Awards season is officially in full swing with the BAFTAs and BRITs just around the corner. But we’re reaching for a different kind of prize – the sparkle and gleam of a five-star food hygiene rating! Just like a BAFTA can boost the career of an up-and-coming actor, a five-star food rating can reap benefits for food businesses, particularly those starting out.
We spoke to food entrepreneur and Kitchup user Jasper Wight to find out more about his latest food venture, HiLo and hear first-hand how a food start up has achieved the top rating for food hygiene.
1. How did you come up with the concept of ‘cooking up the new normal’ and what kind of food can us Londoners expect from HiLo?
HiLo grew out of my home cooking. I’ve been working with food for over 20 years, from street markets and supper clubs to gastropubs to a 17-store salad bar chain (www.chopd.co.uk). I really felt that the mainstream approach to food out of the home was not sustainable, and wanted to find a way to make everyday grab & go eating in particular totally delicious and more sustainable at the same time. When we starting testing HiLo in late 2016 we found the Hi plant Lo meat angle resonated strongly with our audience, office workers chained to their desk who need better fuel to do their best work. We want to diffuse the brain ache for those hard at work, make their lunch better while acknowledging their diverse needs – lo fat/ hi energy/ vegan/ gluten free/ dairy free etc.
2. As a food entrepreneur, you’ve probably seen your fair share of kitchens! What do you think makes a good kitchen and what do you enjoy most about working in a kitchen?
Obviously it has to have all the equipment and space you need, be clean and safe to work in. I like cooking to music and we’ve shared a kitchen sounds playlist on the food page of our site so people can hear what’s on while we make their pots. It’s also really nice to have natural daylight, and the last 2 kitchens – including this current one – both have that. But the main thing is to be working with nice people, with good temperaments, who like doing what they are doing and are good at it. We have a really great team in the HiLo kitchen and I’m looking to see them step and take on more responsibility as the business grows.
3. HiLo London has received a five-star rating for food hygiene – congrats! What steps did you take to achieve this?
After a while it all becomes second nature. We’ve got a great EHO who is really supporting of what we are doing, so that obviously helps too. We registered early on with NCASS, which lots of EHOs are familiar with and find reassuring. We build the checklists into our daily and weekly processes. Working in a shared kitchen, we all have a shared liability for its condition, and so we all do stuff for each other to make sure we are all covered at all times.
4. What advice would you give to other food businesses looking to get top marks in food hygiene?
Don’t want to tempt fate but would not make it out to be rocket science. Think clean, think safe, clean as you go, build in time for cleaning daily and weekly. Communicate clearly with your other kitchen users, your kitchen host (eg Kitchup) and your EHO. Basically, don’t expose yourself the risk of nasty surprises. Cleaning up as you go is my number one tip for any cooking action, at home or for a food business. It’s the secret to sanity (ish!)
5. How important is the five-star rating to your food business?
Definitely important. Some food websites and services won’t list you without it. Also, although the ratings are graded 1-5, it’s pretty binary. As soon as you see a 4 star you think ‘why is that not a 5 star’. So often it is effectively 5 star or nothing. That is pretty high stakes, but equally it’s certainly achievable.
Good food hygiene is essential to any operating food business. It ensures the food you serve is safe to eat and helps with customer confidence. It can protect your reputation and increase customers.
The four main things to remember for good hygiene are the 4C’s: cross-contamination, cleanliness, chilling and cooking. For more advice and guidance, visit the Food Standards Agency (who run the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme in partnership with local authorities).
Say hello to HiLo – Hi plant Lo meat grab+go pots that make it easy to eat better. With a lighter footprint. For a fiver.
This is hard working food for hard working people in need of sustenance for brain + body to tackle long hours and high stress.
With flavours repping London’s cultural mash up, it’s stealth health that’s never boring.