Thursday 12 November 2020 5:12 pm

Home meal kits can help save hospitality now – and will be here long after Covid

Save our SMEs
James Cochran is co-owner and executive chef Islington restaurant 12:51
, City A.M.

The hospitality industry has always had to adapt and move with the times. We’ve seen cycles of gastropubs, fine dining restaurants with white table clothes, American diners, with each generation of new chefs tweaking and perfecting the formula.

But while these are trends driven by changing fashions, Covid means the industry must innovate to survive. Many of our best restaurants are on the brink, and some of the most beloved have been sadly unable to weather the storm. I’ve seen my peers struggle, and we’ve been through huge changes at my restaurant 12:51. 

Read more: How to eat well during a pandemic, from pre-mixed cocktails to Michelin home delivery

That’s why supporting the industry right now is so important. If we don’t act, there won’t be many restaurants left to visit when this is all over. While 12:51 is shut for November, I’ve been supporting restaurants via their ‘at home’ offerings. It helps to mix up your tired routine of eating the same takeaways week-in, week-out, and gives you a little taste of that dining out magic. You can be in your home and still have exquisite food created for you by top chefs from all over the country. 

This will give some people the chance to taste food they might not otherwise have been able to, especially if they live outside of London, where we’re spoiled for choice. It opens up the restaurant world to people who couldn’t usually go to these places, and it means I can sample the food cooked my mates up north without having to travel hundreds of miles.

Christmas is coming and At Home kits might help save your stresses here too. While Nigella might make baking parmesan straws whilst mixing cocktails look easy, for the less organised among us – or those who want to spend more time with their guests (covid allowing!) – the luxury of having a restaurant experience at home is the perfect way to honour the season.  

Read more: The best home delivery kits, from prepare-at-home gourmet meals to chocolates and whisky tasting

With hindsight, it blows my mind that no one really thought of this prior lockdown. It’s created another way for people to gain access to top quality food, which is a concept with legs. It’s another era of restaurants and the way we dine, and I for one, am fully on board if it means the survival of this industry. It can’t replicate the full restaurant experience, but it can work alongside it going forward, bringing incredible dining to people’s homes. Restaurant kits are here to stay. 

I have my own DIY kit for my take on a buttermilk fried chicken burger: think juicy thighs, crunchy and crispy skin, sandwiched between a soft burger brioche inspired by my lockdown project Around the Cluck, which means people can order wherever they are in the UK and even have them for breakfast if they fancy.

Covid has shown us that we can adapt and keep going, even if there are lots of restrictive rules. Restaurants might be shut for now, but make your lockdown a little more bearable with one of my favourite restaurant kits. 

James’ Top 5 Restaurant Kits.

  1. The Quality Chop House – comes with a bavette steaks for two, their famous confit potatoes and a cheeky bottle of red
  2. Hame by Adam Handling – For those who don’t want to risk over cooking the turkey, their xmas menu is a winner
  3. Wheelers Oyster Bar – for the seafood enthusiast, there’s 3 fishy boxes to choose from, each including a 3 course meal
  4. Made in Oldstead Food Boxes by Tommy Banks – Londoners can sample some of tommy’s northern magic!
  5. AngloThai/HG Walter – using quality meat and amazing Thai flavours.