The Olive Grows … and grows and grows, Jan 2010


Caterers, cookery schools, chefs, food photographers and artisan food and drink producers discover a business lifeline in this unique, production kitchen concept.

“I thought The Olive Grows was a great idea: a professional kitchen that chefs can hire only when they need it. This kind of cost-effective solution is very welcome to help develop the next generation of talented chefs launching their own businesses and exciting new foods.”

Jean-Christophe Novelli, 5AA Rosette and multi Michelin award-winning chef.

The problem: 18 months ago, The Olive Grows founders, Olga Astaniotis and George Poole, spotted a gap in the food production industry: a gap which was restricting growth, limiting business and product development and keeping some of the most exciting, gourmet products in domestic kitchens and off shop shelves.

The answer: fully equipped, accredited commercial kitchens, available for flexible hire from as little as four hours:

• Start-ups could now grow without the overheads of lengthy leases or expensive equipment purchases
• More established companies could bridge expansion into larger premises by using the kitchens as an overspill facility
• Seasonal producers could now cost-effectively dip in and out of the market as required
• And all sectors of the industry could now tout for larger business, safe in the knowledge that production demands could be met accordingly

The results: The Olive Grows has been a lifeline for over 30 different passionate foodie companies; from artisan bakers, to established brands developing new products, to chefs and up-market caterers. In a time of economic uncertainty and limited credit:

• It has helped them to expand into new markets
• Given them the freedom to organically develop their businesses and products
• Helped launch a feast of delicious, global, often ground-breaking, new food products and services into the mainstream

For many of The Olive Grows clients, it has been the impetus for changing career paths to follow their first love for authentic, high quality food. From a graphic designer turned bespoke baker, an electronics project manager now running a Chinese cookery school or an IT consultant turned
African snack entrepreneur, this is a community founded on passion “The journey has been incredible,” says co-founder Olga Astaniotis, “We really believed in the idea, but would it work or were we seeing a gap in the market that didn’t really exist? Well, now we know that the demand is real and our clients are so grateful for the facilities.”

“It’s very rewarding because we’re all in it together”, she continues, “all trying to do something different, to find our niche and deliver exceptional products and services. What’s great about these cooks and their food is that they haven’t been homogenised, or compromised by mass production techniques. What you get is passion, real cooking and well-sourced ingredients. The combination of new and innovative dishes and favourite authentic recipes from back home, whether that was in Ealing, London or Kingston, Jamaica, makes for very exciting food experiences.”

• For caterers, such as Young and Wild, just 14 months after launching their company based on a passion for ethical and honest business practice and the principles of the Slow Food movement, The Olive Grows gives the company the ability to compete at the next level, from their previous ceiling of 100 cover contracts.

• The space and flexibility has also been a bonus for caterer, Mark Dunne, Chefs on the Move: “If I have a quiet week, I do not use the kitchen and most of all, I do not have the expense. The Olive Grows offers me a professional kitchen that meets all aspects of food safety and hygiene, so I can also take my clients there for tastings.”

• For new food manufacturers, such as bakers Cake Before Crumbs, or purveyors of knockout Caribbean rum cake, Like Mum used To, The Olive Grows offers a stepping-stone from domestic kitchen production. It also provides a professional, nurturing environment, where they can find information, source suppliers and share experiences. The result is a slew of gorgeous, gourmet fare, which might otherwise never have reached industrial production; occasionally the product of secret family recipes, often brought from across the globe – including India, the Caribbean, Africa, Italy, Morocco, Iran and Scandinavia - and always fired by passion. “I only need the kitchens for four hours every week at the moment, making it a very costeffectivesolution. As well as providing the kitchens, The Olive Grows is a great support network where I meet others trying to launch food businesses, and I get the benefit of George’s and Olga’s experience, knowledge and contacts... In my own kitchen it would just be really lonely.” Celeste Smith, Cake Before Crumbs

• For established, growing businesses, like stewed! and Fresh! Naturally Organic, The Olive Grows provides a temporary expansion outlet to fulfil a growing order book, to handle a surge in demand or to provide a stop-gap before out-sourcing or their own bigger premises become a viable option. “George and Olga have developed the perfect way to help the small business grow before taking that giant step of investing in premises of their own. They’ve been an amazing support and they do everything in their power to help your business grow and prosper” Alan Rosenthal,

• For seasonal businesses, such as Aunt Alice, The Olive Grows facilitates the annual Christmas frenzy with no hidden overheads. The family recipe for Christmas steamed puddings was developed by founder Nancy Mahon’s great aunt in the early 1900’s. She has since added her own twist because we now have access to so many more varieties of dried fruit than they would have had then, such as mango, apricot and morello cherries; “It’s been divine working at The Olive Grows because the team is so supportive and it’s a very relaxed atmosphere with everyone making really honest food.” Says Nancy.

• For photographers and producers, The Olive Grows is the perfect culinary shoot venue, successfully hosting a Carlsberg masterclass in September 2009 as part of their We Deliver More campaign; which was overseen by 5AA Rosette and multi Michelin award-winning
chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli, from Novelli Academy Cookery School, Tea Green, Hertfordshire. (

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