Tell us about Dickie’s
Dickie’s is a food delivery business that supports good farming, partnering with small UK producers and only using sustainable packaging. It’s centred on the very best free-range and ethically reared meat, poultry and dairy.
Where did the idea for it come from?
I definitely wasn’t thinking about it before the pandemic. I’d like to say I was but that would be too prescient. But the pandemic crystallised the need for something like this. I like delivery and takeaway food, I eat it once a week and the ones I order are all delicious, but because takeaway food its supposedly cheap and accessible a lot of the time the meat people are using is from intensive farming. During lockdown I was thinking that there needs to be something a bit more thoughtful and it struck me there was an opportunity for it.
The delivery market is soaring, but lockdown is coming to an end. Why launch it now?
Even before lockdown people were ordering a lot of takeaways and that isn’t likely to change. It’s taken time to get the packaging right because we are trying to be as ethical and sustainable as we possibly can be. Because of the butchery and Meatopia [the meat-focused food festival Turner is involved with] I’ve been researching things for a decade, so it wasn’t a stretch for me. I knew all the farms and most of the meat we use for Dickie’s comes from my own butchery [Turner & George].
But the packaging was harder?
I’ve been working with a lady called Maria McCann who is a borderline genius and she has gone out of her way to find the most sustainable packaging out there. It’s not cheap but it offers peace of mind. You watch programmes on Netflix and wonder what the hell is going on in the world and we don’t want to be part of that. We want to do the research, source the good stuff, spend the extra money and not have that in the back of our minds. If and when this takes off Dickie’s could be feeding thousands of people - if we were using nasty plastics that would be a contribution to the environmental problems we have.
So there are plans to grow it then?
We are planning for it to go at least country wide. The kind of people involved in the business and who are on the board are at the top of their game - they want to take this out there and spread the word.
Could Dickie’s ever become a bricks and mortar business?
The idea and concept were always for it to be delivery but I’ll never say never - Pitt Cue started out underneath and bridge and ended up in bricks and mortar. But there’s no plan.
Tell us about the menu
It’s stuff I’ve been cooking for years at Pitt Cue, Hawksmoor, Blacklock as well as stuff I like to eat and stuff I’ve written about (menu items include a range of burgers, chipotle wings, sugar pit bacon ribs, breaded lamb cutlets, braised beef short rib, dripping chips, mash and gravy, and frickles - dill pickles coated in breadcrumbs). Whatever you put on the menu the burger will be the number one seller and I think my burger is one of the best out there (the classic burger is made using prime steak cuts and bone marrow in a brioche glazed bun). It is balanced, simple and clean and made with good meat.
What’s been the most challenging menu item?
The ribs have been quite challenging. We tried to use a few technological tricks, but they weren’t coming out perfectly so in the end we got a traditional smoker in the kitchen. All the kitchens moving forward will need to have one. We’ve also had to think about delivery - is it going to get there in perfect condition after three to five minutes on the back of a bike? My burger I developed for Hawksmoor uses bibb lettuce, but it simply doesn’t work in transit, so we use a lollo variety that works perfectly and stays crispy. Most burger brands chop it up, but I like to use it whole.
What else is in the pipeline for you?
We have plans to approach chefs and get them on board. We’d like to do a fish concept one day and an Asian one and grow the company to do various kinds of food. There’s loads of room for it. I’m also working on a completely separate project in the Cotswolds [The Double Red Duke gastropub in Oxfordshire]. I tend to try and do three or four new projects a year to try and keep out of trouble.