- Kaushalya De Silva on her cloud kitchen and building a brand
Born and raised in Ratnapura, Kaushalya De Silva migrated to the UK with her family to pursue her higher studies. Once she moved back to Sri Lanka, she worked full-time for years in several industries, searching for something she would fall in love with doing, but nothing actually thrilled her enough to continue with any of them.
De Silva told Brunch that it’s been over a month now since she left her full-time job and decided to focus on building her own food brand.
“My sister and I spent days thinking of a name for the business, and with the help of our spiritual parents, Fiona and Kirby, we came up with ‘Joshua’s Tree’,” De Silva explained, talking about the inspiration behind the brand name.
It is believed that the Joshua Tree was first named by the early Mormon Pioneers who thought that the many outstretched arms or branches of the plant resembled Joshua praying for the victory of Jericho. So they called it the Joshua’s Tree, or the Praying Plant. “The fact that these outstretched arms or branches resembled victory was highlighted to us by our spiritual mother. We really liked the meaning behind this name and decided to call our business Joshua’s Tree,” she added.
De Silva started cooking when she was very little. “My mother used to always give my sister and I the freedom to try out new recipes even if they turn out to be a disaster in the end. I remember cooking actual meals with my sister and my grandfather while we played in our playhouses,” she shared. This encouraged them to try out new recipes, and both of them eventually fell in love with cooking.
While she was doing my higher studies in the UK, she also completed a culinary course at Middlesbrough College, as she loved learning to cook different types of cuisines. In her leisure time, De Silva would always cook something new and post pictures of them on her social media accounts. She also always invites her friends over for her experimental meals.
“My family and friends really enjoy the food that I make and they have been encouraging me to start up a business for the longest time. After working for many years under different companies, I finally realised that my absolute passion was nothing but cooking,” she expressed, adding that she believes you should always follow your passion and thrive to achieve it, as nothing makes you happier than doing what you absolutely love to do – hence, why she took up a leap of faith and started the page.
Speaking about some of the challenges she had to overcome during her journey, she commented that it was certainly not an easy job to do, adding: “I attended the first pop-up sale in December 2019. It was all new to me; I did it without carrying out any research and it turned out to be a disappointment. So, I took a break and continued working full-time.”
During the last year, she spent most of her time looking into developing the menu, branding, and coming up with marketing strategies for the page. De Silva wanted their dishes to be unique and yet affordable, so it took time to finalise the menu. All their dishes have very creative names, so we asked her about the motivation behind them, to which she said: “My sister and I decided to name the dishes after our favourite movies and series.”
De Silva also found that setting up the delivery process was also a major challenge. “It took me some time to carry out all the research and to come to an agreement with our delivery partner. As our product is time-restricted, it was difficult to find a private delivery partner.” However, they now cover 20 different areas within Colombo 1-15 and suburbs on a cash on delivery (COD) basis.
When asked about their bestselling dish, she told us that it was their signature baked chicken dish “Catch Me If You Can”. She also added that the chicken lasagna “Naked Lunch”, nai miris Mac and Cheese “Hunger Games”, “Lankan Twist”, and “Lucifer” from our Roast Pan Corner, as well as their signature chocolate biscuit pudding “50 Shades of Brown” and the tres leches are some of the fast-moving and best-reviewed dishes on the menu.
We had the opportunity to actually try some of their dishes. We had the Naked Lunch (lasagna), Catch Me If You Can (chicken cordon bleu) with a side of mash potatoes, as well the 50 Shades of Brown (CBP). Starting off with the chicken, it was topped with a decadent creamy cheese sauce and quite a generous coating at that. Chicken and cheese is an elite combination, and Joshua’s Tree certainly did it justice; not only was it flavourful, but the chicken was juicy and soft.
The lasagna too was well done; layers of cheese and meat nestled within the lasagna sheets. It wasn’t a collapsing mess and retained a good structure when portioned, which we appreciated. Personally, we felt it could have been a tad more spicy, but the richness of the cheese helped give it more of a deep flavour.
The chocolate biscuit pudding was absolutely delicious; for someone with a sweet tooth, this would satisfy every craving. The pudding had its own personality and stood out on its own – it even comes with a goopy fudge sauce and they’ve actually managed to keep the biscuits on the crunchy side, so there was texture variation which gave it the elevation it needed. This dish is an absolute must-try. Even the portion size is easily enough for two, but it’s so good that one person could finish it in minutes. You just can’t stop eating it!
In the future, Joshua’s Tree will be introducing some Sri Lankan and seasonal menus for the upcoming months. De Silva told us that she is planning and working on opening a café next year with her partner and her sister.
For anyone planning on or starting up an online business, she shared that she would like to advise them to be patient and to do their research thoroughly. “It will not be an easy task. Don’t give up on your passion and dreams!” she said.
She also took the opportunity to thank her mom as well as her sisters Nicky and Torina for supporting her unconditionally and not letting her give up on her dream, adding: “I wouldn’t have come this far without their support.”