After a less-than-stellar school career, Ed started working as a travelling salesman for his parents, who ran a small bakery. Their handmade frozen cakes were so good, Ed started wondering why no-one was making savoury meals in the same way and the idea for COOK was born. Luckily, one of Ed’s favourite clients was Dale, a talented chef who worked in banqueting. He persuaded him to quit his job and, in March 1997, they opened a small shop in Farnham, selling hand-prepared, frozen meals. They dreamed of being the world’s best-ever maker of ready meals and of doing business differently from the crowd.
Our founding statement: “To cook using the same ingredients and techniques a good cook would use at home, so everything looks and tastes homemade.” Easier said than done, as it turns out. One of Dale’s earliest attempts at cooking for the freezer tasted so bad it actually made Ed cry – the enormity of the challenge they’d taken on hit home. But Dale didn’t give up. He found an old disused pizza delivery kitchen, bought some second-hand kit, hired a sous chef (Spencer, still with us), and 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…
But it was far from plain sailing. In the depths of the recession, the vultures were circling and we came perilously close to losing our cherished independence. Two things sustained us: the remarkable people we work with, and our determination never to compromise on the taste of our food or the quality of our ingredients. We scraped through and have since grown to have more than 90 COOK shops around the UK, a thriving home delivery business, a network of concessions in like-minded retailers, a puddings kitchen in Somerset, and a big kitchen in Kent (with a second one on the way).
We’re starting to realise our dream of creating a remarkable food business that’s a force for good in society, too. In 2013 we became one of the UK’s first certified B Corps, part of a global movement committed to a better way of doing business for people and the planet. The same year, COOK employees voted us one of the top 100 Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For – and have kept us on the list ever since. After 20 years in the kitchen Dale retired in 2017 and Ed now leads the business alongside his sister Rosie, as co-CEOs. And while much has changed, what remains the same is our commitment to make the world’s best-ever prepared meals and puddings, cooking like you do at home. So when you don’t have the time, inclination or, dare we say, talent, we COOK so you don’t have to.