At home with Jess Daniell, of Jess' Underground Kitchen deli

'I've built this following of customers who feel like my family.'
Patrick Reynolds

'I've built this following of customers who feel like my family.'

Jess Daniell, deli owner, caterer and food writer, lives in Te Atatu Peninsula, Auckland, with her partner Jono, a social worker, and their dog Macy.

JESS: We call this house Macy's Manor because having a dog made it almost impossible to find another rental, so we had to buy a house. We'd actually been looking to buy for 12 months but had all but given up. This place was a private sale and a good price, an absolute miracle.

It's an original 1960s weatherboard – a 3-bedroom, one-bathroom scenario, lovely and light with beautiful wooden floors and this cool retro floor in the kitchen. I shot both of my cookbooks here. There are lots of memories.

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In February last year we opened Jess' Underground Kitchen deli (I run my catering business of home cooked dinners from there) and we are about to open another one in Remuera. It's scary and exciting all in one. I need to clone myself somehow.

This all came from me just cooking out of my own kitchen for friends. It's grown organically and by word of mouth. I'd moved back to New Zealand and was wondering what to do with my life. I have a copywriting background and an English degree and I've slotted into this foodie career.

I've built this following of customers who feel like my family. It's such a personal thing to be feeding people, especially with that home-cooked dinner vibe. I've watched my customers find out they're pregnant and now they come in with a 2- or 3-year old.

I spend most of my life at work. I wish I could spend more of my life here.

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A typical Friday night for us these days is curling up on the couch, fire on, bottle of red wine, Netflix...

 - Sunday Magazine

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