Ray Costelloe never feels more at home than when he’s in a kitchen talking to a chef about what Contract Catering Equipment (CCE) can do to make the cooking operation more efficient and dynamic.
But then you wouldn’t expect anything else from the owner of a company which has completed projects for many of the culinary world’s most esteemed names over the past 25 years.
Costelloe’s enthusiasm for everything equipment-related is only surpassed by his obsession with making sure chefs are completely satisfied with the end-product and looked after properly.
“I love to discover great equipment, to bring it to the chef’s attention, and to show them our passion for how the equipment works and what we can do with it,” he admits. “My favourite thing of all is looking at what we started with and what it looks like finished, and then watching people cooking on it, seeing food going onto the plates, and seeing chefs happy. That is what it is all about.”
On the subject of innovation, there are several items of kit that Costelloe says he is impressed with right now. “The Irinox equipment really excites me. It is a shock freezer, blast chiller and slow cooker, which is a fantastic bit of kit. I always love Josper. I think it is the best unit in the market place. I know there are other people coming into the market looking to take that crown away, but Josper is Josper. Adande is also fantastic. I like what that does and what it brings. And I like good quality Swiss induction with variable zone options and slide control.”
CCE supplies products from dozens of different brands these days, but stainless steel fabrication is the area that the company sprang from.
Costelloe is a sheet metal worker by trade and he initially set up on his own with barely enough money to pay the first month’s rent. The small Essex workshop that he started out in alone has since been replaced by two fully operational manufacturing factories. And so confident is CCE of its build quality that it now offers 36-month warranties.
From a customer point of view, around 85% of 50-strong CCE’s business comes from the London area and the rest from elsewhere in the UK.
“London has got to be one of the biggest cities in the world in the gastronomy industry and it is as good as Paris or New York any day of the week in my opinion,” remarks Costelloe. “We have got a massive opportunity on our doorstep as our workshop is only 15 to 20 miles outside of London. We have got people in London every single day of the week. But we are not just cornered in London — we look forward to working all around the country.”
Equally, while CCE has done its fair share of work in posh West End restaurants over the years, you’re just as likely to find its project managers and engineers in cafes, theatres and schools. The main thing, insists Costelloe, is that customers are all treated the same.
“They’ll get exactly the same opportunity with us, whether they are a celebrity chef or are a cook in a school, he says. “We are happy to do a little weld of a sink or a £500,000 kitchen. They will get the same attention to detail, and afterwards, when the job is finished, we’ll still want to be part of the relationship and make sure they are happy."