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Meet our Chef, Mathew!

12th Feb 2021 | People

Whether it’s cooking for the Queen or making dips, sauces and soups for the UK’s largest supermarkets, universities and restaurants, Mathew Williams has ‘constructed’ quite a career for himself.

Oh, and he’s also been responsible for feeding 7,000 students and been named runner-up in the prestigious Welsh Young Chef of the Year competition

Mathew joined Zorba Foods as our Development Chef in 2012, but his story begins at the tender age of 16 when he had to decide whether to follow his dad into the carpentry business or pursue his love of cooking by becoming a chef.

Luckily for us, he chose the latter and now he is responsible for coming up with the recipes for the dips, sauces and soups which are enjoyed by the millions of people who buy our products from the UK’s largest supermarkets, universities, and restaurants.

His path to Zorba is an impressive one.

After starting, in his own words as a “pot washer” at a local hotel, he then went onto cook for politicians and staff at the Welsh National Assembly. It was here that he got to cook for the Queen during a visit to Wales.

He recalls: “We were often asked to cook at prestigious events and on this occasion, we made canapes, but very high-end ones!”

It was during his time at the Assembly that Mathew entered the Welsh Young Chef of the Year Competition which is run by the Culinary Association of Wales. Much to his surprise, he was runner up.

Mathew adds: “I had no expectations when I entered the competition so to go so far was fantastic and it showed me how far I had come as a Chef.”

After leaving the Assembly, Mathew became Head Chef at Cardiff Metropolitan University where he led a team cooking for 7,000 students.

He then decided to take a different career step by becoming a development chef at Zorba, a role he has performed for the last 8 years.

It’s a role which is very varied as he explains: “A typical day in my working life can range from coming up with new recipes and sending out samples, through to taking part in blue sky innovation days where we can be as creative as we like, however crazy our ideas might be.

“A good example was the houmous I came up with which was based around the different flavours of Walkers crisps I like so much, so we made prawn cocktail houmous and cheese and onion houmous, to name just a few.

“This may sound strange, but we actually ended up making salt and vinegar houmous and sea salt houmous for a supermarket.”

Mathew says he still gets a buzz out of seeing the products he comes up with on supermarket shelves.

He’s also able to call on over 8,000 recipes for dips, sauces and soups which have been created in the Zorba kitchen over the years. The ‘Bible’, as it is known, started off as a book but is now so big it has to all be put on computer.

Mathew says: “Obviously not everything we come up with in the development kitchen makes it to the supermarkets, but that doesn’t mean we forget about it.

“There’s no such thing as a bad idea at Zorba, just something which can be stored away and used at another time.

“I have often gone back to the ‘book’ after receiving a brief from a customer and then tailoring it to meet the brief, and this often leads to it being approved.  Having the ‘book’ is invaluable, and we’re adding to it all the time.”

We’re always looking for new ways that consumers can use our products and expanding our ranges. But Mathew knows that when there is an appetite for something new, Zorba will be at the front of the queue to present it. After all, we have the ‘book’.

When he’s not developing dips, sauces and soups, Mathew – who is already working on Christmas 2021 recipes – enjoys spending time with his wife and two children and he also continues to indulge his other love of carpentry.

So, he’s literally a chip off the old block!