"There is a bit of misconception around ready meals, in that they're not necessarily imaginative or healthy. I was lucky enough to work on Tesco's Wicked Kitchen range. It was quite blue sky."
From working in a Michelin starred kitchen with chefs such as Anna Haugh to helping develop ready meals for Tesco, development chef Phillipa Armitage-Mattin has seen two incredibly different ends of professional kitchens. Women in The Food Industry co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, asked Chef Philli how she made the move and what it's like producing meals for a mass market after the precision of working in two of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants.
Phillipa spent 4 years studying chemistry but after eating at Simon Rogan's L'Enclume and spending some time in his kitchen with the development chef, she decided to make a move into food science. She knew she needed a good background in food and took an apprenticeship with Gordon Ramsay which lasted 2 years. She explained: "I worked at London House in Battersea which gave me a great background in working for a neighbourhood restaurant and I worked under Anna Haugh and got a really good grounding there. My second year was spent at Maze Restaurant in Grosvenor Square which ignited my excitement around Japanese and Asian food.
After a while she wanted a bit more of a work life balance and to more of her food science background again. She said "I became development chef for Tesco which was a big change as I was helping to design ready meals for them. There is a bit of misconception around ready meals, in that they're not necessarily imaginative or healthy. I was lucky enough to work on Tesco's Wicked Kitchen range. It was quite blue sky at the time and you ultimately you get to see your food in front of 10's of thousands of people every day."
As a nation we've seen a big movement towards plant-based and vegan food, and Phillipa was asked what it was like producing that food for a mass market?
"We first got the brief of working with Derek Sarno who is from LA and is an amazing plant-based chef. The way he uses vegetables such as mushrooms is incredible. The challenge is producing this for a mass market. It's exciting and there's no rule book as there is for cooking a steak for example. I was also producing plant-based meals for Fresh Fitness Food a ready meal delivery service and getting in protein is not as hard as one may imagine."
When asked for her inspirations, Phillipa had no hesitation with her answer:
"I must say Gordon Ramsay and also Clare Smyth as I think she's a goddess and CORE was insane when I went there. How she makes a carrot taste that good it's ridiculous. Also I was really impressed by Ollie Dabbous at Hide, he's doing really cool and quirky things. I love Zaiyu Hasegawa I worked at restaurant which is a two Michelin star restaurant in Tokyo - Den. He has some amazing touches with his hospitality there as well as incredible food. They will try to Google guests before arriving to find out what country they are from and put a little flag from your home country on your table".
Visit Women in the The Food Industry for the full interview and to find our more about Phillipa's lands for the future and her development chef consultancy, Nutshell Food Consultants.