Ready-meal business booming

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Terrific time . . . Lou's Kitchen and Pantry owner Lou Tilyard celebrates two years of doing business in Dunedin this month. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

The last thing Lou’s Kitchen and Pantry owner Lou Tilyard wants is exposure for her Dunedin business.

Mrs Tilyard was tentative when the The Star approached her to talk about her company.

It’s not that she has anything to hide, she just did not want widespread publicity of her booming business.

“It’s all been through word of mouth . . . I’ve created a monster as it is.”

Her business, which she runs from a shop in Helensburgh, celebrated its second anniversary on October 18.

From the shop she produces and sells fresh “ready-to-go” meals ranging from chicken nachos to tiramisu.

The menu changed each week and meals were made fresh four days a week from Tuesday.

Soup was always popular any day of the year.

“People in Dunedin are crazy about soup.”

She started the business with no formal cookery training.

“I’m self taught – I’ve always enjoyed cooking – I’m from a family of people who like to eat.”

When asked what she had discovered from two years in business, she laughed.

“You’re learning all the time about what people want.”

An example of her learning was buying a heap of fresh blue cod – packaged in 150g lots – as part of a meal.

“Nobody bought it because they had to cook the fish themselves.”

In a bid to use the “amazing” cod, she made a fish pie to sell.

“I would have never made a pie out of blue cod and now that’s one of our big days – you come in and every bench is covered in fish pies.”

She continued to use blue cod in the pies because it’s what customers wanted.

“If I was making it for me, I’d use monkfish because it holds together way better.”

The biggest discovery in the two years was learning how to work more efficiently, such as making a risotto in a pot rather than in the oven.

“We’ve had to learn how to increase the quantities to meet the demand.”

Her customers were from a range of demographics.

“That really surprised me – I thought it would be all busy people and busy families.”

When asked if she had any plans to move into a bigger premises in a more central location she replied: “Absolutely not, we like it here – we’re quite happy just chugging along – it’s nice.”