leiths Online Plant-Based Eating Course, Mandy shares her passion for food and teaching, reflecting on her evolving culinary journey.

Student Story: Meet Mandy Mazliah

Mandy Mazliah, is a cook, blogger, cookery coordinator, and mother of three, aged 13,12, and 9. Before having children, Mandy’s career background was in communications and marketing but starting her blog Sneaky Veg when her first born was a toddler was a catalyst for a fulfilling new career in food. This is her story.

“When my first child was a toddler, he became an extremely picky eater. I started a food blog called Sneaky Veg around that time, the idea being to inspire me and other people who were struggling with their kids’ eating. I’ve been doing Sneaky Veg for just over ten years now. There are hundreds of recipes, most of which include some element of fruit or veg. I became vegan in 2018, so the most recent recipes are vegan.

I have two blogs now. The main one is Sneaky Veg and my second one which is called Cook Veggelicious I started four or five years ago because I wanted a separate place to share seasonal recipes. I do earn income from the blogs through ad revenue. It’s not enough of a salary for that to be the only thing I do but I do earn some money from it.

Before I started the blog, I hadn’t ever worked in food. I’d always enjoyed cooking but I’d never done anything professionally. The blog kickstarted it. When I talked to people about the blog, people were excited by it and it opened up a whole lot of opportunities for me.  Just before the pandemic, I did some cooking in a local community cafe, I’d do a takeover once a week; then during the pandemic, I started cooking for a community project making hot meals for vulnerable people.

Two years ago, we moved from London to Ely, I went back into marketing for a year and worked for Fareshare, a food redistribution charity. I decided it wasn’t for me working back in marketing and I now have a job as cookery coordinator for a small charity called Cambridge Sustainable Food. I work for them three days a week. One day a week I do communications and two days a week I’m a cookery coordinator. We offer a sustainable catering service so we use mainly surplus food, mainly plant-based food, where possible organic veg that’s grown at a local farm to provide catering. We’re also hopefully going to be starting to do some sort of team-building activities where corporate groups can come in to do a day of cooking for a community project as volunteers. There’s an element of teaching too. We are doing a six-week community cooking class. We started with a tomato and lentil soup and soda bread rolls, a nice simple recipe to start with that gave us lots of opportunities to talk about lentils as a good cheap source of protein, how to chop your onions and carrots safely and well.

As well as all this, I am trying to start a new side of my food business work in Ely where I live.  With this in mind, last  November, I did a vegan supper club at a local cafe. I’d like to build on that. It could be more supper clubs, private catering, children’s cookery classes, or a kind of ready meal service. I’ve got lots of ideas!

I’ve always wanted to do the Leiths Diploma I’d love it and I would get so much out of it, so maybe in the future it’s something I will do. My job is part-time so I had some free time and so I thought it was a good opportunity to do a shorter course which was more affordable for me, just to try to improve my cooking skills a bit and learn some new recipes. I did the Plant-Based Cooking course. The fact it is taught by teachers with experience as professional chefs, appealed to me because although I am a cook and I  teach cookery classes in the community, I don’t always have those chef skills.

I really enjoyed doing all of the cooking and it worked really well for me being able to do it in my own time. I found the online community aspect really valuable as well, being able to comment and answer questions on the app. For me it was about refining my skills. I’ve chopped thousands of onions in my life but I wanted to know was how a chef does it. Is there a quicker way and a better way? I learned some new recipes as well. For example, vegan cakes. I’ve made lots of vegan cakes since I’ve been vegan and a lot of them have fallen apart - there was one famous one we called the ‘splat cake’ - but the cakes we made on this course were excellent. The chocolate cake I’ve made quite a few times since is amazing and an olive oil cake with rosemary, I wasn’t sure if my kids would go for it, but they loved it.

One of the things the course is good at is getting you in the habit of getting all your ingredients ready and prepped before you start cooking which is something that I am terrible at doing. I usually just decide what I’m going to cook then it’s all a bit chaotic. But actually, that process of laying everything out, weighing it, chopping it, getting everything ready, does make the cooking process much smoother and I think that’s something that I’ve taken over to the cookery teaching.

Check your emails! You'll soon see how easy it can be to learn with Leiths Online...