Vitsoe’s In-House Chef Will Leigh on Keeping the Company Fed in a Pandemic
As the in-house chef for Vitsœ—the midcentury furniture manufacturer that’s been producing Dieter Rams designs since 1959—Will Leigh is a fixture who keeps everyone at the British company happily fed, preparing daily breakfast, tea, and lunch for staff from a kitchen outfitted, naturally, in its famous 606 modular shelving. Though much of the Vitsœ team has been working remotely these past several weeks, Leigh, along with a dozen or so essential workers, continues to report to work at the headquarters and production facility in Royal Leamington Spa. Here, Leigh tells us what it’s been like to transition from years of cooking at restaurants to working for a design company, and what’s on his menu this spring and summer.
“I cook for everybody every day. I make breakfast at half-seven, we have a tea break at ten, and then we have lunch at a quarter to one. Just by the process of having me in the building, it means that everyone can all sit down together and take a quick break together. There’s no designated executive table, no workshop team table, or dispatch team table; everybody sits down and has lunch together. We have team-building everyday. It’s built into the building, into the ethos of the company, and normally—when it’s not Covid-19—we sit down at communal tables. Now, we seat four at a table that’s made for sixteen.
I’ve worked in restaurants all my life. I’ve never worked at an office, I’ve never worked in a factory, I’ve never worked anywhere else before this, so I’m quite used to having a daily family meal cooked by a chef. But it’s a nice perk to have, and thanks to the generosity of my bosses, it’s all here and laid on by them—nobody’s buying anything from me.
A lot of people who can are working from home, and we were fairly well set up for remote working. All of our planners are still working, our factories are open; we’re still making and dispatching. Right now, we have about seventeen people here on site, which, in a building the size of two football pitches, is alright—we can cope with social distancing. I’ve actually stopped the breakfasts, and tea break is again a very distant affair.
I think we’re going to be stuck with Covid-19 for quite a while, so we just need to figure out how to make this normal. That said, spring has officially sprung here. We’ve had wild garlic, we’ve had three kinds of leeks, I’ve had nettle tops, we’ve got the first of the English asparagus. Unfortunately, because of the nature of this all, we’re all missing out on fresh fish, because it’s almost impossible for fishermen to socially distance on a fishing boat, so I really am missing the spring cods and hake, things like that. But the fruit and veg side has been fantastic. The peas in my backyard garden have started to grow and are sprouting, my beans are starting to climb—this is the time when it’s really easy to fall in love with cooking, and especially vegetarian and vegan cooking. If you can just eat fresh peas, fresh asparagus, and purple sprouting broccoli, wild garlic and olive oil, I’d say you’re doing pretty well.”