Come home to good food: An interview with Head of Product Cassandra Suddes

Come home to good food

An interview with Head of Product Cassandra Suddes

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Cassandra Suddes

Cassandra describes her start in life as ‘being born into a world of great food’.

As a farmer’s daughter, her earliest memories centre around the heart of the home – the farmhouse kitchen.

For her, good food and fine ingredients were never just a hobby or personal obsession, her family’s livelihood depended on the quality of their produce. 

It’s this grounding in food credentials, wrapped up in firm family values, that drives Cassandra in her role as Head of Product at Parsley Box, so that our customers always come home to good food prepared with love.

Food is love

“Granny, my dad’s mum, was head of the household and at the heart of the home, cooking from scratch with the freshest of ingredients straight from the fields. Food was a serious business and meal patterns determined the rhythm of the working day. 

“Food was fuel, yes, but it was so much more – it was an expression of love. Putting delicious homecooked meals on the table every day was how Granny showed those around her she cared for them. It was no surprise then, that the kitchen was always full of people and that there was plenty of leftovers for drop-in visitors who just happened to be in the area!” 

Now it’s her mum that’s taken on the mantle of head chef at the family farm and when Cassandra visits with her own daughter, she can see the passion for food being passed down to the next generation. 

“My two year-old daughter already knows that the food she’s eating has come straight from the farm.”

Childhood memories of food

Cassandra recalls how her childhood home was filled, morning until night, with appetite-inducing aromas and that working with food was all she could ever imagine doing, despite being earmarked for a career in medicine.

She even cooked for her friends and family on her wedding day, in her wedding dress whilst seven months pregnant.

“All of my most vivid memories involve food and I didn’t want my wedding day to be any different.”

Cassandra cooking on her wedding day.

Interesting fact:

Cassandra has competed on MasterChef not once but twice! Thousands apply to compete on MasterChef each year but only the very best cooks make it onto our screens and go on to survive each grueling round. As a child Cassandra took part in Junior MasterChef in 1993 and as an adult in 2008.

Scent is one of the strongest senses tied to memory, taking you back to your grandmother’s kitchen or your favourite bakery – flooding you with feelings of nostalgia. Food memories pack a punch as they call on all five senses and it’s these feelings of comfort, warmth and deep satisfaction that Cassandra is striving for in developing the Parsley Box menu.

Cassandra joined the Parsley Box family in September, but started working with the company as a consultant as far back as January.

Since then she has eaten every meal on the menu, developed and elevated the entire range, adding new dishes too, taste testing them against the very best supermarket ranges.

Throughout the process Cassandra has eaten a mind-blowing, gut-busting 2,500 samples of new and tweaked recipes before giving her Parsley Box seal of approval.

It’s no coincidence that all of the final decisions for the winning recipes were made sat at the same old farmhouse kitchen table that fostered Cassandra’s life-long love affair with food.

Quick fire with Cassandra

Favourite Parsley Box meal?

I’m torn between the Mac Cheese with Lardons from the Chef’s Table by Parsley Box range and the Chicken, Chorizo and Bean Stew from our cupboard-stored range.

Favourite cuisine?

Vietnamese – definitely one to enjoy in a Vietnamese restaurant (or better yet in the country itself), rather than to cook at home. The complexity of fresh ingredients, herbs, spices – it’s a lot to have on hand at any one time but when you can find authentic Vietnamese food in a restaurant, it’s an absolute joy to eat.

Favourite food destination?

I would have to say Thailand. I definitely have some of my favourite food memories associated with Thailand including an incredibly tranquil evening spent snacking on deliciously sweet mango sticky rice (a staple Thai dessert) whilst watching the sunset on a beach in Khao Lak.

The curries, the soups, the unusual ingredients and spices – Thai cuisine is unlike any other and to be able to eat it fresh from a street vendor or in an off the beaten track family-run Thai restaurant is an experience to remember.

Also prior to the pandemic I travelled to Tel Aviv in Israel and the food I ate there was out of this world. So many stages and elements involved. Middle eastern food has become a real source of interest to me over the last few years and it was amazing to be able to experience the cuisine served up in its local environment.

Most memorable meal?

It’s got to be Mum’s Sunday roasts from when I was a kid. Loud, chaotic, all the family together around the old wooden farm table, laughing and joking. There’d be the inevitable argument that my brother’s Yorkshire pudding was smaller than mine, or that I’d received less meat than someone else but it was all in good fun.

We would always eat meat and vegetables from our own farm so there was a real sense of understanding where the food came from and the love and effort involved in bringing the meal to our plates. 

Taking care of family through food

Cassandra has brought her contagious passion for food and foodie culture to Parsley Box. Her deeply ingrained belief in the comforting and therapeutic nature of food is something she wants to share with you, our customers. Cassandra wants to take care of you through food, just as her family took care of her and how she now takes care of her own family.

As well as our customers – it is also our staff who sit down to Parsley Box meals. Our office is constantly greeted with wonderful aromas from the test kitchen (tough life, we know); we have a wide selection available for our staff to tuck into for their lunches and we regularly send out Parsley Box care packages to our homeworking contingent. 

Providing complementary food to our team members is just another way of taking care of them and showing love and appreciation for what they bring to our company.

It’s also why they are able to provide you with the best possible advice when you ask about the food selection and what sides and puddings to choose from to compliment your meals.

Why your Parsley Box meals are now even more delicious

Cassandra and her team committed to a complete menu overhaul for Parsley Box to enhance our range; revamping the favourites you know and love, and creating some exciting new meals that we think you’ll want to add to your ‘go-to’ dishes.

They examined every aspect of our meals including ingredients, food values, packaging design and price point, handpicking the very best produce, to create beautiful meals. It means you can look forward to authentic flavours, tender meat, buttery mash and wonderfully rich gravies.

Reflecting our values, and yours

It was really important to Cassandra to show transparency and to highlight sustainable, ethical and British produce as much as possible. We’re proud to support more responsible, thoughtful choices that reflect our values, and yours.

Flavour is key, but we also make sure our ingredients tick all the right boxes in other important ways. Without exception, all our meals are made here in the UK. We’re also committed to buying British and actively supporting local producers wherever possible.

Asian meals

The potatoes used in all of our mashed top pies, for example, are grown by Steve and John Bannister on their family-run farm in Malton. We took a trip out there to experience first-hand the quality of their potatoes and natural beauty of their North Yorkshire farm. 

Cassandra removed palm oil and palm additives from all of our puddings, opting instead for butter, just as would be used in a home kitchen. She also swapped out palm oil in our dumplings, opting instead for suet.

Our focus is on quality

For example, our chicken, pork, milk and cream are all British. Our beef is British and Irish. And we source as much of our lamb as we can in Britain, allowing for seasonal changes when, for example, we’ll import top quality lamb from New Zealand.

Being aware of where ingredients come from and supporting British farmers as much as possible is important to our company and to our customers. 

So what’s on the menu?

Cassandra has completely transformed the Parsley Box menu – adding a number of new categories to our ready meal range. We are incredibly happy with our new menu and meal offerings and hope you are enjoying eating them just as much as we are. 

We’re proud of our sausages

As part of her quest to, as she says, ‘get to the heart of what makes great food’, Cassandra and her team chose to create a completely new Parsley Box sausage recipe.

After having taste tested over 30 different premium sausages on the market, they developed a custom recipe used only by Parsley Box; gluten free with a delicious herb and spice mix that incorporates 85% British pork meat.

These sausages are now featured in our All Day Breakfast, Sausage & Mash and Sausage Cassoulet.

Parsley Box introduces Chilled

An exciting feature of Cassandra’s re-vamped menu has been the introduction of our Chef’s Table by Parsley Box premium, chilled product range. We’re keen to be able to provide a wide selection of products to our customers to suit a variety of tastes, desires and occasions.

Our Chef’s Table by Parsley Box range represents a more luxurious eating experience with indulgent ingredients, bigger meal sizes and a modified cooking process. The more gentle cooking process of these meals allows for delicate meats such as the salmon in our Salmon & Asparagus Gratin and the pollock, haddock and king prawns in our Fish Pie to retain their structure and flavour. 

These meals are delivered to you chilled within an insulated box and have a longer fridge life than the majority of supermarket-equivalent ready meals; they can be kept in the fridge for up to 21 days or in the freezer for 28 days. The meals are designed to be heated through in the oven rather than the microwave to allow for extra textures to develop (like a perfectly melted cheese atop our luxurious Mac Cheese with Lardons) leading to a better all-round eating experience.

Our Chef’s Table by Parsley Box range has proved exceptionally popular with our customers who are happy to swap the everyday convenience of our microwavable, cupboard-stored offerings for a higher level of indulgence for that end of the week treat or special occasion meal.

When it comes to our menu, I aim to be always improving, always updating. Not tinkering for tinkering’s sake – I am simply restless in my quest for good product.

Cassandra Suddes
Parsley Box Head of Product

What’s coming down the line?

When asked for her ultimate goal for Parsley Box’s menu, Cassandra responded that it was to continue her team’s work in three key areas:

  1. Offer a wide variety of selection and choice to our customers
  2. To provide a balance of international cuisines and British classics within our meal range
  3. To ensure Parsley Box ready meals are the best they can be, comprised of the best available ingredients and of a high eating quality

Cassandra has a lot planned for the future of Parsley Box and is looking forward to expanding her focus in the new year to different areas of menu development, including…

Plant-based meals

There has been a substantial increase over the last few years in the availability and offering of plant-based meals in supermarkets and restaurants.

This is for a number of reasons including health and dietary shifts, an effort to support sustainability as well as animal welfare concerns.

Parsley Box fully supports a plant-based diet and we are keen to explore the myriad of exciting meals we can develop in this area, from plant-based meat alternatives, to creative vegetable-laden meals.

We are keen to hear from and communicate with our customers and find out exactly what you might want to see from a plant-based Parsley Box menu.

Centrepieces and sides

Another goal of Cassandra’s is to expand our range of sides, allowing for our meals to be enjoyed in a multitude of different ways. We regularly hear from our customers of different additions they like to enjoy with their meals or simple ideas and combinations for making the most out of their mealtimes and it has inspired us to work hard to provide these options for you.

We want to ensure Parsley Box can become an ultra convenient, one-stop shop – allowing you to mix and match your ‘centrepiece’ ready meals with a wide variety of delicious sides.

Bakery, drinks and seasonal eating

Our bakery range remains extremely popular with our customers, but we want to give you more.

We are keen to increase our offerings to include classic British recipes and nostalgic sweet treats to instill that quintessential sense of British grandmotherly love and care that comes from home baked classics.

Our drinks menu is also something we are keen to turn our attention to and look to expand.

We want to find out more about what our customers drink, what they might be interested in ordering alongside their Parsley Box meals, the role of alcoholic vs non-alcoholic, ready to drink vs individual spirits and mixers, size, choice – the list goes on.

Cassandra is very enthusiastic about expanding our drinks range and showcasing and supporting some local British drink producers in the process.

Seasonal eating is an area Cassandra is also very keen to explore. What does the Parsley Box menu look like in summer as opposed to winter? What ingredients can we incorporate into our meals to reflect the changing of the seasons? 

Cassandra has no shortage of ideas and aspirations for the Parsley Box menu and with a lifetime of food and farming knowledge behind her, there is no question that our future is looking to be innovative and exciting.

We want you

As well as Cassandra and her team’s ideas for the future of the Parsley Box menu, we also want to hear from you, our customers. Cassandra has developed a campaign called Food for thought.

This campaign allows Cassandra to have direct communication with our customers as well as with the staff in our contact centre. Parsley Box is in the unique position of being a direct-to-customer business which allows us to be able to receive immediate feedback straight from you, our customers. And we hugely value this feedback. We want to create and develop meals that you want to eat.

Your input is important to us and it does get listened to. 

Cassandra also has the plan to develop a panel of customers around the UK that she can go and meet in person, sit down and have a cup of tea with and hear all your opinions about Parsley Box and suggestions for meals you’d like to see on our menu.

Covid restraints have temporarily stalled this plan for the moment but it is something Cassandra and the wider team at Parsley Box are very keen to undertake as soon as it is possible and safe to do so.

In the meantime, we have set up an email address where you can directly message Cassandra and our product development team with your feedback about our menu and any suggestions for dishes you would like to see.

Our philosophy will always be food is love. Food is comforting, therapeutic and the provision of food is a way to take care of someone. Parsley Box wants to instill this passion for food and care in every aspect of what we do. And we’d love to hear from you.