A new enterprise offering nutritionally balanced pre-prepared meals for key workers and others has been launched with the support of experts at the Food Innovation Centre at the University of Nottingham.
Long Eaton-based Kitchen Prep UK specialises in chef-cooked ready meals for people who want to eat healthily but are time poor or need the convenience of pre-prepared frozen options that take just minutes to cook in the microwave.
The inspiration for the lockdown enterprise came after founders Emily Willis and Luke Skidmore decided they wanted to support key workers like doctors, nurses and police officers and make it easier for them to source and eat healthy ready meals.
The new business has been supported by experts at the Food Innovation Centre at the University of Nottingham, who have given free advice on labelling, food hygiene training and other aspects of the enterprise.
Emily, from Mansfield Woodhouse, who, until recently, was a key worker herself working as the deputy manager of a care home, said: “We all saw images during the pandemic of health workers who would come off shift and couldn’t find any fresh fruit or vegetables to buy. I have friends who are police officers and at night they are having chips and kebabs from fast food outlets because they can’t find anywhere open at that time that is selling healthy meals. I was also coming home after a busy day as a key worker and struggling to find time to cook healthy nutritional meals.”
Luke had been working in concierge before the pandemic hit, organising travel and hospitality packages to places like Monaco and Marbella. After exploring various career-change options he decided to move into the food service sector. Between them, Luke and Emily hit on the idea of creating nutritionally balanced frozen pre-prepared meals and Kitchen Prep UK was born.
The meals, which have been developed by nutritionist Nicole Mann, of NM Nutrition, are cooked by a chef at the couple’s unit in New Tythe Street, Long Eaton. They include meat, fish and plant-based options.
Kitchen Prep UK currently sells dishes online and at P.E.C.S. Fitness in Long Eaton, run by Stephen Edwards and Tracy Kidsley. Stephen, who is Luke’s father, uses the nutritionally balanced meals, along with exercise, to help control his diabetes.
Luke and Emily hope that in the future, the ready meals will be available via display units in key locations such as hospitals, police stations, gyms and other places – so staff and customers can enjoy their gourmet healthy pre-prepared meals on site or for take away.
Luke, who lives in Long Eaton, said: “We use local produce and local premises. We get the meat and veg delivered in the morning, our professional chef batch cooks the dishes, which are then blast-chilled and frozen all on the same day – retaining their nutrients. All our customers need to do is heat their meals in a microwave straight from frozen. There’s no piercing the lid or stirring half way through. It’s really simple.
“It was the needs of key workers that originally inspired us, but we can see that there are many people who would benefit from our Kitchen Prep UK nutritionally balanced meals, such as new mums, elderly people living on their own, busy professionals, gym goers…basically anyone who is trying to look after themselves.
“The help and advice we have had from the Food Innovation Centre has been brilliant – it’s really given us a great start.”
The Food Innovation Centre, based at the Bioenergy and Brewing Science building at the University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington campus, offers free support to eligible small and medium-sized food and drink manufacturers in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire under the Driving Research and Innovation project – a three-year project that runs until the end of December 2022. Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) via the D2N2 LEP, the project is run by the Food Innovation Centre at the University of Nottingham School of Biosciences, in conjunction with the Chemistry Innovation Laboratory in the School of Chemistry and Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and in association with the Midlands Engine. It is a unique collaboration project that provides free specialist innovation support to small and medium-sized businesses.
Richard Worrall, who runs the project, said: “The Coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns have created a real spirit of entrepreneurialism, especially in the food and drink sector and we were very pleased to help Luke and Emily in the early days of Kitchen Prep UK. We wish them well in their venture together.”