Devon’s acres of unspoilt farmland and pristine coastal waters are part of the county’s attraction for the millions of daytrippers and holidaymakers that come here every year. But, as we explore in our South Devon Cookbook (free to download here), Devon’s countryside provides far more than just stunning scenery. Award-winning food producers, restaurants, vineyards and other food and drink businesses have set up in our county to make the most of its wonderful natural endowments.
These businesses have created a renowned foodie culture that’s become another important reason to come to Devon.
Founded in Exeter in 2015, Mindful Chef is a fantastic example of an innovative new business that champions the finest produce from our region. In a short time, they’ve shipped over 500,000 delicious, healthy recipes to customers around the UK, and they count sports stars including Sir Andy Murray amongst their fans. The recipes are mostly sourced from small farms in Devon and the West Country, handpicked for their quality and ethics.
We caught up with co-founder, Myles Hopper, to find out more about this Devon success story.
Coast & Country Cottages (CCC): Could you sum up for us how Mindful Chef works?
Myles Hopper (MH): Every week Mindful Chef sends pre-portioned ingredients with delicious, healthy recipes so you can cook dinner in less than 30 minutes. You pick from eight recipes each week (four meat and fish, four vegan) and we work on a 12-week rotation of recipes so you rarely eat the same meal. All of our meals are gluten-free and dairy-free too.
CCC: Where did the idea come from? How about the name?
MH: The idea came when we were sat in Devon watching one of our friends’ boats come in after a day of fishing. There was a queue of people lined up ready to buy the day’s catch. We thought this is how people should source food, not have it waiting on supermarket shelves for weeks. The name embodies all that we try to be: mindful of the suppliers we use, mindful of the ingredients we include and mindful of our impact on the environment.
CCC: What were you doing before launching Mindful Chef?
MH: I was a personal trainer and nutritional coach. Giles worked in marketing and Rob was involved in finance. We are all friends from school and it makes working together a lot of fun.
CCC: At Coast & Country Cottages, we think our wonderful local food and drink is one of the best things about living and staying in our region. How does being based here in Devon influence the work you do? Do you source a lot of produce from Devon?
MH: We grew up in Devon and think it has some of the finest produce the UK has to offer. When starting out we sourced everything from Devon and Cornwall so we could show the rest of the UK exactly how good the food down here is. Over time we have had to include other suppliers outside of Devon as we scale to cope with demand.
CCC: You’ve received support from sports stars like Sir Andy Murray, Victoria Pendleton CBE and Will Greenwood MBE – how did they get involved?
MH: Victoria was actually a secret customer for months – she had ordered under her husband’s name. As soon as she heard we wanted to crowdfund she got in touch and is now invested in the business which is great. Andy and Will had both had boxes before and got involved in the same round of funding.
CCC: As a company, you’ve grown very quickly since the Mindful Chef was founded in 2015. What’s your secret?
MH: We set out to differentiate ourselves from our competitors and never wanted to be just another recipe box company. We thought by being the healthy recipe box and more mindful of where our ingredients come from and supporting local, British farms we could really distinguish ourselves from other companies. Being the healthy box also allows you to work with lots of cool companies which has definitely helped us grow – along with Penguin offering us a two book deal and our debut book ‘Eat Well, Live Better’!
CCC: Lots of companies offer a recipe box service – what makes Mindful Chef stand out from the competition?
MH: Quite simply health. A lot of people are initially sceptical that healthy food doesn’t taste delicious or it won’t fill them up but we prove them wrong. Not only do all of the recipes taste great but we have members of the England rugby team, GB cyclists, footballers and rowers all eating Mindful Chef meals.
CCC: Who comes up with the recipes and who are the lucky people who get to try them?
MH: In the early days it was just ourselves – and we are by no means professional chefs but that is what is so fantastic about Mindful Chef. It teaches you how to cook. Since we got a lot busier and had to focus on the business we brought in help in the form of Leith’s professionally trained chef Louisa. She is wonderful and does an amazing job at creating different recipes every single week. All of us in the office have the best job in the world because we get to try these recipes every day 🙂
CCC: For our holiday makers, could they pause their subscription while they are away?
MH: Absolutely! It is a subscription service because most of our customers don’t even want to think about ordering they just want their meals to show up each week. But you can pause or skip several weeks if you are off on holiday. Alternatively you can pop your account on hold while you’re away and reactivate it on your return.
Choose from almost 400 self-catering holiday homes in South Devon, and spend a week relaxing in your luxurious accommodation, taking in the stunning scenery and enjoying some of the best food and drink in the country.