Polly Markus has published her first cookbook, she’s collaborated with The Curve, and – most recently – she’s become the new face of Continental Foods in Aotearoa. Whether you know her as a talented real-estate agent or from the gourmet delights she posts on Instagram under her Miss Polly’s Kitchen account, it’s hard to keep tabs on this culinary connoisseur.
Growing up in a family of foodies, it was only natural that Markus would develop a love for cooking. After venturing into the world of real estate as a personal assistant, the call to travel soon beckoned leading Markus to head for Spain where she was given the chance to hone her culinary skills working on a superyacht. “I worked as a crew chef for a few years on a gorgeous old 50-metre motor yacht cooking for fifteen crew,” she explains. “I’d never had any formal training, but I learnt a lot from other chefs I worked with.” During almost three years on board, Markus learned how to improvise in the kitchen, picking up a variety of recipes from her colleagues that she still uses today. “I’ve always loved the entertaining side of cooking,” she says, “Having family and friends around the table enjoying a delicious meal together.”
After returning back to Aotearoa in 2015, Markus decided she wanted a break from the culinary world and went back to working for Bayleys Realty Group, this time as a commercial leasing agent. It wasn’t until Covid hit in 2020 and the country went into lockdown that she would reignite her passion for cooking. “Through lockdown, I started sharing my recipes with step-by-step videos on Instagram and that was really the start of Miss Polly’s Kitchen,” she explains. She quickly collected a following for her fresh and colourful recipes, posting everything from homemade sushi to fried chicken burgers to her audience. With almost sixty-thousand followers (and growing), Markus’ life was significantly changed by her decision to share her recipes on social media.
One of the biggest milestones for Markus, and one she considers to be her greatest career highlight to date, was the release of her first cookbook, Miss Polly’s Kitchen. “I can tell you that writing a cookbook takes a lot of time and effort,” she says. “I started with brainstorming the different sections that I wanted in the book and then drew inspiration from older recipes I had created, past travels and restaurants that inspired me.” It took Markus about a year to pull the book together, after testing each recipe three times and gathering constructive feedback from taste-testers. The final product was packed full of Asian and Middle Eastern-inspired dishes, with a clear focus on flavour, health, and fresh produce. “The salmon recipe in my cookbook is one of my forever favourites. The salmon has so much flavour and the fresh herbed zesty topping goes perfectly with it.”
For now, Markus is continuing to juggle her real estate job with her growing social media presence. “My day starts just after 5am every morning,” she explains. “I religiously do some form of exercise, which I find instrumental for keeping me focused for the rest of the day — plus I enjoy having an hour without my phone or being contactable.” While she enjoys a level of flexibility with both of her jobs, finding a balance between the two is still a struggle for Markus. “I try and keep Saturdays free to shoot my content, and Sundays I desperately try not to work at all,” she says. “I would love to say I have mastered a balanced life but I feel like a bit of a workaholic.”
While there’s no shortage of partnerships and events on Markus’ to-do list, her dream collaboration would be with either Yotam Ottolenghi, Nigella Lawson, or Jamie Oliver. Moving forward, there are exciting things in the pipeline for Markus. Between working on new recipes for Miss Polly’s Kitchen and keeping up with her nine-to-five, she will also be making appearances in Malborough later this year, and offering a cooking demonstration at this year’s Auckland Food Show. Her ultimate goal for Miss Polly’s Kitchen? A travelling cooking show.
Best place for a cocktail… Kaffir lime margarita from Rag Tag – absolutely incredible.
My current podcast recommendation… The Curve and the Diary of a CEO.
My favourite place to dine… Alma.
Best current season fashion purchase… A big black coat and a chunky pair of loafers or boots.
The best style advice I’ve ever received… Don’t wear what you think you should wear. Wear what you feel comfortable in, if you’re comfortable, you will feel confident.
My favourite place to travel to… Spain, I have so many fun memories of Spain. I used to live in Palma De Mallorca – I would love to retire there one day.
This season I’m saving for… A new kitchen.
My guilty pleasure is… Whittaker’s hazelnut pods – I can polish off an entire bag in one sitting.