A TOP chef has defended his new ‘meal in a box’ business following a scathing review in a national tabloid.

Tommy Banks launched his Made in Oldstead food box venture to safeguard jobs after the lockdown forced the closure of his restaurants, Roots York and Black Swan at Oldstead.

The chef said he had gifted a box to a freelance journalist, believing it was for an article about how restaurants had diversified - but the finished piece delivered verdicts on different gourmet ‘make-aways’.

He spoke out to back up his dedicated team after the review rated his food box one out of five and said the chilled courgette soup tasted like ‘decaying veg’.

He said that was ‘massively unfair’ as his mum picked the vegetables early in the morning and everything was made at the last minute to keep it fresh.

The attention to detail was the same as in the restaurant, he added.

“I tried everything in the box and it was great.”

Made in Oldstead provides meals, which are ready to eat or simply require heating up, using produce grown by the Black Swan and local farmers.

Tommy’s delivery included Black Swan tomatoes and Amalthea goats’ cheese tart, chilled courgette soup, chicken and lovage gratin and slow-cooked pork, financier cake.

Taking to Twitter with a video message, Tommy said he was ‘shocked and upset’ by the rating and comments, especially as Made in Oldstead was so important to the team, suppliers and local farmers.

With the 100 covers at Roots reducing to 50, he said: “Starting this third business has allowed us to move an awful lot of our staff who we would have struggled to employ into a new business and keep everyone in jobs.

"That’s what I am most proud of. We use all the same suppliers as the restaurant, the same butchers, fishmongers, all the same farmers and we have been able to put huge orders throughout this whole period which has kept people going.”

Suppliers had told him they’d brought staff back off furlough to handle his orders. “It’s been a big community thing and it’s gutting to get a one out of five review,” he said.