Edward’s parents ran a small bakery making handmade frozen cakes. After a less than stellar school career, Edward went to work for them as a travelling salesman. Their cakes were stunning and it got him wondering why no one was making savoury meals in the same way. So Edward decided he would. He just needed someone to do the cooking… That someone was Dale, a chef and one of Edward’s favourite clients. He persuaded Dale to quit his job and in March 1997 they opened a small shop in Farnham, Surrey selling hand-prepared, frozen food. They dreamed of being the world’s best-ever maker of ready meals – and of doing business differently from the crowd.
Our founding statement was: to cook using the same ingredients and techniques a good cook would use at home, so everything looks and tastes homemade. Easy to say: much more difficult to do. One of the first dishes Dale made tasted so bad it made Edward cry. It wasn’t just the food; it was the enormity of the challenge they’d taken on. Luckily, Dale was determined and resourceful. He found a dis-used kitchen, some second hand kit and a sous chef (Spencer – still with us). Through trial and error and the odd explosion, the food got better and better. People came back for more. A second COOK shop opened. Then a third…
We've grown to have more than 80 shops around the country, with a big kitchen in Kent and a puddings kitchen in Somerset (you’re welcome to visit both). It’s been a bumpy ride at times and in the depths of the recession we came very close to losing our cherished independence. Two things sustained us: the remarkable people we work with, who share our values and make miracles happen; and the determination never to compromise on the taste of our food.
It’s taken a while but we’re starting to realise our dream of creating a remarkable food business that’s a force for good in society. In 2013 we became one of the UK’s first certified B Corporations, part of a global movement committed to a better way of doing business. The people of COOK have voted us one of the very best companies to work for. While we’re far from perfect, we’re trying hard. Throughout, we’ve stuck by our founding statement with Edward and Dale leading the way. When you don’t have the time, inclination or, dare we say, talent… we COOK so you don’t have to.