Ordering Tips for chefs

As all good chefs know, the ingredient is king; without good quality, fresh produce the task of making delicious food becomes ever harder. At idc, we work with some of the most passionate in the business. Our suppliers take pride in what they produce, ensuring each pint of milk, cut of meat or box of vegetables is of the highest quality – and their standards are high!

Many of them have been in the business for generations, working with all manner of chefs along the way. So, as industry stalwarts, what tips would they give to a chef new to ordering from them?

1. Nurture the relationship

Think of your relationship with your supplier as a partnership. Look after the relationship and your supplier will look after you!

What our suppliers say: “You have to build trust and rapport with your supplier. There’s nothing unless you’ve got that trust. Hopefully you work on it, build on it, but the idea is that you have in front of you every day, what you expect – no surprises.” Malcolm Pyne of Pyne’s of Somerset

2. Be specific

When you’re working with suppliers, it’s helpful to them if you can be as specific as possible about what you need. That way they can make sure they’re working to provide you with exactly what you need right from the get-go.

What our suppliers say: “Whatever they want to order, they tell us what they want and we try to oblige. Give us the spec and we’ll do it to their specifications – because it’s likely they’ll want different. Wherever we can accommodate them, we’ll be accommodating with them.” Chris Greaves, H. Greaves & Son

3. Keep providence in mind

It’s really important to know where the product is coming from and how it was treated during the growing process (that counts for all types of produce!). This can also impact the taste of the product for the better.

What our suppliers say: “Chefs have an obligation to serve their customers with the best and so if we can stay the best, then it goes through the chain. Some chefs and other people might want to use the cheapest product, but it doesn’t always pay to use the cheapest product.” Roger Wellman, Cotteswold Dairy

4. Order local

Support your local supply chain and where you can, try to order from source. idc works to link up those chains, enabling you to make these good decisions!

What our suppliers say: “If a chef wants to help out, he needs to go back to source more, or go back to a smaller retailer.” Ruth Baker, Old Park Farm

5. Think of the diner

Diners are becoming more and more concerned with where the food they’re eating comes from. Make sure you can evidence where this comes from and your customers will thank you!

What our suppliers say: “For most customers nowadays it’s all about provenance, so if I can say exactly where the product has originated, they will be eager to put it on the menus. People like to ask, ‘where did your beef come from today? At West Country PGI we give them a certificate to verify that they are using our beef.” Tim Herman, Philip Dennis

6. Pick up the phone

A relationship doesn’t work without communication, so if you’re wondering what’s best to order, just give your supplier a call!

What our suppliers say: “Make sure you keep in contact with your account manager. At the end of the day, relationships are so massive in this industry; if you can have that relationship where you can pick up the phone and speak to someone and get to find out what’s in season, what’s looking good, that would be my advice.” Mat Tilley, Worcester Produce

7. Order with the seasons

Ordering according to what’s in season is the best way of ensuring top quality produce arrives in your kitchen.

What our suppliers say: “Know the seasons; if you buy with the seasons, you buy right. If it’s in season, it’s going to be the right price, the right quality.” Richard Musgrave, Strawberry Fields

8. Use your supplier’s respources

Many of our suppliers have tools that they provide to the chefs that they work with to help them buy the best ingredients at the best time of year – check if your supplier has these and use them!

What our suppliers say: “We have a seasonal calendar that we supply to every new business, which means that you can then buy locally, as and where possible. We also have a newsletter that goes out to customers, so they can see what’s best to buy at that time of year and what to avoid as much as they can.” Beth Tuck, Arthur David

9. Keep it tight

Only order what you need; you can always order more! When you’re starting out, it’s better to be on the safe side and order only as much as you realistically think you’ll use, then scale up as you need. No supplier wants to know their food is going to waste!

What our suppliers say: “We use an expression: ‘keep it tight’, which means you don’t order too much and it then sits in the fridge and goes off. Start off slowly, make sure it’s washed well, use it quickly.” Simon Calder, Blackdown Growers

10. Don’t be afraid

If there’s produce out there that you’re not yet familiar with, have a go with it! You may be surprised with how much your diners like it.

What our suppliers say: “Don’t be afraid to really use it and put it on the plate; customers love it. Embrace it and think this is a really tasty, healthy food.” Chris Cullen, Truleaf