Discount retailer Lidl has a new superstar on board: executive consultant chef, Kevin Love. Having worked under Heston Blumenthal at Michelin-star standard for four and a half years, this chef is crazy about fresh produce and has more than a previous link with the store. Produce Business UK talks to Love two months into his new job about his career so far, what he loves about Lidl and his top-secret Christmas project
How did the opportunity to work for Lidl come about?
Kevin Love (KL): I actually worked as a store manager for Lidl 10 years ago and, after seeing its Little Market advert on TV, I approached the company to see if there might be an opportunity for us to work together again. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now you’re executive consultant chef at Lidl, what does your job entail?
KL: I’m incredibly busy at the moment; helping with lots of content production and using all the amazing produce Lidl has to offer. I’m also working on my own range of products, that will form part of the Deluxe range, which has had me out on the road meeting some of the brilliant suppliers that Lidl works with. It’s a very exciting project and currently top secret, but I can say that it will be hitting shelves this Christmas.
What’s an average week like for you?
KL: I could be filming recipes one day [watch Love in action here] and visiting a farm the next. Most weeks there is a tasting of the latest samples of the products that I’m working on and other days I’m in the kitchen writing and testing recipes. It’s wide and varied, which is really exciting.
You’ve been described as being passionate about high-quality and seasonal produce. What are your thoughts on the fresh produce industry in the UK?
KL: From my own experience, I think the relationship that chefs have with suppliers is crucial, and more and more suppliers are sourcing local ingredients, which is great. Most suppliers are proactive enough with their business to let the chefs that they work with know what’s good and when, so that they have time to react – it is important this continues.
Why are fruit and vegetables so important to you as a chef, as part of Lidl and as a consumer yourself? Have you had any memorable experiences when visiting growers?
KL: Fruit and veg is important to me, as it’s the key to a healthy balanced diet.
What I love about Lidl is how strong we are when it comes to delivering such a fantastic fresh fruit and veg range. Every farm visit I make is memorable because all farmers and food producers are so passionate and clearly obsessed with their product, which I think is amazing and it definitely rubs off on you as a chef.
What do you like about Lidl’s fresh produce policies and aisles, and what new or rediscovered items can you not get enough of at the moment?
KL: I love the fruit and veg displays in Lidl stores and the fact they are maintained for freshness constantly during the day. I’m particularly loving single bulb garlic [or solo garlic], as it’s so handy and I’m still blown away by the prices Lidl charge for the quality offered.
Do you have a favourite fruit or/and vegetable dish? What is it and why does it appeal to you?
KL: Bramley apple crumble with vanilla ice cream, because of its simplicity and pure deliciousness and texture. As for veg, it has to be British asparagus with cured meats, poached egg and hollandaise sauce, simply because of the wait and anticipation for the British asparagus season.
Why did you become a chef? Have those reasons changed or developed, and how do those aims fit in with your role at Lidl?
KL: I became a chef because of my love of food and creativity. Nothing has changed at all apart from I’m a little older and wiser and it’s that experience which fits into my role at Lidl.
Apart from your latest appointment, of course, at what point do you think was your big break as a chef?
KL: My biggest break has to be becoming the head chef at the Hinds Head in Bray and going on to win a Michelin star.
Who has been your culinary inspiration during your life?
KL: Culinary inspiration was my mum, as it was her cooking every day that led to my culinary curiosity.
What are your plans for Lidl?
KL: I plan to keep working closely with the buying teams and get involved as much as possible with all the products in store, and hopefully expand my own range of products over time. The biggest thing I want to affect with my role at Lidl is people’s perceptions. I want customers to know how good the produce is at Lidl and that a huge amount of the range is locally sourced from British farms, as well as the fact that they can have complete faith that what they are buying is the best quality produce at the best price.
How do you intend to improve relations with your fruit and vegetable contacts? Are you on the lookout for any products in particular?
KL: We have great relationships with our fruit and veg suppliers already and we regularly try different products in stores. What’s interesting is that we listen to our customers and can act swiftly. We have a Lidl Community, which I am getting involved with, so if we find out that there are products that our customers want we will endeavour to get them into store, which we can do very efficiently and quickly. I think this is amazing and a true testament to Lidl’s commitment to its customers.
Follow Lidl on Twitter @LidlUK