Healthista, foodie or budding entrepreneur? It’s time you met healthy chef and founder of The Detox Kitchen Lily Simpson…
Lily Simpson is, quite frankly, a role model to us all. Young and talented with an insatiable appetite for both business and nourishing, delicious food, she’s transformed the lifestyles and eating habits of time poor Londoners and top models alike with her gourmet, healthy delivery service and smart deli. I discover how she found her feet in the world of food and went on to make it her mission to bring wholesome, tasty dishes to the masses...
When and why did you decide to become a chef?
I am a self taught chef but was lucky enough to work with some really talented chefs when I set up my own catering company. I had been working in property but really wanted to get into the food industry so decided to go it alone and started a private catering company. I have always loved cooking and spent most of my childhood cooking with my dad, learning quick and easy recipes from my mum and cooking for my brothers after school. Moving into the food world seemed like a very natural step for me.
You hate the word diet - how did your healthy yet tasty cookery style evolve?
I have always had a very healthy attitude towards dieting and have never dieted, I have just always cooked from scratch and wanted to create really tasty food that didn't make me feel rubbish afterwards.
What sparked the idea to start your own business? Did you have a mentor or role model?
I had started to hear about diet delivery companies and did a little bit of research into them, tried out some competitors and thought, I can do this better and I can make the food fresher and tastier. I was in a really good position as I was already running my own catering company from a commercial kitchen. In the end, I went from coming up with the idea to launching that business in a matter of two months!
The Detox Kitchen is loved by the likes of Elle Macpherson and Gwyneth Paltrow - when did you know that you’d made it?
I guess you never really feel like you've made it because each day brings new challenges but when I receive emails from customers saying that we have transformed the way that they eat and have had a really positive effect on their lives, that’s when I feel the biggest sense of achievement.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Definitely tasting the food that our chefs have made! Every month we have a food development meeting and the chefs present new ideas; the food is always so tasty and beautiful. It makes me feel very proud.
What’s your favourite meal of the day? Do you have a recipe or dish that you particularly love?
I’m lucky enough to have a team of chefs cooking at our office every day so lunch tends to be a pretty impressive selection of salads, so that would have to be my favourite meal during the week. My favourite meal at the weekends has to be a Sunday roast. I love a roast chicken with lots of roasted root vegetables and a good thick gravy made from scratch!
What’s the most popular dish or drink at The Detox Kitchen?
People go crazy for our avocado salad, it's made with really good quality avocados which makes a big difference. We add nuts, seeds, white cabbage and peppers, so it has a the creaminess of the avocado with the crunchiness of the other vegetables. Our raw cacao brownies are also very popular and sell out of our delis every day.
Are there any aspects of your job that you find tough?
It's quite full on working in the fresh food industry; there is very little margin for error and everything has to be made quickly so that we can get it to our customers in as fresh a state as possible. At the same time we need to maintain quality so that we set ourselves apart from our competitors. We are constantly monitoring quality control. The pace can be tough but it also drives us.
What do you think stands in the way of people leading a healthy lifestyle? What would be your ultimate piece of health or nutrition advice to help people get back on track?
People overthink healthy eating. It’s actually really simple: cook from scratch, use lots of fresh vegetables, good lean meats and fish, and add herbs, spices, nuts and seeds to boost textures and flavour. Don't worry about all of these superfood crazes, they will go in and out of fashion but some broccoli and green beans stir fried with some chilli, cashew nuts and sesame oil, served with a simply grilled piece of fish will never go out of fashion. Not to mention that it always tastes delicious!
Do you have a specific beauty regime? What is your must-have product?
I love Pai Skincare . I am pregnant at the moment and couldn't live without their Pomegranate & Pumpkin Seed Stretch Mark System , £45. It’s amazing. I use Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge , £19, which always adds life to my face when I’m tired. I'm also a sucker for a blow-dry, especially after I've been working in the kitchen!
What is your favourite way to unwind?
A white wine spritzer (I probably shouldn't say that!) and going for a long walk after work with my husband and dog.
What’s your greatest indulgence?
Carrot cake with extra icing!
What would your advice be to budding chefs or young entrepreneurs?
Just do it. Don't overthink everything - it will give you the fear and will prevent you from making decisions based on instinct. My instinct has been my biggest asset and no matter what my head is telling me, my gut always rules my decisions!
What’s next for The Detox Kitchen?
We are in the process of writing a cookbook which is being launched in Spring 2015. We have just moved into a new production kitchen and will be expanding and developing some exciting new products and packages. We will also be opening our third deli in the not-to-distant future. Oh, and I'm having a baby in September!