Britain’s in stew – thanks to Alan

FROM a local kitchen to national supermarket shelves – via an Ally Pally Farmers’ Market – these stews have come a long way.

Stewed! pots are available at a number of supermarkets and now have their own dedicated cookbook.

The success has come less than four years after Alan Rosenthal began tinkering with recipes in his Bounds Green kitchen after spotting a gap in the market.

Childs Hill-bred Mr Rosenthal, 34, had his “stew-reka” moment in January 2007 and realised his future was not in the corporate world but in the humble stew. Two months later, he quit his job.

“Like a lot of people, I felt I was not doing exactly what I was meant to be doing and I had always had a passion for food,” he says.

“I was on the Circle Line with a colleague, trying to think of something that might be an opportunity. I felt there were ready meals and soups but no-one was concentrating on the stews.”

After quitting his job, Mr Rosenthal worked at restaurants and went on cookery courses until he finally settled on creating his own range of stew pots.

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“I ultimately felt I wanted to create my own food brand. It felt like it made more sense to marry up my passion for cooking with my background in retail,” he said.

From Ally Pally market in April 2008, the pots were first stocked in local Budgens stores, Harvey Nichols, Waitrose and then Sainsbury’s earlier this year.

The stewed! pots can now be found nestled in fridges nationwide among several similar competitors. But Mr Rosenthal says he was already producing the meals at Ally Pally before others began launching their versions.

Either way, in recent months, there does seem to be a vogue for similar products, he says.

“There’s that thing about eating at your desk and eating out of a pot is very easy,” he said. “And there’s something about moving away from sandwiches. They’re too calorific and full of carbohydrates and leave people bloated.

“It’s also offering something a little bit different. Our pots are good for you and there’s an association between ready meals and those trays. But eating out of a pot feels less ready made perhaps.

“I do think we’re different from our competitors in that they taste and feel like they’re homemade.

“One pot will differ from the other – we’re not measuring one gram of this or that – it’s all made in one pot like you would at home and put into little ones.”

Now the company hopes people will also be grabbing at their latest incarnation – a cookbook.

“It’s really exciting. The business has come a long way in a matter of two years. To think I was in that Farmers’ Market and now it’s being sold all over the country,” said Mr Rosenthal.

“Never in a million years would I have dreamed of this. It’s very exciting. But as we get better, we are always looking for the next thing.”

Even now though, it seems those days up at Ally Pally were worthwhile, says Mr Rosenthal.

“It turned out that the editor at the publishers we were pitching to used to buy the stew off me at Alexandra Palace Farmers’ Market. It’s a small world and it shows it really helps to just get out there.”