North-east chef Craig Wilson of Eat on the Green speaks out on Valentine’s Day madness having prepped for six days straight.
The proprietor and head chef of the award-winning restaurant which has been running for 17 years is toasting to his most successful Valentine’s Day event which will see more than 500 people enjoy his cuisine this weekend.
Craig Wilson, also known as The Kilted Chef, who owns the Udny Green-based eatery runs his Eat from the Green experience from a small front-facing window in his restaurant which has serviced thousands of people since the first lockdown was announced in March.
Launching the collection service for Mother’s Day after thousands of pounds worth of stock was put at risk, the service, which has been running on and off for 11 months now, has seen its biggest uptake yet, with 270 Valentine’s Boxes being made up to mark the occasion.
Craig, who said he had never seen so much food in his 17 years at the restaurant, is looking forward to welcoming customers to Udny Green, and is grateful to them all for helping keep his business afloat during this challenging time for hospitality.
He said: “We are feeding more than 500 people this weekend. I’ve never seen so much food in my 17 years. We have 270 Valentine’s boxes going out of our little takeaway window, and 100 of those have been bumped up to a deluxe offering where they are getting candles, Champagne, you name it. We could have done double the amount had we been able to.
“Whether it is romance, or maybe people wanting to change it up this year, what we are overwhelmed by is that there is 270 cars coming to the tiniest of villages this weekend over Saturday and Sunday. It is insane to visualise! The thing that has made this all be possible and much easier for us has been investing in an app and technology.”
Cooking up a storm
Working on the food prep in the kitchen since Sunday, Craig and another chef have been working back to back to get the boxes completed, with Craig working all day, and into the night to ensure every order is perfect.
He added: “The great thing is, because I have been cooking since Sunday, when the customers arrive, all of their food will be ready to hand out, so I will still be able to see them as the cooking is all done. I’ve spent five days in the kitchen with another chef and it has been really hard going, but I know the customers will love what we have produced for them.
“I’m doing a full day’s work and then I’m back in the kitchen in the evenings, too, as we’re cooking hundreds of beef cheeks for 10 to 12 hours and everything else on top of it. It is close to being around the clock just now because there is so much food to be prepared for all the different courses.”
Systems in place
With 270 cars descending on the small village of Udny Green, Craig and his wife Lindsay, as well as their limited team have been pulling out all the stops to ensure their service is slick, and it is safe for customers to arrive at the venue.
“We’ve got a full system in place so they will drive along the road in front of the restaurant, they will give me their name, and when ready I’ll invite them up to collect their box and get back in their car and head off,” said Craig.
“We try to avoid forming a queue so we’ll ask people to be in and out of their car as fast as possible. The app is vital as it has their name and the information we need to have their orders ready by the time they get to the window.
“We have someone arriving and picking up every three minutes so we are in full control of the window operation and the traffic. We’ll be monitoring the operation very closely on the day so it is very efficient.
“We’ve been shovelling the snow and have the road looking good and it is safe, which is most important. We also changed our pick-up collections to during the day recently to save people driving around when it is darker and colder, so everything is operating as safe as we can. On Saturday and Sunday we’re expecting people between 10am and 4pm so that it is also really spaced out, too. We’re all prepared for our customers arriving.”
The extra touches
As well as cooking for the masses, Craig and Lindsay have been preparing 700 cocktails for the weekend for customers to collect, and have been busy adding finishing touches to the Valentine’s boxes which Craig says, “makes them super special”.
Craig said: “We have also had to make hundreds and hundreds of cocktails. I think we’ve got 700 ordered to be made up. It is insane how many we have had to make.
“Lindsay and I have invested a lot of time and effort in this gift of love. She has been working on how to make it look really special and has been hand tying 300 odd bows. It is so important to have a special night, whether that’s as a couple or with the family, I think just appreciating one another especially after everything that the past 11 months has thrown at everyone is really important.
“It was Mother’s Day last year when we did our first Eat from the Green as we had to close ahead of the celebration in line with government restrictions so it is crazy to see how we have adapted the service and are still running it 11 months on. We own the business, but we also do the business and work tirelessly to keep things going.”