On a cold December morning a couple of us food bloggers caught the train from London to Norwich for a day full of activities. We were off on a press trip to the Kettle Chips Factory based in Norfolk and to meet Chris Barnard, the Kettle Chips Head Chef and brains behind the operation at the factory. Excitement was thoroughly building up, and like a fellow food blogger said, its like getting the Golden Ticket to visit Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
After a quick lunch, we went on to the factory floor where Chris was waiting for us. We suited and booted up and started the tour. Kettle Foods was launched in 1988 and Norfolk was selected as the base in order to be as close as possible to the vast majority of potato growers. Chris joined the team a year later and has ever since been part of every flavour Kettle Chips' brings out and also sourcing all the ethical ingredients that form an integral part of the delicious chips.
The potatoes are carefully checked for size, quality etc and only those that pass these tests are moved on to the next stage of power washing them where again they are hand inspected as well. They are then sliced thickly with their skins on and cooked in batches in sunflower oil. Even though there are machines that aid in the frying, they are always closely manned by experienced chip fryers who make sure they are perfectly cooked. We even tried our hands at tossing the chips with huge rakes while they are being fried, to make sure they don't stick to each other, and for even cooking. And yes, we got to taste them right out of the fryer, all golden and crunchy- chips that cant be any more fresher than that.
The cooked chips are then transferred through a conveyor belt of sorts, checked thoroughly to remove any distorted ones and then moved on to huge drums where they are flavoured with carefully blended, authentic seasoning, of course developed by Chris Bernard. Needless to say, there is no added MSG, artificial colours, flavourings or preservatives to the process. Last step is the sealing and packaging in distinctive coloured bags that help consumers quickly find their favourite.
I cant begin to explain how interesting it all was, but for me the best part was going into Chris' cosy kitchen where he showed us how he went about creating the unique flavours Kettle is known for. From Port and Stilton to salsa and mesquite to cracked black pepper to the classics like sea salt and balsamic he talked us through the entire seasoning process, how he derives inspiration for certain flavours, how he has to travel to source the right ingredients to ensure that there is perfection in every flavour he develops.
Armed with a goody bag filled to the gills with Kettle chips, and with huge smiles on our faces, at having spent a fabulous day at the factory we boarded the train back to London, our heads brimming with ideas on how to use the chips. I have actually gone through all of my packs with the last one opened on Christmas day when we had friends over. I have also been using them in bakes, they add that perfect crunch when crushed and added as a top layer to a pasta bake. It was my first ever trip to a full fledged running factory and I'm sure I'll never forget the experience.
Kettle chips is running their first ever on-pack promotion which is running at the moment, across the top 5 seasonings in the Kettle Chips 150g range. Look out for promotional packs in store; entrants will have the chance to win their chef's handmade kitchen from Harvey Jones worth £35000, plus thousand instant win prizes including designer appliance, cookware and lovingly crafted wine glassses and bowls. Click here for more details.
With thanks to Kettle Foods UK and the PR agency for the press invite to visit the factory.