A former Brixham AstraZeneca worker quit her job in Devon to focus on a new business which teaches people to recreate their favourite ‘fakeaways’.
Millions of people are now logging on to learn how to cook some of Nicky Corbishley’s most popular recipes which include sweet and sour chicken, crispy duck, biriyani curry, sticky pork belly and peri peri chicken.
And it has proved so successful that her husband has now joined the business with their website attracting 24 million views last year.
Nicky, 41, of Brixham, spent 14 years working in IT for AstraZeneca – the pharmaceutical company making international headlines because of its Covid-19 vaccine. And she met her husband Chris, 38, when they both worked at the Brixham harbourside laboratories..
But in 2014, the mum-of-two left corporate life to develop her food blog – creating fabulous copies of popular takeaways, dubbed ‘fakeaways’ – and to spend more time with her children, Gracey, 14, and Lewis, 10.
Soon tantalising tastebuds with her blog, Kitchen Sanctuary – which has 32,000 Instagram followers and 80,000 YouTube fans – in 2017, Chris joined her and the husband-and-wife team began raking it in through advertising, affiliate links and occasional sponsored content with brands.
Now the blog has enjoyed its busiest year ever, attracting locked down Brits, desperate to recreate the restaurant and takeaway experience at home – following her recipes for versions of everything from egg fried rice and prawn toast to crispy chilli beef and KFC-style chicken.
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She said: “I’d never want to advise someone not to get a takeaway, as it’s so important to support local businesses.”
“But with my recipes, you can cook yourself a special midweek dinner and recreate the experience of being in your favourite restaurant – then still enjoy your Friday night takeaway,” she continued.
“In 2020 it was one of the craziest years for Kitchen Sanctuary so far. With lockdowns and tiers, people were looking for a new hobby or a way to save money and make the food they’d usually go out to eat in the safety of their homes.”
Even after a stressful day working alongside Chris at AstraZeneca, Nicky always made time to cook a hearty meal and make sure her family came together around the dinner table.
She said: “Cooking has always been a stress release for me – and a great way to get the family to connect around the table.”
It seemed like a natural progression when, in early 2014, she started documenting her favourite recipes in an online blog.
“It was just a way of diarising them – I never dreamed anything would come of it,” she said.
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Run by kitchenware brand NEFF, the final of the Cookaholics competition saw Nicky make a fish pie live on stage at UK food event, the Big Feastival.
Buying all manner of gadgets and gizmos with her prize money, she was able to start creating more intricate recipes than ever before.
And later the same year, Chris quit his job – turning the blog into a joint venture.
“Everything grew very quickly – much faster than we’d expected,” said Nicky. “I started out by looking at some of the big American food blogs for tips on how to make money from a blog.”
“Some of the big US food blogs do things like income reveals, where they break down how much they make and how,” she said.
“That’s where I started picking up the different ideas, like advertising, sponsorship and affiliate links, as well as working with brands.
“I never thought we’d end up here, with us both doing it full time.”
A true double act, Nicky and Chris devise all the recipes together, before testing them out, photographing the finished product and making step-by-step videos for their followers.
When it comes to fakeaways, they either recreate food they would usually order, or take requests from their fans.
Nicky explained: “It’s a real family business. I do a lot of the recipes, but Chris has been in front of the camera a few times, and we’ve even had the kids feature.”
“If it’s something I haven’t made before, it takes a bit of trial and error to get it right,” she continued. “Every recipe is a reimagining of an existing recipe, so I’ll read cookbooks, Pinterest and takeaway menus to get ideas of flavour and so on.
“I have made some horrible tasting mistakes and have had to go right back to the drawing board, but usually it only takes me a couple of tries.”
To date, some of Nicky’s most popular recipes include sweet and sour chicken, baked fish and chips with lemon peas, cauliflower wings, crispy duck, biriyani curry, sticky pork belly and “better than Nando’s” peri peri chicken.
Keen to cater to those with busy lifestyles, she has also put together instructions on how to whip up dishes like chicken ramen, lo mein stir fry, sticky orange chicken and Thai prawns in just 20 minutes.
“Some people who cook fakeaways like to focus on making them healthier,” said Nicky. “But that’s not what we’re about.
“We do have some lighter recipes, but we don’t want to sacrifice flavour or give people something bland, and joyless, so we focus on making hearty, comfort food.”
Last year alone, they had 24 million views to their website – double what they usually get. And, as we enter a new year – and a new lockdown – Nicky and Chris are hoping their success will continue.
Reflecting on how much her life has changed since she left her IT job, Nicky said: “We want to carry on growing Kitchen Sanctuary and sharing our recipes with the world – especially at the moment when we’re still unable to go out and get that restaurant experience.”
“We’ve set up a little studio in our kitchen annexe to film cookery videos, so, hopefully, we can grow our YouTube too,” she concluded.
“Chris and I are used to working together, and we both absolutely love food – even though neither of us are trained chefs.
“Our lives are totally different now, though still busy – but we wouldn’t change a thing.”
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