Tim Lee & Luke Winters, Wild Harvest, London

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st January 2013

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

The Staff Canteen is delighted to announce that for 2013, Wild Harvest Fine Foods will be the sponsor for our Market Report and will provide informative and factual seasonal updates on what’s best to buy for your kitchen. Louise Thomas meets Tim Lee, General Manager, and Luke Winter, Purchasing Manager, to find out what makes Wild Harvest so special.  When I worked in kitchens, Wild Harvest always felt like the equivalent of going to the pick and mix in Woolworths as a child. As a pastry chef, it was a store cupboard of inspirational ingredients and fantastic produce. Today, Wild Harvest look after over 1,000 of the UK’s best chefs and kitchens and 75% of the Michelin stars in the country. The founder of Wild Harvest was a documentary filmmaker who had made a film about wild mushrooms. He was so enamoured by them that he moved out of films and began picking mushrooms to supply the restaurant trade. As luck would have it, it coincided with the explosion of the fine dining restaurant scene in London, which provided him with customers. As his business grew, he began driving to Rungis Market to meet demand and soon chefs were asking him to pick up extra bits and pieces. “That’s how the product offering has built over the years,” explains Luke, “by meeting the requests of top chefs and delivering top quality produce.” Today, Wild Harvest is supported by a parent group, but Tim insists they are still a stand-alone company, “yes, they support us financially and enable us to expand as a business. But ultimately, we are independent and our original ethos of quality and service will never be shaken. They support what we do and the way in which we do it.” Indeed they have, as in May 2012 Wild Harvest extended their premises in London’s New Covent Garden Market. This has effectively doubled their capacity and provided a great opportunity to further develop their specialist range as well as a range of core, high-quality commodities for their customers. “It’s finding a balance of what we’re renowned for, what we’re good at and what people need,” Tim acknowledges that chefs and restaurateurs are looking for consolidation of suppliers, “but the more people we can help with that, reduce food miles and so on, the better.” As Wild Harvest grows, you have to question what the effect of the recession has been on our industry, if any. Tim does not feel that the hospitality has been as badly affected as other industries in the UK, “Eating out is an affordable luxury. Ok, so you might go out once a month, instead of once a week, but that restaurant will be a bit more special.” Luke agrees, “You might not be able to afford your wife a diamond ring for your wedding anniversary, but you can take her out for a nice meal. On a corporate level, you may not want to be seen dining in top end restaurants, but you can have a fine dining experience on site now.” Luke also recognises the public’s growing interest in food having had a positive impact on the industry, “The nation as a whole is becoming more and more food obsessed every week, which has probably saved the industry. If there wasn’t twelve or so programs on TV every night about food we might be in a different situation.” And how have Wild Harvest supported their customers through austerity? “We’ve stayed true to who and what we are. It becomes more apparent in those times that people need value for money,” says Tim. “That’s not to say people want to cut corners on product, but it’s about making sure that the top quality product we offer is the very best that we can offer.” Luke has introduced competitively priced core essentials to Wild Harvest’s offering, which enables chefs to reach their minimum orders. Luke’s close relationship with his suppliers also enables Wild Harvest to offer unbeatable quality, service and price. “Because of the relationship I have with my suppliers, they understand what we – and our customers – expect and need. It also speeds things up phenomenally if you have open communication and a good relationship, so we can be flexible and provide products to chefs as and when they need them.” This is most certainly appreciated by Wild Harvest customers such as Head Chef of Galvin at Windows, André Garrett: “I can remember Wild Harvest since they opened in the early 90s; now they are one of my top suppliers. I am a firm believer in loyalty and communication and the relationship I have with the guys at Wild harvest is excellent. They stock the best products and are always on the other end of the phone if I need something special to be looked for.” Luke’s access to products is enough to make any chef feel giddy, “I can fly stuff in from across the globe; we have full access to Rungis Market; I can tap into our parent group’s product if I wish; we’re based on the biggest fruit and vegetable market in London; we have independent suppliers across the country working with us; foragers ­– there’s a plethora of opportunities for me to buy and to get what the chef needs.” So as well as offering a flexible service, almost tailor-made to fit your needs in the kitchen, why else do chefs use Wild Harvest and what sets them apart from other suppliers? "Consistency and quality are the bywords of excellence and in trying to maintain standards at The Square for twenty-one years we have had to rely on a handful of suppliers who manage to deliver a first class product consistently,” explains Phil Howard, Chef and Proprietor of The Square. “Wild Harvest has not only done this, but they have maintained their position as one of the most proactive suppliers when trying to ensure they have a product range that is in line with the demands of the finest chefs in the country." For Tim and the team at Wild Harvest, it boils down to Product, Passion, Knowledge and Service, “65% of our team – the guys in the warehouse, sales, accounts, drivers, operations, everyone – have worked in a Michelin kitchen and everyone is from a relevant background. That knowledge is absolutely key to the business.” Luke agrees, “We're very much in sync with the high-end kitchen mentality. We get the sense of urgency; we get the need for quality and we keep pace with the customer.” “Everyone at Wild Harvest lives and breathes the industry,” says Tim. “A memory that sticks out from when I first joined Wild Harvest was the first delivery of white truffles. There was not one person, irrelevant of department, who didn’t come down to touch and smell and see these fantastic truffles. Luke walks in proudly with the first basket; you can smell them as soon as they get to the door and there’s a great buzz of excitement around the building.” After last year’s expansion, what’s next for Wild Harvest? “Now we have to stay true to what we are, a specialist supplier, and staying true to our customers and expand the range as appropriate,” explains Tim. “We’re always looking for the weird and wonderful products available, as well as supporting the core commodities, but matching the quality that we consistently offer. Ultimately, it’s about keeping things simple.” Wild Harvest will be hosting a Sosa demonstration with their resident Sosa expert, Paola Carlini, on January 23, 2013. Please contact the Wild Harvest office for further details or visit www.wildharvestuk.com To keep up to date with what’s happening at Wild Harvest follow @WildHarvestUK

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st January 2013

Tim Lee & Luke Winters, Wild Harvest, London

IN ASSOCIATION WITH