With the launch of his new enterprise, Alastair Little, a chef renowned for his commitment to freshness and taste, plans to cook up high quality pre-packaged food to order and deliver it direct to customers. Here, he blogs about his motivation.
“Words such as ‘fresh’ and ‘homemade’ have been borrowed by commerce to tell lies.”
When Jane Grigson wrote these words in her book “English Food” she could not have foreseen how prophetic she would be. At the time I thought she was overstating the case. Having spent years cooking in Soho and rural Suffolk I was used to having every possible gastronomic requirement being met within walking distance (in Soho) or almost everything I wanted to cook to be locally grown reared, shot or caught (Suffolk). It was only in the eighties that I began to get uneasy about the overall quality of the food I was finding, but as a chef I was insulated from what was happening to food in Britain by my network of exclusive and expensive suppliers.
Meanwhile the general public was being fed a diet of pre-made dishes described in terms such as ‘cooked to a traditional recipe’ or ‘from our farmhouse kitchen.’ ‘Fresh’ had come to be represented by a quiche assembled from powdered milk, dried egg, and industrial cheddar and sold for up to two weeks.
With the public appetite for food with a known provenance, I’m surprised retailers haven’t considered setting up small scale kitchens on or near their superstores to cook wholesome and tasty food locally. For ‘by Alastair Little’ we’ll be doing just that. We will be cooking on a small-scale using the best ingredients in season – without adulteration or artifice. The recipes will be favourites from my restaurants and Tavola range and perhaps, most importantly, they will be cooked each week, after customers have ordered online, so they are guaranteed to be delivered fresh. We plan to begin this adventure with fresh soups made locally and delivered across west London.