Gone are the days when chefs were restricted to working in a restaurant or hotel; now there are many avenues for chefs to explore with their cooking skills. Chef Nicole Parfitt started Ginger Apple almost three years ago when she felt that she needed to be more creative, and now she serves 150-200 people daily with her delicious delivered meals. We had a chat with Nicole about her company, how she got started and what the challenges are.

Why did you decide to open Ginger Apple and how long has the business been running? I was previously in the restaurant industry and working for a franchise group, but it was becoming too big and did not allow for much creativity.  I wanted to start something that would allow each day to be different, and in January Ginger Apple will have been running for three years.

What is your past experience and training, and who do you consider a mentor? I studied at Prue Leith Chefs Academy for an 18 month diploma, and trained under Chefs Stefano Strafella and Arnold Tanzer. After training I started with the Rhapsody’s Group and was with the company for 12 years, working my way up to head chef for the franchise. I consider my culinary mentor in the industry to be Martin Kobald.

How many clients do you have using the weekly meal delivery service and which menus are the most popular? We feed about 150 – 200 people a day for the daily deliveries, then we do another 200 Order-to-Freeze meals. The Banting/LCHF menu is very popular as is our standard menu.

Is it challenging to come up with new menu items for each week? It is really difficult as we never serve the same meal twice in a month. We also have clients that have been ordering food from us every day for months, so we need to ensure they do not get bored. We also have to consider what holds and transports well.

What is your daily routine in order to get all the meals delivered on time? The team arrives at 04h45 and starts preparing the meals for the day. We have three drivers on planned routes – they start taking their first drops from 08:30 am and return to the kitchen throughout the day to keep picking up more orders. Once the kitchen is done with the daily meals they start preparing the Order-to-Freeze meals for the following day as they need to be refrigerated overnight before transporting.

How is running a meal delivery service different from being a restaurant/hotel chef? In some ways it is easier, as you are only cooking one meal a day – so you can cook in bulk. The hard part is that not everyone likes the same type of food. Usually in a hotel or restaurant people choose what they like, but in our business they are receiving meals that they would not usually have ordered, so quality and taste are key.

Are there any surprising things you’ve discovered? Everyone’s impression of home cooking is different, and it’s really difficult to try cook as everyone’s mother or granny used to! However, we have put our own creative touch on meals and hope we have happy clients. I have also discovered that it is difficult to change a mindset against ordering from a home delivery service; people are not used to the concept yet and don’t believe how much money, time and hassle they can save.