Thierry Laborde is a French chef who recently opened The Kitchen in south-west London with business partner Natalie Richmond. It offers customers the chance to create their own restaurant-quality meals to take home. He spoke to Kerstin Kühn
What's The Kitchen all about?
How does it work?
Customers choose their meals from the website and then they come along for around one-and-a-half hours and I show them how to prepare them. All of the preparation is done before, so there's no peeling or chopping vegetables, no cooking or frying of anything, just the putting together of the meal. People can also ring up or book online and pick up the ingredients together with recipe cards, so they can do everything at home.
What sort of meals are on the menu?
The menu is seasonal and focused on local high-quality ingredients. Dishes include a free-range chicken Thai green curry (£4.80) 100% Angus beef lasagne (£5) stuffed Mediterranean courgette with niÁ§oise vegetables (£4.80) free-range chicken cordon bleu with sautéd courgette (£6.80) and organic salmon and smoked haddock fishcakes (£4.80).
Who are your typical customers?
They're people from all different backgrounds, so there's no typical customer. Some people can barely cook at all, while others are professional chefs. We have young couples or groups of friends who come in together, mums, dads, older people and even kids.
Where did you get the inspiration?
I saw something similar in the USA, which is where I got the idea, but I adapted the concept for the UK. My ambition is to change people's attitudes towards food and cooking. The UK spends more money on ready-meals than the whole of Europe put together, and I want to change that. By coming to The Kitchen customers can get a quick, easy and great-tasting meal that isn't processed and doesn't cost a fortune. I would like to open many more Kitchens - one in every neighbourhood - but I don't want to discourage people from going to restaurants, I just want to get them to eat better at home.
Do you think the credit crunch will affect the restaurant trade?
Yes, definitely. But it's not the first time we've had a recession and won't be the last. I think we'll benefit from people going out less, as customers will prefer entertaining at home to going out to a restaurant.