Former MasterChef: The Professionals finalist opens new catering company in Preston after impressing on hit BBC show

Matt's new venture is based at Paul Heathcote's old restaurant in Winckley Square.

By Aimee Seddon
Tuesday, 1st February 2022, 3:51 pm

A finalist in this year's MasterChef: The Professionals has opened a new high quality catering and private dining company in Winckley Square in Preston city centre.

31 year old Matt Willdigg, a professional chef for over 14 years, has set up 'Foray' with his friend and fellow MasterChef: The Professionals finalist, Oli Martin, and the pair promise to provide "outstanding food and unique dining experiences" to private dining groups and events of up to 250 people, including weddings.

Matt, who has previously worked in numerous rosetted or Michelin starred establishments across London and Australia, told the Post that he "left all that fine dining world behind" to open up a high end catering business in Preston with his colleague following a change of focus during the pandemic.

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Matt Willdigg, who reached the finals of Master Chef: The Proffessionals this year, has opened a new catering company in Preston

Matt said: "We're still cooking what we love to cook, still putting in as much effort as we put into anything, but in a different setting, because, especially for me, lockdown gave me that realisation that there's more to life than just working 18 hours a day, and not seeing your friends, not seeing family. I love cooking, but I got to the point where I was in my own little world, work would take over your whole life, so lockdown made it hit home that something needs to change.

"Oli had the same realisation. We'd been working together for five years at Hipping Hall and when we came back after the lockdown, we just got talking about what we wanted to do next. We both really love cooking, it's part of our lives, but we want that balance, he wants to see his family, he’s got little daughter, and I just want to get a little bit of my life back, because the past 14 years, as much as it's taken me around the world, and I've met some amazing people, seen some amazing things, which I'm very grateful for, it's getting to the point now that I’m 30 years old, and I always said that I wanted to have done something in my life by then, so I applied for Master Chef, did it, and Foray was born after that."

Although originally from Staffordshire, Matt now lives in Lytham, where Oli is from, and so finding a venue in Lancashire was vital, and Foray's new home, underneath 23 Winckley Square was secured following an encounter with renowned-chef Paul Heathcote, who previously ran 'Heathcotes Brasserie' there.

Having since been under different hands, the venue is owned by Paul again, who hopes to turn the upstairs into an event space, and when the former two Michelin star chef offered the pair his space downstairs, Matt said "it was a no brainer, we want to be known as one of those companies that are at the high end of what they do, and to have someone like Paul Heathcote’s name above you, it's great for us and we felt like it would be silly not to not to go with it because Winckley Square’s a lovely location."

Matt and his business partner, Oli want to create food that is "very upmarket" and shows their "love of foraging and wild food".

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Foray's Preston kitchen opened in January and they have already catered for numerous private dinner parties, including the executive box at Blackpool Football Club, and had "hundreds" of inquires for weddings.

Explaining what sort of food Foray offers, Matt said: "It's very, very upmarket, it’s everything we've learned along the way. Especially in fine dining establishments, you learn how to do things properly, how to respect ingredients and flavour combinations. There's very few weddings I've been to, if any, where I’ve been impressed with the food, so we want to be able to make the food at a wedding accessible and tasty as well. Just because you're doing big numbers doesn't mean that you don’t have to care about what you're doing, it doesn't mean you have to buy everything frozen and you can still do things from scratch.

"We both have a massive love of foraging and wild food and it will be a small part because if you put too many foraged things on a menu, people don't understand it. For our business, one of the major selling points is that me and Oli are both MasterChef finalists so that helps people trust us more when it comes to cooking for them, and we can add things they haven't heard of, but it's not going to be extensively through the menu.

Foray caters for events of up to 250 people, as well as doing catering for private diners and offering DYI boxes to take home.

"We do private dining and it's a lot more frequent there, because when we're cooking around someone's house, we'll put the dishes down, we'll explain everything one to one, whereas at a wedding it would be a lot more difficult. We're only using bits and bobs here and there, more common things that people have heard of, and it's just because we love it. I love wild food, it's super healthy for you. it's super nutritious, and I think it just tastes better because it's grown wild, it's not grown with pesticides, and all this other stuff that they use nowadays, and it's something different as well."

As well as offering private dining and event catering, Foray offers 'Dine at Home' boxes for delivery and collection, and currently have a Valentine's special available.

To find out more about Foray, visit their website or Facebook page.