Chef Philip Britten, whose New Covent Garden-based fruit and vegetable business, Solstice, supplies many of London's top restaurants, has branched out into the ready-made meal market.
Britten launched his new company, Oscar Samuel, last month after identifying what he believes to be a niche in the catering market supplying fresh ready-made meals to staff restaurants at some of London's busy eating Meccas. His founding client is Chris Corbin and Jeremy King's successful restaurant and caf‚, the Wolseley.
The Wolseley's executive chef, Chris Galvin, said: "Philip's saved my life. We do up to 1,000 covers a day here at the moment and the kitchen is flat out. We don't have the space, either, to be able to produce staff meals to the standard we want, so this way is perfect."
The Wolseley has 75 staff on its payroll and Oscar Samuel supplies the restaurant with a lunch, evening meal and vegetarian option on a daily basis. Britten said: "Everything's made fresh every day. There's nothing fancy - we're trying to keep costs to under £2 per portion - and we do a Sunday roast, fish on Friday, drawing on a bank of around 200 recipes."
Oscar Samuel's central production unit is in Mitcham, south London, and has the capacity, estimated Britten, to supply up to 20 restaurants. The operation is headed up by chef Nigel Clease. Dishes include mushroom risotto, leek ravioli, Irish stew, chicken cacciatore, and lamb tagine with couscous.
Britten, who held a Michelin star in the 1990s during his 11-year reign as head chef at London's Capital restaurant, commented: "I'm genuinely excited about this." He added that he would be looking to target the school meals sector in the future.
Britten set up Solstice in 1996 while he was at the Capital. He quit the stove in 1999 to concentrate full-time on the business.