COOK was founded in 1997 by Edward Perry and Dale Penfold, who had the mad idea of trying to cook and sell frozen ready meals that would be made like you would at home.
They've clung to this founding principle through thick and thin (and it's been pretty, darn thin at various points). They've also clung to their independence.
Here's the story from COOK co-founder Ed...
In The Beginning...
After school, I had neither the desire nor aptitude for learning to go to university (nor, to be fair, the A-level results). Rather, I felt the need to 'get on with it' and so found a job selling advertising space for the Daily Express. I did this for a year and hated every minute. But I left, aged 19, knowing with absolute certainty that I never again wanted to work for someone else - a good lesson to learn early.
Instead, I started working for my parents (who didn’t quite count as “someone else”), who owned a couple of coffee shops and a bakery business called The Handmade Cake Company. The bakery made amazing, homemade-style cakes, which were then frozen. My job was as a travelling salesman, peddling their frozen cakes to coffee shops and caterers across the South East.
The pivotal moment was when they asked me to set up a shop next to the bakery on an industrial estate in Maidenhead to sell their cakes and puddings to the general public. Despite its odd location, within a year the shop was trading well thanks solely to word-of-mouth recommendations. The quality of the frozen cakes and puddings was so far beyond what you could buy in the supermarkets that people would happily go out of their way to shop with us.
It got me thinking that if I could figure out how to make frozen meals that tasted as good as my parents’ cakes and puddings then it could work as a high street retail concept.